Midweek Question: Different Ways to Present the Gospel
For a long time now, I have been thinking about the various ways that Christians evangelize. More specifically, about how Christians frame the gospel and present the gospel message to nonbelievers. This is a huge topic, and there are many schools of thought on it. For this present discussion, I am going to grossly oversimplify. Let’s suppose that Christians are divided into two different camps with opposing opinions about how a gospel presentation should begin.
Camp #1: Begin with God’s holiness and hatred of sin. Members of this camp will say that we need to focus, especially at the outset, on the fact that human beings are sinners under the wrath of God. We need to make people aware of their sinfulness so that they can repent and turn to God to and save themselves from judgment and hell. An example of this kind of preaching can be seen in the 8-minute video clip below by Mark Driscoll. At one point, starting about 4:30, he says, “Some of you — God hates you… God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you. He doesn’t think you’re cute. He doesn’t think you’re funny. He doesn’t think your excuse is meritous. He doesn’t care if you compare yourself to someone worse than you; he hates them too. God hates, right now, objectively, personally, hates some of you.” This may be a very extreme example. And, in fairness, you ought to watch the whole clip in order to hear the context of those words. But Mark Driscoll does say it. He claims that, if you haven’t yet made a decision for Christ, God hates you, and he will continue to hate you until you repent.
Camp #2: Begin with God’s unconditional love for sinners. These people say that focusing on God’s hatred of sin is unnecessary, counterproductive, even inconsistent with the kind of gospeling done by Jesus, the apostles and the early church fathers. For an example of this perspective, watch the video presentation of The Gospel in Two Chairs by Pastor Brian Zahnd.
Interestingly, if you listen carefully to what these two pastors are saying, you will find that they have based their gospel presentations on different views regarding the character of God.
I’m not interested in hearing arguments which of these two perspectives is more correct or biblically supported. It is easy for members of either camp to quote Bible passages to argue that their side is correct, and from experience I have found that proof-texting rarely changes anyone’s mind.
Nor do I want to hear arguments over which of these two methods is more effective among the various groups of people in today’s culture. That would be a very interesting topic, but let’s please save it for another day.
Today I want to approach this on a very personal level. So, Dear Reader, I am posing three personal questions for you. Feel free to answer any or all.
1. What style of gospel preaching, if any, initially helped you to put your faith in Christ? Why do you think it helped you at that time?
2. What style of gospel preaching resonates with you today? Why?
3. If you have a strong negative reaction toward one of these two styles of gospel preaching, why do you react negatively? How does it make you feel? When you hear someone preaching in that style, why do you think they are doing it that way? What do you suppose about their knowledge, background, character, motives, and so on?