Bringing Truth to Today’s Lost
Jan 12, 2018
For decades now, Navigators have used the Bridge Illustration to help countless men and women put their trust in Jesus. I’m beginning to see, however, that we can no longer rely on such evangelism tools alone. While they were effective in the past, they may not be as helpful in explaining the gospel today, especially to a younger generation.
Let me illustrate. I had been teaching a young woman how to present the Bridge Illustration, and she had an opportunity to share it with her co-worker. In doing so, she used a familiar lead-in question: "If you were to die tonight and God asked you, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ what would you say?”
“I don't believe in a heaven,” her co-worker responded. “But if I did, why would I want to go there?" In all my years of using the Bridge Illustration, no one had given me such a response. It reminded me that my world has changed over these past decades!
Therefore, as we seek to bring the gospel to our world, it’s important to consider four characteristics of our culture today. Our audience is increasingly . . .
1. Biblically illiterate: They know very little of the basic storyline of the Bible, its people, stories, and events. They have heard of Jesus but know little of His basic claims and the story of His life.
2. Narcissistic: Narcissism is selfishness on steroids. The prevailing question today is, “What’s in it for me?”
3. Humanistic: We cannot assume a historic biblical view of God or man. The basic elements of a biblical worldview that have been a framework for centuries are crumbling. We cannot assume our audience sees God as the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all that is. In today’s culture man is not the crown of God’s creation and the focus of His love. Heaven and hell are part of a fairytale fantasy.
4. Feeling based: Facts and a logical pursuit to discover what is “true” are less relevant. “What I feel is my reality. You can’t argue or debate it. Since I feel it’s true, it is.”
Sean McDowell, associate professor of apologetics at Biola University, writes, “Authority has shifted from what is true to the feelings and beliefs of the individual. Feelings now trump truth.”
Past generations understood a biblical worldview regarding God, man, sin, and Jesus. We could simply add to that background what it meant to believe the gospel or receive Christ. People had the raw material we could build on. They had pieces of the gospel but just had not put it together. They basically knew, understood, and accepted the backstory. We can no longer assume this is true.
In light of all this, I believe it’s important to present an accurate and complete picture of who Jesus is and what He came to do—not just the crucifixion and resurrection. We need to set the gospel in its context of all that is claimed about Jesus if it is to be the gospel that transforms and transfers (Romans 1:16, Colossians 1:13). This gospel is more than a promise of sin management, a fire insurance policy, or a promise of the good life. It involves a radical transfer of kingdoms and the personal transformation of lives to fit into that new kingdom reality.
I don’t believe we can risk presenting an abridged gospel to this generation. We need to revisit how the gospel was presented in the book of Acts from the incarnation to the coronation and the ultimate revelation. The early Christians took their countercultural message to a skeptical and even hostile audience that also lacked a biblical framework in which to understand it. What they did and we must do is focus on proclaiming the full revelation of the Son of God (His story . . . all of it) as the Good News. His complete story embodies the truth that will set people free.
I also encourage us to resist the temptation to “sell” the gospel or try to make it attractive by putting it into the values of the current culture: that is, fast, easy, and fun. We must present what is accurate and true, including the aspects of His story that may be hard to accept. It will always be a countercultural message.
Today, I’m seeking to start spiritual conversations with this question, “Who is the most significant person in your life?” After listening to the answer, I explain, “Mine is the Jesus of the Bible. He is the most amazing person I have ever met!” My starting point is now the person of Christ, rather than the need for forgiveness of sins.
Admittedly, I don’t have all the answers on bringing the gospel to people today. I do know that for most people, it will require time: time to build a relational bridge that will bear the weight of truth. That truth includes who Jesus is and the need to choose His kingdom of light over the kingdom of darkness.
Let’s begin to engage one another in discussions on how to introduce Jesus to increasingly secular people. As past generations have found ways to reach people with the gospel of Christ and His kingdom, our challenge is to bring His story to the lost of our time.
Ron Bennett is senior staff with The Navigators. He has led discipleship ministries in many settings in the United States. He and his wife, Mary, now minister with Nav Encore. While serving on the national leadership team of Navigator Church Ministries, he wrote Intentional Disciplemaking and coauthored The Adventure of Discipling Others and Beginning the Walk. He is also the author of the HighQuest Discipleship Series, and Mary has a new Bible study titled Fire Resistant Parenting. They live in Raymore, Missouri. This post is adapted from
"Kingdoms in Conflict"
on Ron's blog The Adventure of Discipleship: Knowing Christ on the Resurrection Side of the Cross.