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View Evangelism as Spiritual Conversations - 4 Paradigm Shifts

Spiritual Conversations - My Paradigm Shift

Gary Rohrmayer, 8-07

Your Journey Blog

Over the last twenty-five years I have seen a paradigm shift in evangelism.  Here are a few of my observations:

1. Event to Process - I think the confusion between the event of conversion and the process of evangelism was generated by the majority of evangelism training being centered around leading someone in a prayer of repentance…while little was offered on identifying the steps a person takes in moving towards or away from Christ.  In the mid-80’s I discovered Dr. James F. Engel and his Engel’s scale.pdf , along with Willow Creek’s Seven Step Outreach Strategy. The combination of these ideas helped me make the shift from event focused evangelism to more of a process oriented approach.

2. Combative to Attractive - Most of the evangelism training I experienced in school and in seminars was apologetically driven. Don’t get me wrong, it is biblical to be prepared. Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (I Peter 3:15)  Yet all too often I missed the two key concepts around this phrase 1) Lordship - “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”  Making sure that my life aligns with Christ through personal purity, through confession of all known sin and being filled with the Holy Spirit turns controversial information into transformational truth.  2) Rapport - “But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (I Peter 3:15-16)  Rapport is that emotional bond or friendly relationship between people based on mutual respect, trust and care.  Lordship and rapport are the keys to save us from being combative and more attractive in spiritual conversations.  One of my students in a church planting course I was teaching agreed with my premise in this point but commented that there are times when you just need to confront people with the truth.  At that point I so wanted to pull a Dr. Phil and say, “Tell me, how’s that working for ya?” But that would have been combative!  So, instead I asked him to study Jesus’ interactions with people. The only times he was combative was with the religious elite who distracted people from the truth of God. (Matthew 23; Luke 19:45-46)  Here is a question to ponder: When was Jesus ever combative with anyone but the Pharisees?

3. Monolog to Dialog - There has been a profound shift moving from giving a memorized sales pitch to a meaningful two-way conversation.  In my early days of ministry I was driven by decision theology (we had to report something to our supporters.)  Then one fateful night I was hearing a report from a chaplain in a prison ministry who said, “I have seen thousands of men make decisions for Jesus in my ministry” to which a wise older women asked, “But what about discipling these men?” His response was, “That’s the Lord’s business, I just have to trust him with that.”  I opened my Bible and read the great commission… Jesus said “go make disciples” not “go make decisions!”  Monologs are like decision based theology, they are neat and tidy.  Dialogs are like disciple making, they are messy and unpredictable.  Learning to see God at work in the messes is challenging and exciting.  Monologs take a little practice and can come across as impersonal.  Dialogs take faith, patience and love.

4. Short-term to Long-term - A short-term mentality works through this type of sequence: 1) Presentation 2) Decision 3) Assimilation.  A long-term mentality operates with this sequence in mind: 1) Belonging 2) Believing 3) Becoming.  On an individual and corporate level the church is learning to love and accept people where they are at on their journey along with providing opportunities and experiences to engage with Christians and explore the implications of Christ’s teachings.  George Hunter III writes, “Effective communicators do not try to do all the communicating. They know that faith is ‘more caught than taught’, that a person’s meaningful involvement can do its own communicating, and that involvement helps people discover the faith for themselves…”  This meaningful involvement takes time and persevering love.  There was a season in our church plant where several men came to faith through their engagement in our set-up team.  It was a place in our church where they could make an instant impact and rub shoulders with other men of faith.  Over time we saw them move towards Christ by attending retreats, men’s events or small groups and eventually come to faith and move into a life of discipleship.  Actually, before we moved into our permanent building, the gentleman leading the team was someone who had walked in the door about four years earlier as a sincere seeker.

Category:Outreach & Evangelism
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