The way we do evangelism is based on our theological grid.
Theological Grid #1:
Every human being is thoroughly depraved. Each person is in rebellion against God, in enmity with God, and deserves the wrath of God. Everything he or she does is tainted by sin, and nothing he or she does pleases God. A person’s rightful destiny is Hell. This world is so fallen that it is destined to be destroyed. The only hope for each person is to realize his or her sinfulness and turn to God for forgiveness, believing in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. When a person does this, he or she is assured to escape from this fallen world, be spared of Hell, and guaranteed a place in heaven with God.
Most of these theological assertions are true (though I think that this world is not destined for destruction but rather for renewal, and that the destiny of Christians is not to escape this world, but for God to renew the earth so that He will dwell here with us).
I’m not questioning these theological assertions as much as I am questioning their use in evangelism in our postmodern 21st Century culture. If we approach people with this theological grid guiding our methods, we inevitably feel compelled to explain to them this theological grid. We have called this “proclamation of the gospel.”
If we approach people with this theological grid, we will get certain results. Some will repent of their sins and confess that they need Jesus Christ as Savior. Others will see our religion as judgmental. Still others will react negatively and see our religion as disconnected with the real lives that they are trying to live. Ask yourself, How do I react when somebody confronts me with the worst of who I am and seeks to force me to admit it? What do I think of people who believe that their calling is to point out other people’s faults so that they can fix them?
The evangelism method that we've been using tells people they have problems. The “good news” we proclaim is based first on the “bad news” that they are a mess. Ask yourself, Is there a problem with only focusing on the problems?
Now, watch as we start with a different theological grid…
Theological Grid #2:
Every human being is created in the image of God. Each person is a special creation of God, unique in his or her potential contribution to the rest of God’s Creation. Each person is inter-relational, meant to be connected with God and with other people, for the good of the Creation. God’s greatest desire is to bring out the very best in each person. This very best is intrinsically connected with the work of Jesus Christ in reconciling each person in deep relationship with God and reconnecting each person to others in myriad networks of authentic relationships. God is in the process of redeeming all of Creation for his glory. A person’s best possible destiny is to live glorified on a renewed and redeemed earth. God is already at work in people’s lives to pull them into the potential he has for them in the context of redeemed relationships. In order for people to move into their glorious destiny, a major change must occur to the status quo of that person’s life and to the common assumptions this person has about how life works. The person needs to yield to God’s re-creation of him or her into somebody very new and very different. That re-creation is key to the transformation of the world.
I believe that all of these theological assertions are also true.
So, what if my evangelistic conversations were framed around exploring and discovering what God is already doing in this person? What if I started with asking appreciative questions that reframes the conversation so that we can approach the positive change that God wants to accomplish in a person?
- What is your vision of what a better world would be?
- What do you think is your unique contribution to the world, to your friendships, in your workplace, to your family?
- When have you experienced being closer to what you think God wants you to be?
- What do you envision as your purpose in God’s desires for the world?
- What do you think is your current destiny, and what do you think God wants it to be?
- Appreciative Inquiry Evangelism: A new paradigm
- Appreciative Inquiry – an Overview
- Our Theological Grid Determines Our Evangelism: Toward an Appreciative Inquiry Evangelism
- Using Appreciative Inquiry to Discern Structure and Direction
- How to have an Appreciative Inquiry evangelistic conversation
technorati tags: emerging church, missional, missional community, spiritual formation, postmodernity, evangelism