Sample Gospel Presentation
One gospel outline will not be suitable neither to all evangelists, nor with more certainty, to all with whom the gospel is presented. This is presented as a guide to the integration of methods, doctrines and scripture. As a general principle, the more scripture that the evangelist has in memory, the more effective will be the presentation, since the Word penetrates the heart (Heb. 4:12). The following sample presentation is designed for those who believe in God, and accept the authority of the Bible, at least nominally. As a guide, it might be studied and then read over just before going calling. A debt is acknowledged to Evangelism Explosion III International (EE), both in case any similarities are seen, and because they gave me the best training for personal evangelism. Quoted verses are taken from the New International Version Bible.
Our heart must be ready. Psalm 51:10-12 is a request for personal cleansing, renewal in the Holy Spirit, and for a new sense of the joy of our salvation, "Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you." (v. 13). Be prepared for Satan to attempt to disrupt you before leaving the house through misunderstandings, etc., but don't be afraid of Satan (I John 5:18). Put on God's armor (Eph. 6:10-20), and resist him (I Peter 5:9).
Our materials should be ready. A nylon attaché case is a good tool to carry Bibles, Scripture portions, tracts, teaching materials, and pen and post-it note paper or index cards, to jot down names and addresses (or use pre-printed follow-up cards, if available). Try also to have copies of a current listing of community resources, such as job training and sources of free food, medical and dental help, lodging and other community services.
They must be ready. We ask that God will lead us to those He has already prepared, so that we can take our place in the chain of events which leads to their salvation (I Cor. 3:5-9). It is best to pray with someone specifically for the visitation prior to going. Part of the armor of God is intercessory prayer ("Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel..." Eph. 6:19).
Those with whom we go must be ready. Try to team up with one and preferably two other people. A woman or a member of the ethnic culture of the people we are trying to reach will normally reduce fears of the residents. Leave time to discuss progress either at the end of the witnessing session or once a month. Before presenting the Gospel, it should be understood among the team who will lead the basic presentation. Don't take away the presentation without the permission of the leader, who can give permission even with a glance. In the meantime, watch and pray.
"Contact evangelism" and "friendship evangelism" ("relational" or "lifestyle" evangelism) are not at odds, but complementary. In contact evangelism, we try very hard to make friends, quickly! We hope to develop friendships with those who are receptive. As proponents of friendship evangelism point out, even in that context, at some point one needs to know what to say to share Christ. In addition, whereas in friendship evangelism one's circle of acquaintances is pursued, in contact evangelism we meet those we would normally never meet. We need to share Christ not only with those in relatively close contact with us ("Jerusalem"), but also with those in other social /ethnic contexts ("Judea," "Samaria," and the "uttermost parts," Acts 1:8).
Building a relationship
It is almost crucial to gain acceptance before attempting to share Christ. In the case of "contact evangelism," when you have never met the person before, state plainly, but in a friendly manner, who you represent and what you are doing. It may be a good idea to say that you are not a Jehovah-Witness or a Mormon, since you may be mistaken for them and it often creates rapport. (It does not work as well if the resident is in either category!) Try to offer a gift of some kind (Prov.18:16), preferably a New Testament or Gospel portion with an invitation to salvation contained in it, as well as your ministry name and address stamped somewhere on it.
At a point either at or near the beginning, ask the person's first name, and restate yours and then use their name. If you need to follow up, you can obtain the last name and address later, after you have had more time to build a relationship. You may have to share the gospel on the doorstep. If so, let the relationship hold (control) the door. If you are invited in, take the opportunity. Select a seat that will give you the best chance to speak to the resident. If the TV is on, after you have gained more rapport, ask if you could turn the sound down, since it is distracting. Turn the sound all the way off, and if they suggest turning the TV off, do so. Then before leaving, return the volume setting.
Expect distractions, such as visitors, active children, and phone calls, particularly at the close of the presentation at the point of a decision. Those who are not presenting the gospel should try to keep the resident from distractions, if possible.
Often people on the street will not want to listen to a long presentation. You can bargain, asking for three minutes of their time. Then look at your watch, and keep your word. Therefore, you must be able to present the Gospel succinctly, without distorting it.
"Interrogative evangelism" is advocated. That is, ask enough questions so that you understand the person's view of God, personal sin, how they believe salvation operates, and how they think that they stand with God. Do they have a valid assurance of salvation? Good doctors ask many questions. So do good evangelists. Don't launch into a long monologue without asking questions. Taylor the presentation uniquely to each individual. Start where the person is. They may not even believe in God or the Bible, so we could be guilty of great presumption.
Be very careful to listen to the person. A doctor must listen before prescribing a remedy, and so must a "soul" doctor. The better we listen, the better we will be able to address the specific needs and objections that the person may have. The better we listen, the more fair it will appear to allow you (the witness) to speak. The goal is to enter into dialogue with the person, so that they will feel free to honestly express problems they may have with what you say. If the person is too talkative, you may have to take more control of conversation so that you can present the Gospel.
Be very careful to listen to the person. Every person is an image bearer of God, and deserves respect. The person may have a beer in hand, and have a live-in lover. The personal appearance may be unlovely. God has delivered us from what He alone knows. He doesn't show partiality, leaving an example (Acts 10:34-35). Someone has correctly noted that we don't clean a fish before it is caught. If you seem to get nowhere with the person, pass the presentation to another on the team, if possible, or leave in such a way that the next Christian has an easier time of it. Also, do not promise anything to the person that you are not prepared to perform. It is wise, if you are uncertain, to say that you will not promise anything, but will see what you might be able to do.
A General Gospel Outline
(Evangelist "E") "I'm (name) and we're from (church). We are NOT Jehovah-Witnesses. We're offering free New Testaments (or . . .) to people in the neighborhood. Would you like one?"
(If not) "Thanks, anyway. Have a good day!"
(If yes, particularly if you see obvious interest) "Before we leave, may I ask you a question?"
(If "no," due to being busy, we can try to reschedule the visit. Often such rescheduled visits either don’t materialize or are not very fruitful, indicating that the person didn't want to talk in the first place.)
(If "yes") "Are you absolutely positive that you'll go to heaven when you leave this world?"
(If "yes") "Can I ask the basis for your assurance?"
(Proceed if the answer is one other than faith in Jesus Christ. If the answer is one of faith in Jesus Christ, encourage them, and perhaps leave a local Christian radio program guide, a modern language Bible, or other material.)
(If no) "Would you like to be sure?"
(If "yes") "May I share with you how you can be sure?"
(If "no," then encourage them to read the material that they have accepted, and leave in a friendly manner. You may also warn them of the dangers of putting off the decision [cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2]).
- We all have sinned
Most often, in the Black community, the biggest misunderstanding of salvation comes at this point. Most have been lead to believe that if they "keep on keeping on," and do good deeds, like going to church, and if they don't hurt people, the chances are quite good that they will make it into heaven. They look around and don’t appear to themselves to be as bad as others. This false view of righteousness is a Satanic deception that must be destroyed [2 Cor.10:3-5]. Unless a person has a definite sense [conviction] of personal sin and need, he/she will not repent and seek God.)
(If given permission to proceed) "First, the Bible declares that none of us deserves to go to heaven." "FOR ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD." (Rom.3:23).
"Have you ever sinned?" (If "no," quote 1 John 1:8, "IF WE CLAIM TO BE WITHOUT SIN, WE DECEIVE OURSELVES AND THE TRUTH IS NOT IN US.")
(If "yes") "So have all of us. We are in the same boat."
"In fact, there is not a single person who is naturally good."
ROM. 3:10-11 "THERE IS NO ONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NO ONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, NO ONE WHO SEEKS GOD."
"If anyone is seeking God, it is because God is drawing that person (John 6:44, "NO ONE CAN COME TO ME UNLESS THE FATHER WHO SENT ME DRAWS HIM…").
"THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH…" (Rom. 6:23 a). We deserve to go to a place of unending agony and torment called hell. Once a person goes there, there is no possibility of getting from there to heaven (Luke 16:19-26).
No one can get to heaven by being good, even though most people believe this. God says, "HE SAVED US, NOT BECAUSE OF THE RIGHTEOUS THINGS WE HAD DONE, BUT BECAUSE OF HIS MERCY. HE SAVED US THROUGH THE WASHING AND REBIRTH AND RENEWAL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT." (Titus 3:5)
"FOR BY GRACE ARE YOU SAVED, THROUGH FAITH--AND THIS IS NOT FROM YOURSELVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD--NOT BY WORKS, SO THAT NO ONE CAN BOAST." (Eph. 2:8-9).
"Even if you never sinned again from this moment on, until you were 90 years old, you wouldn't get into heaven. Do you know why?"
(Usually, the person does not.)
"Because you and I have already sinned in the past. How are we going to pay for those sins already committed?
- Jesus' substitute sacrifice
"I cannot help you, because I have my own sin debt to pay, and you cannot help me, because of your own sin. "NO MAN CAN REDEEM THE LIFE OF ANOTHER OR GIVE TO GOD A RANSOM FOR HIM--THE RANSOM FOR A LIFE IS COSTLY, NO PAYMENT IS EVER ENOUGH." (Ps. 49:7-8).
"Either we must pay for our sin (and we would never finish paying for it, which is one reason why hell is eternal), or a substitute for us must be found."
"We need the help of someone who has no personal sin. There is only one person who has lived without sin. Do you know who this was?"
(If correct, affirm that response and turn to John 1:1; if incorrect, you may say, "Let's see what the Bible says on that subject." and turn to John 1:1.)
"IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD." (John 1:1). "THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US. WE HAVE SEEN HIS GLORY, THE GLORY OF THE ONE AND ONLY, WHO CAME FROM THE FATHER, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH." (John 1:14).
Jesus, still God, humbled himself by becoming a mere man, a servant, and then by dying for us (Philippians 2:5-8).
The Bible says: "HE COMMITTED NO SIN, AND NO DECEIT [or trickery] WAS FOUND IN HIS MOUTH." (I Peter 2:22).
Then it says, "HE HIMSELF BORE OUR SINS IN HIS BODY ON THE TREE, SO THAT WE MIGHT DIE TO SINS AND LIVE FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS; BY HIS WOUNDS YOU HAVE BEEN HEALED." (I Peter 2:24).
The same idea is expressed elsewhere, "GOD MADE HIM WHO HAD NO SIN TO BE SIN FOR US, SO THAT IN HIM WE MIGHT BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD." (2 Cor. 5:21).
Jesus took our sins, and paid for then by the sacrifice of Himself.
- Counting the Cost--Purity
(Note: so often little change in the life of those professing Christ is seen. Receiving Christ seems to be like taking out a "fire" insurance policy, which has no impact on the rest of life. Here we are encouraging the person to "count the cost" of becoming a Christian, realizing that, at this point, the person cannot clean up his/her life.)
Notice that God wants those who follow Him "To live for righteousness," to "become the righteousness of God," once Christ becomes our sin bearer. This involves repentance, which means a decision to turn away from any known sin, toward God. "NOW HE [GOD] COMMANDS ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE TO REPENT." (Acts 17:30). We cannot do this in our own power, but when God comes into our life, he cleans us from the inside out. "IF ANYONE IS IN CHRIST, HE IS A NEW CREATION; THE OLD HAS GONE, THE NEW HAS COME!" (2 Cor. 5: 17). The Holy Spirit comes into our life and burns out the sin, "FOR IF YOU LIVE ACCORDING TO THE SINFUL NATURE, YOU WILL DIE; BUT IF BY THE SPIRIT YOU PUT TO DEATH THE MISDEEDS OF THE BODY YOU WILL LIVE." (Rom. 8:13). We must be willing for God to clean us and cooperate with Him.
- Whose side are you on: God's or Satan's?
(Note: Satan has a stronghold in the inner city. He will try to thwart our attempts to share Christ, but our work, like the apostle Paul's, is "to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins…" Acts 26:18. In this presentation, we are directly confronting the issue of Satan's power. Experience shows that people understand Satan's power and bondage.)
Until Christ comes in to take control of our life, we are under the control of the god of this world, Satan, and are in the kingdom of darkness (1 John 5:19; Col. 1:13). Satan is too strong for us, if we are without Christ, and will keep us in slavery to sin. Satan is a destroyer and will ruin your life (John 10:10, cf. Mark 5:1-20, the Gadarene demoniac). He tries to keep us in spiritual blindness (1 John 4:40 and take us to hell with him (Rev. 20:7-15).
Our only hope of getting out of his grasp is to receive Christ, who is greater in power than Satan (James 4:7). God can rescue us (Col. 1:13), but if we don't receive Christ, then we actually remain an enemy of God, on the side of Satan (Rom. 5:10).
- Receive Christ
To transfer into God's kingdom and become a child of God, we must receive Christ, as it says in John 1:12, "YET TO ALL WHO RECEIVE HIM, TO THOSE WHO BELIEVED IN HIS NAME, HE GAVE THE RIGHT TO BECOME THE CHILDREN OF GOD."
Receiving the gift of going to heaven (and all that "eternal life" means) occurs when we receive the person of Jesus Christ. "AND THIS IS THE TESTIMONY: GOD HAS GIVEN US ETERNAL LIFE, AND THIS LIFE IS IN HIS SON. HE WHO HAS THE SON HAS LIFE; HE WHO DOES NOT HAVE THE SON OF GOD DOES NOT HAVE LIFE." (1 John 5:11-12). There are the “haves", and the "have-not's"--those who have Jesus and are going to heaven, and those who don't; who will end up in hell, quite simply.
- How does a person receive Jesus Christ?
There are certain key truths about Christ that must be believed, called the "gospel", which is that: "CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS, ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES, THAT HE WAS BURIED, THAT HE WAS RAISED ON THE THIRD DAY ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES, AND THAT HE APPEARED TO PETER, AND THEN TO THE TWELVE." (1 Cor. 15:4-5).
"Believing" is described in this way: "IF YOU CONFESS WITH YOUR MOUTH, 'JESUS IS LORD,' AND BELIEVE IN YOUR HEART THAT GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD, YOU WILL BE SAVED. FOR IT IS WITH YOUR HEART THAT YOU BELIEVE AND ARE JUSTIFIED [made right with God], AND IT IS WITH YOUR MOUTH THAT YOU CONFESS AND ARE SAVED." As the scripture says, "ANYONE WHO TRUSTS IN HIM WILL NEVER BE PUT TO SHAME." (Rom. 10:9-11).
"With your heart" means that you really mean it. "Confess" means that you are willing to tell others about your faith in Christ.
"Being good", or trying to obey the Old Testament Law will never get someone to heaven, because we cannot be good or righteous enough. We get there simply by faith. "THEREFORE NO ONE WILL BE DECLARED RIGHTEOUS IN HIS SIGHT BY OBSERVING THE LAW; RATHER THROUGH THE LAW WE BECOME CONSCIOUS OF SIN. BUT NOW A RIGHTEOUSNESS FROM GOD, APART FROM THE LAW, HAS BEEN MADE KNOWN, TO WHICH THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS TESTIFY. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS FROM GOD COMES THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST TO ALL WHO BELIEVE. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE, FOR ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD." (Rom. 3:20-23).
This is the truth that will set you free from the power of sin and Satan (John 8:32).
Would you like to put your faith in Jesus Christ and receive the person of Jesus into your life right now?
If they are "not ready," ask them what keeps them back, then try to deal with that hindrance. If the person is ready, they often will want to pray right then and there. I usually give then the option to pray in the privacy of their own room before going to bed that night, so that they will not do something just to get rid of, or to please the evangelist. Even so, people sometimes opt to pray right then. But if they are still "not ready," remind them that they do not know the time of their own death, and that once dead, there is no second chance. "JUST AS MAN IS DESTINED TO DIE ONCE, AND AFTER THAT TO FACE JUDGMENT." [Heb. 9:27]. (Violent death is fairly common in the inner city in America.)
(If they are ready, you might ask them if they would like to pray alone, or if they would like to follow you in a prayer. Usually they would like to follow, in which case you would restate the Gospel and the desire to receive Christ in prayer then lead the phrase-by-phrase in praying to receive Christ.
After the person has prayed, affirm that decision and begin to equip them for the battle with Satan that will follow. There are numerous methods to use. If you have the "Four Steps Up" tract (Open Door Press), the second half of the booklet would be covered. You could review the back of the "Four Spiritual Laws" (Campus Crusade for Christ) tract. I also use the "Welcome to God's Family" teaching sheet, leaving it with them. It then becomes the basis for the next follow up visit. During that visit we could see if they have an assurance of salvation. While we can point the person to 1 John 5:11-13, the Holy Spirit must give that assurance (Rom. 8:15-16). Pray for the person during the week and try to call them on the phone to see how he/she is.
The most important goal at this point, and the hardest, becomes getting the new Christian into a strong church. This is why teeming up with a local evangelical (Black) church from the start is so valuable, because often this church team member can offer a ride or offer to come by to lead the way to church the following Sunday. The church is God's natural womb of nurture and growth. We could also offer a ride to a solid local Black church, or to our own, if the person would feel comfortable, if a local Black church member is not with us.
Now ongoing discipleship is the goal.
Some Ways to Pray for Inner City Evangelism
- Pray for revival. The gift from God of repentance is critical. Unless there is conviction of sin, we won’t see much progress. (Acts 11:18; John 16:8) Pray that the local churches will receive a burden and resources to evangelize the inner city.
- Agree to bind away demonic spirits from the workers ands to suppress them within the city, especially the housing projects (Matt. 18:18-19; 2 Cor. 4:4; John 17:11-12). Pray against the spirit of the antichrist (1 John 2:22-23; 2 John 1:9-11).
- Pray for more workers and more teams of evangelists (African-American and females on teams, in particular) to expand the work (Luke 10:2).
Fruitful Ministry Begins With Intimate Fellowship With God
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5. The way we abide is through obedience to His words. The best ministry preparation we can have is to draw close to Christ and live in obedience and dependence upon Him. He alone makes ministry worth the effort.
Paul wrote: "Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." 2 Cor. 3:5-6. He also wrote, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13).
Drawing upon the Spirit: "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing." We can and should make the Gospel clear, so that people can love God with their minds, as well as with their heart, soul and strength. God uses instruments to evangelize (Romans 10:14-15). But we cannot save anyone. Perhaps the greatest difficulty you will encounter while witnessing is indifference. Without the conviction of sin, people will not sense a need for God or for any personal remedy. "When he [Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment." (John 16:9).
Ministry is Helping People Find Intimate Fellowship With God
We are introducing people to a Person. We are not introducing people to a plan of salvation, or to an evangelistic program, or to a church or even to us—but to the Person of God. Who would you like to introduce to Christ?
The heart of ministry is relationships. This is how God relates to us, and how we are to relate to others. "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." (1 Cor. 13:1).
A personal, genuine relationship with Christ is the criteria for whether or not we have eternal life. "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." (1 John 5:12, NIV).
"Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:22-23). This word "knew" means a personal, experiential knowledge, not a simple knowledge about something.
Ministry is Sustained by Intimate Fellowship With God
King David drew his strength from the Father.
"From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe." Ps. 61:2-3
"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken." (Ps. 62:5-6)
"Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me." (Ps. 63:7-8).
When we become tired, fatigued, worn out, discouraged, or forgetful of where the power is, we need to return to the source of our power, re-connect with God. He can speak power into us, bring conviction of sin, give protection, give a sense of conviction of sin, draw people to Himself—and we can't.
Why did Christ spend so much time alone with His Father in prayer, in lonely places? If we lose fellowship with God, we lose the power of God and we lose the proper focus of ministry. The Spirit wrote to the Ephesian Church: "I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. . . You have persevered and have endured hardships for My name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first." (Rev. 2:2-5). A ministry without love for God and love for people is a hollow parody of the Gospel.
This ministry begins with abiding in Christ, is empowered and sustained by the Trinity, and finds life through love.
Will those who never hear of Christ go to heaven?
Are the Unevangelized Going to Hell?
Why should anyone go to Hell? First the sin of Adam, the head of the human race (Genesis 3), has been judicially laid at the feet of all his offspring. Romans 5:12 says “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (NIV). How that sin is transmitted is debated, physically or judicially. Although human genetic structure was probably altered in some way--the Bible says that we are all guilty with Adam’s guilt, even coming out of the womb (Psalm 51:5), which is the judgment of God. A Barna survey found that 74% of Americans reject the idea that they come into the world as sinners (“Americans Draw Theological Beliefs From Diverse Points of View,” 10/8/02, Barna Research Online).
Second, each of us sins individually. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s standards (Romans 3:23), and broken God’s law by sins of commission and omission. The Second Commandment is to love our neighbor as our self (Luke 10:27). The moment I try to selfishly use my neighbor, I break God’s command--a sin of commission. The Great Commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27). One day we’re going to love something more than God, or love will grow cold, if we haven’t otherwise fractured the Great Commandment by 6 PM. Then we sin by omission—not doing what we should do (possibly John Gerstner used these examples). Actually, nobody deserves to go to heaven (“the paradise of God” [Revelation 2:7] or the New Jerusalem described in Rev.21). The reason is God’s decision to punish sin, generically, not only with physical death (Genesis 3:3,19—the first death), but with the second death, described as the “lake of burning sulfur,” (Rev. 20:10), “eternal fire,” “raging fire” (Heb. 10: 27), darkness (Jude 7,13) and “torment” (Luke 16:23). Hell is an expression of God’s justice. We don’t have another chance: “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” (Heb. 9:27). Once there, one cannot migrate to heaven (Luke 16:26). There is no reincarnation, or laborious life-long opportunity to improve upon the last earthly pilgrimage, until at last we’re released (moksha) into the godhead, as Hinduism and Buddhism teach. Why? Heb. 10:28 explains, “So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Salvation history isn’t cyclical, as reincarnation teaches, but linear, culminating with the Christian spending eternity with Christ, and non-Christians having their desire (many of them) to be away from Christ eternally. There is one sacrifice for sin, one judgment, one chance. Life is a one-way trip. We do not have to personally atone for sins by doing better, even if it were possible for a good deed to totally negate a bad deed (half of US adults believe we can be saved by good deeds--Barna 10/8/02). A Christian trusts the one sacrifice of the sinless Christ for all personal sin--past, present and future. Christ paid for that sin, which merit we receive by trusting the person of Christ for our salvation. The Bible teaches that we are saved by faith alone, plus nothing, since Christ’s atoning death was completely sufficient to cover and satisfy the justice of God. “If you confess with you mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9). Period. “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom. 10:13). God generally uses human means to communicate this message of salvation. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? …And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Rom. 10:14a, 15a).
God does use dreams and visions to convict the lost, if the testimony of many is believed. Of course, evangelists use technologies. Many of those evangelized reject Christ, trusting some other scheme to compensate for obvious or subtle personal sin. Some try doing “good” (this “good” is like a filthy rag, Isaiah 64:6). Others minimize sin or deny that there is a god to whom we will give account. Or they suppress thoughts of God. Those who do reject Jesus will not spend eternity in heaven (John 3:36; 12:48). We can’t get there by other religions or sincerity. Jesus made the way narrow when He said that none come to the Father apart from Him (John 14:6).
Christians who are orthodox agree up to this point. An estimated 15.4 million unevangelized people die each year (Todd Johnson “A Global Summary of World Evangelization, mid-2005” World Christian Database). These will have had no clear explanation of God’s offer of salvation through faith in Christ. What happens to them? The weight of scripture puts them on the way to perdition. Why? First, nature has already witnessed to them about God. The apostle Paul said that the godless and wicked suppress evidence of God’s “eternal power and divine nature” in creation (Rom. 1:20). They see brown earth and blue sky—not Creation. All of us without Christ are “godless” and our sin makes us “wicked” before God. We can, to a certain extent, know God through His creation (Rom. 1:21). So every unbeliever, not just the really wicked, sins against the knowledge of God found in nature—and is self-condemned. “Men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).
Second, we violate our own moral standards, regardless of how simple. These standards are exposed whenever we judge someone’s conduct. Eventually, if not before morning, we will judge someone’s conduct. At that precise point we condemn our self, since we commit that same sin precisely or in kind (Rom. 2:1). You judge a thief—you will steal or covet sometime. You lament a murderer, yet you have hated someone--the moral equivalent (1 John 3:15). We condemn ourselves, regardless of ever seeing a missionary. God uses our own standards by which to judge us. The verdict: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else…” (Rom. 2:1). A prominent evangelical African American teacher is now saying that if someone doesn’t explicitly reject Jesus (such as a Muslim would have to do), God will judge them by another “dispensation” and that, without ever hearing of Christ, they will be saved. The reasoning is that if a person is seeking God, God is obligated to enable that person to find Him, since he who seeks, finds (Luke 11:10). Two problems arise. I get worried when I hear people teach that if you do “A,” God is “obligated” to do “B.” This is the line we hear about tithing. We cannot obligate God to do anything (see Rom. 11:35-36). Animism is about obligating the unseen world to do our bidding. God is too smart for us.
Second, God says that “There is no one who seeks God.” (Rom. 3:11).” If someone is found seeking God, it is because the Father is drawing that person to Christ (John 6:44), not because that person is seeking God all by herself. I believe in that case that God will somehow complete the good work begun (Phil. 1:6). There is no quicker way to anesthetize missions than to teach that people will go to heaven apart from personal faith in Christ.
Another entire layer upon this issue is predestination. “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” (Rom. 9:18). I believe predestination is part of the equation, but the God who elects (Rom. 9) is the same God who shows us that He uses human means--missionaries (Rom. 10). Workers are still needed to evangelize those “being saved” (Acts 2:47). Now if the unevangelized do go to hell—if they really do—how does that impact my life and resources? If the equivalent of over 42,000 people is going into eternal torment every night, how does this impact my spending priorities, and my church’s budget priorities? What percentage of income does your church give to promote cross-cultural evangelism? Does it matter to us that by mid-2007 there will be about 1,850,402,000 unevangelized persons on the planet—28% of the earth’s population (David B. Barrett and Todd M. Johnson, “Missiometrics 2007,” Int’l Bulletin of Missionary Research, Jan. 2007, p. 32). Taking care of our own neighborhood isn’t enough. We aren’t to stay in Jerusalem. Our finish line isn’t a packed and prosperous church or collecting our first Social Security check. It’s to complete all the work God has given us personally to do. Our mandate goes to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8: Matt. 28:18-20). Jesus, confronting this human harvest, told us to pray to God to thrust out laborers into the harvest field (Luke 10:2). If the unevangelized can be saved apart from Christ, as some otherwise orthodox Christian leaders and scholars tell us—Christ died needlessly. If the unevangelized could still reach heaven, D. James Kennedy facetiously suggests quickly bringing every missionary home, so none could hear, and all could be saved—the opposite of Jesus’ solution. It then becomes the responsibility of the Church to finance those the Father is sending, in a manner worthy of God (3 John 1:6). Are we doing personally and corporately what God wants us to do to evangelize as many as we can on the broad road to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14)? Indignation at the thought that the unevangelized will suffer hell is, I believe, higher morality than God’s, who plainly tells of their destination—the profoundest human tragedy, and reason to go.