Why I Came up With This
My friend and I went to coffee with a couple Muslim-background college students in order to share the gospel. We successfully steered the conversation to spiritual things and were able to share a little of our testimony and then went on to share the good news of Jesus Christ’s forgiveness for our sins and the gift of eternal life. When we got to the end, we looked at our friends hoping for some kind of response and one of the guys said with deep interest, “So are cars really cheaper in America?” This was our first indication that they didn’t care at all about what we’d said to them.
I shared the gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life with a lot of people, but in my experience, people were uninterested in what I had to say. They didn’t understand why what I was saying was relevant to their lives, and they had their own theoretical theological systems that had other answers for the problems of our sins and the afterlife.
My friend and I shared about how nobody in our city seemed interested in the gospel with a man who was visiting us to do some consulting on church planting. He said, “Well, maybe you’re sharing the wrong gospel.” This was a man who is firmly committed to the Word of God and to Jesus, so I knew he wasn’t saying that we should make up something unbiblical just to give people what they want to hear, but in his statement I understood that we were not describing Jesus in a way that people would feel compelled to come into relationship with Him.
Jesus said the kingdom is like a merchant looking for pearls (Matt 13:45). When the man found a pearl of value, he sold everything he had and bought it. If we don’t show people the value of Jesus in a way they can understand, they will never be willing to give up all that people have to give up in order to follow Him. After reflecting on this truth, I realized that I would need to go on a journey to understand how to communicate Jesus to people so that they could know his ultimate and supreme value.
A Doorway into Greater Revelation
As I reflected on what the gospel is and how people come to know Jesus, I realized that nobody gets the fullness of the Gospel the first time.
For example, we know that it is important at some point to understand the image of Christ as the bridegroom and the church as his bride. But rarely do we share the importance of this image with people who do not yet know Jesus. It is something that is later revealed as we grow deeper in our relationship with God.
I see Gospel-sharing as a room with Jesus standing in the center. There are many doors to enter the room, and there is an old-fashioned knocker in the shape of a cross on every door. But every door has different designs and different colors and is more or less interesting to people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Thus, the cross is the center of all conversion. You cannot get to Jesus without understanding what he did for you on the cross, repenting of your sins, and believing and trusting in Him. But Jesus accomplished many things at the cross. He died to bring us into deeper relationship with God, to forgive us for our sins, to set us free from addictions, to bring us emotional and physical healing, to set us free from the devil, to deliver us from an eternity in hell, to restore our relationships with our neighbors, to restore the glory of God on earth, to identify with and show his victory over injustice, and to demonstrate love to a world that had never experienced such deep, sacrificial love.
Every presenter of the Gospel chooses a few of these benefits of the cross and emphasizes them as the Gospel is presented. Ultimately, we want people to understand all these things. But when people first hear about Jesus, they always hear only a portion of all that he did.
So I began to explore the heartfelt needs of people who are in more non-Western cultures. I started asking questions like, “What drives them? What is important to them? What are they seeking?” Because I believe Jesus is the answer to every problem, I began to use answers to those questions to shape the way I would help them understand Jesus.
Today, Not Tomorrow
There is a saying in the culture where I lived that Muslims pay for their sins after death, and a person of that local people group pays for her sins during this life. This statement sets forth a fundamental conflict that most of Islam has with animistic types of cultures: Islam offers a solution for your afterlife but has little power to affect the life you are living today.
Most people in animistic cultures are just surviving. They are trying to pull enough money together to pay for their food and necessities, and they are consumed with the basic problems of life such as the health of their children and the ability to keep their families safe from evil spirits. These are not future problems. They are today problems. And typical people aren’t thinking about eternal consequences. They’re thinking about current issues in their lives.
When a Westerner comes in and tries to communicate the Gospel, we typically emphasize the future. “Do you know what would happen to you if you died today?” Then we spend the next 30 minutes trying to convince them why this question is important and why they have a problem.
The problem of what happens to us after we die is a legitimate problem and it must be presented as a part of what Jesus has to offer us. But if it’s the only thing we present to people, we miss out on all the other kingdom benefits that Jesus wants to present to people, and we also present a gospel that doesn’t meet the real-life needs of people that we encounter.
As I began to think about this problem about the future nature of most methods of gospel-sharing, I realized that I wanted to develop a model that would emphasize the presence of the Kingdom while continuing to demonstrate how important it is that Jesus offers us a free invitation into eternity with the Father.
Christ the Victor—A Model for Sharing the Gospel
Many people have heard of Christ the Victor as a model for gospel sharing. It’s the idea that Jesus is victorious over sin, the devil, and death, and that he paved the way for us to be freed from sin, the devil, and death through his death and resurrection. I had heard that this form of the Gospel was effective with people from animistic backgrounds.
But why use a model in the first place? I decided to create a model for sharing the Gospel based on Christ the Victor for several reasons. Initially, I created it for myself. I wanted an easy way to share with people that I could use over and over again so that I wouldn’t leave out something important. I made it visual because I had seen the power of tools such as the bridge diagram and the pictures that are found in four spiritual law tracts.
I also wanted a model to help train my disciples. As a foreign worker whose longevity in the field is subject to many unforeseen variables, I want to be certain that locals are effectively able to share the Gospel. If I can’t train others to evangelize, then my work is only as effective as how much time I have. If I can train others to share the Gospel with their friends and family simply and in a way that is relevant to them, then I can move away from simple addition and move into the realms of multiplication and movements.
A Note About Power
If we’re going to proclaim that Jesus has power over sin, the devil, and death, then we must walk in that power ourselves. Theoretically, every believer has this kind of power. But the reality is that some people do not understand its importance in Gospel-sharing and so rarely ask God to do things that are outside of what they could accomplish without His help. The purpose of this manual isn’t to talk about power and authority in the Spirit, but I would encourage you to pick up this method of sharing the Gospel with a deep hunger to see God demonstrate His power through you.
God gave me this model for sharing the Gospel when I was thirsty and hungry for breakthrough, and I have shared it often in the context of praying for others. Paul said, “And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor 2:4-5 NASB). May the same be true of our ministry as we strive to clearly communicate the word of God accompanied by confirming signs and wonders.
One of the main reasons I came up with this method is that I wanted a way to explain to people what Jesus could do for them so that they weren’t just interested in the power that God would minister through me. Oftentimes, before I am about to pray for somebody I will say, “I would love to pray for you for healing. But before I do, would you mind if I showed you something? I want to share something with you that is much more important than anything that I could ever pray for you. I would like to show you why I think the world is so messed up and how these problems came about in the first place.”
Most people say yes, as they are at least willing to sit through what I have to say so that they can receive the prayer. Everybody wants prayer, but not everybody initially wants to hear the gospel. But many people, after hearing the gospel, want all of what Jesus has to offer and not just the healing.