Evangelism – For the Biblically Uninformed
With evangelism—“one size” does NOT fit all!
“One size fits all,” in many industries, is an audacious claim that may not deliver what it promises. Often, people on both ends of the large-small spectrum end up being frustrated.
“One size fits all” evangelism training programs and resources are common too. But, the consequences for a “misfit” with a gospel presentation can be much more serious than mere frustration; the consequences can be eternally damning.
One of our core concepts in Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship is stated in the form of a question:
How much Bible content AND Biblical “BIG Story” context for that content does an unbeliever need in order to make a “good soil” faith response?
There is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. Custom fitting is required. That’s where the Good Soil E&D Scale comes in handy, the bottom half of the scale in particular.
The Good Soil E&D Scale is only a model, a visual representation, of some very complex human beliefs and behaviors. As with all models, it is not a perfect in-every-detail representation. But, in general it does help us understand the various stages of an unbeliever’s understanding of Biblical truths that are foundational for genuine faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death, burial, and bodily resurrection—the essence of the gospel.
On the Good Soil Scale, we have somewhat arbitrarily categorized evangelism, as it relates to the twelve levels on the scale, as Tilling Evangelism, Planting Evangelism, and Reaping Evangelism.
Most gospel presentations created in, and commonly used in, North America assume that North American unbelievers are in the Planting or Reaping Evangelism ranges on the scale. And, that would have been true a few decades ago. But, the percentage of North Americans who are at the Tilling level of evangelism is increasing. That trend is not likely to change any time in the future.
So, let’s get to the main topic of this article: Evangelism – For the Biblically Uninformed.
What training and resources are available to equip Christ-followers to reach unbelievers who know very little about God’s plan of redemption as it is revealed in the Bible? Fortunately, in recent years, several ministry organizations have responded to produce these kinds of “tilling evangelism” resources. Ethnos360 (formerly New Tribes Mission), GoodSeed International, and Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship (of the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism) are three such ministries.
Ethnos360 (Formerly, New Tribes Mission)
Teaching the Bible’s redemptive story chronologically for evangelism is not a new concept. There are examples of the use of this evangelistic method throughout church history. But, the work of Trevor MciIwain, Ethos360 (New Tribes Mission) missionary among the Palawan people in the Philippines, and the model he developed, brought the method to the attention of many missionaries who were frustrated with their failures to penetrate the worldviews of pagan peoples, people with very little or no knowledge of the Bible.
Out of his own frustration, Mcilwain returned to Genesis to begin to establish foundational Bible truths among the Palawanos who professed to follow Christ, but seemed to base their salvation on praying, singing, faithful church attendance, and so forth. Later, Mcilwain began to develop the Firm Foundation series of chronological Bible teaching resources.
The Firm Foundation series was developed for use in tribal settings, but can be used in some North American settings as well. https://biblestudy.ethnos360.org/
John Cross became acquainted with the Firm Foundations curriculum, as a missionary with Ethnos360 (New Tribes Mission). John wrote The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus to contextualize the chronological Bible teaching concepts into a format that non-tribal and literate people would read and learn from.
Within a few weeks of the 1997 release of The Stranger, John began receiving requests for the book in a variety of languages. From those responses, GoodSeed International was formed. Now, GoodSeed has resources in more than 60 languages, with six offices around the world and more than 70 staff members. And GoodSeed has expanded its offering of resources beyond The Stranger, to include numerous other complementary resources.
GoodSeed training and resources are specifically developed to present the gospel with unbelievers who may know little or nothing about the Bible and Jesus Christ, beginning in Genesis 1:1 with God and the Biblical account of creation. http://www.goodseed.com/
ABWE – Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship
ABWE – the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism – was established in 1927, as a North American mission agency for ministry in the Philippines. Ninety years later, ABWE has over 800 long-term North American missionaries, as well as more than 225 short-term missionaries, in approximately 60 countries.
In 2004, leaders in ABWE’s Training Division began to work on plans to enhance the training of missionaries for the ministries of cross-cultural evangelism and discipleship, as well as cross-cultural church planting. Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship emerged from those plans, with four guiding goals.
Good Soil’s training and resources must:
- Work effectively anywhere in the world (with minimal adaptation)—in any country or culture.
- Provide as much Bible content and Biblical context, as necessary, for people at any level on the Good Soil Scale to make a “good soil” faith response.
- Be rooted in a chronological presentation of God’s “Big Story” of redemption.
- Be expandable and contractible to make it possible to present God’s redemptive story effectively from 15 minutes to 50 hours, as time permits and the need demands.
The essential idea of Good Soil E&D is that “one size evangelism” does NOT fit all people. So, Good Soil training was developed to equip missionaries and other Christ-followers to assess where an unbeliever is on the Good Soil Scale, in order to understand how deeply he or she must go in presenting the gospel story. Good Soil resources work appropriately with unbelievers at the Reaping Level or Planting Level. But, Good Soil’s main evangelistic tool, The Story of Hope, also addresses an unbeliever’s gospel knowledge deficiencies at the Tilling level of evangelism—evangelism for the Biblically uniformed. Most Good Soil evangelistic resources are built around two types of gospel presentations. First, a Chronological Bible (ChronoBible) presentation which consists of 40 Bible events, or as few as 20, or as many as 100. Second, a Chronological Bridge (ChronoBridge) to Life presentation that summarizes the BIG Story of the Bible using these eight redemptive story concepts: God, Man, Sin, Death, Christ, Cross, Faith, and Life. We call these the “ChronoBridge” concepts because they are arranged in the way they emerge chronologically from the overall Big Story (metanarrative) of the Bible.
One major distinctive of Good Soil is its emphasis on training—training for worldview relevant evangelism and discipleship. Or, as we like to say: “Equipping believers to share God’s story of hope in a world of competing faiths and cultures.”
At Good Soil we believe that our training is more valuable than our resources; it’s the “horse” that should precede the “cart.” The Good Soil Basic Seminar is a two-day training program. And a third day of training, our Good Soil Trainer Certification workshop, equips and certifies participants to teach Good Soil Basic Seminars in their own ministries—church, mission agency, etc. Good Soil training is offered at ABWE (near Harrisburg, PA) in May and October every year. www.GoodSoil.com/training
Good Soil now offers a complete “family” of evangelism and discipleship resources (for children and adults), some of which are available in a variety of languages. But, the three core Good Soil resources are The Story of Hope, The Way to Joy, and The Roots of Faith.
Gaining Ground with Good Soil | Visually Enhanced Edition - An evangelism and discipleship training narrative that is a scaled-down version of the Good Soil E&D seminar in a narrative format. It follows hard-working, dedicated missionaries who are contemplating leaving the field because of a lack of solid fruit. A last-gasp Bible study reveals a theology of evangelism and discipleship that inspires and equips them to continue to pursue their calling. The principles gained from this theology are applicable to anyone wishing to serve God through biblical evangelism and discipleship. Free resources for individual and group study are also available for download.
Previous articles in this series:
- Three Greek Verbs Define Good Soil
- Assessing Unbeliever’s Gospel Understanding
- Assessing Gospel Receptivity
- Initial Contact or Relational Evangelism—or Both?
- The Problem of Gospel Static
- One Gospel - Three Worldviews
- Worldview “Noisy” Neighborhoods
- How To Understand Worldviews: I’m an Onion – You’re an Onion
- How To Witness to A Non Believer: 3 Step Guide To Using Verbal & Non Verbal Communication
- Gospel Knowledge Deficiencies
- The Romans Road in “Post-Christian” North America?
- Gospel Tracts in “Post-Christian” North America?
- Evangelism that BEGINS with Jesus – Good or Not So Good?
- Explaining the Gospel – Where Did Jesus Begin?
- Change the Way We Do Evangelism in North America?