March 6, 2008

Free Gospel for Everyone!*

Posted in The Basics, Theology at 7:29 pm by Matt Porter

*with a $10 purchase. See store for details.

The gospel is the heart of the Christian faith. (I’m not sure if that more of a definition, or a truism.) Few Christians would outright deny the need to spread the gospel, so how should we communicate this central aspect of our faith? There are dozens? hundreds? of different methods. Despite all their differences and similarities, they can all be viewed with one basic contrast in mind: whether the local church or the individual is primarily responsible for the proclamation of the gospel.

Church-centered methods focus on getting people into a church function, typically so they can respond to some type of invitation. There are several flavors of this approach; fundamentalist churches might emphasize preaching to those who are brought in, while more seeker-oriented churches may emphasize making them feel comfortable and welcome. In both, the individual’s responsibility consists of getting people through the doors so the church can do its job. Churches use anything from casual services and heavily marketed programs to bus ministry and promotional “bring-a-friend” days to accomplish this.

Individual-centered methods focus on individual action and personal interaction; like their church-centered counterparts, they are employed by churches across the theological spectrum. Street preaching, handing out tracts, and door-to-door visitation are common in conservative churches. More leftward-leaning churches might emphasize social service or other demonstrations of compassion. In each, the local church may assist in organization, but the focus is on individual action away from the church facilities.

Of course, most local churches practice some combination of the two methods, rather than using either one exclusively. We are encouraged both to bring people in and to go out and deal personally with people.

While we can view the presentation of the gospel along a church-individual continuum, it could also be seen as a preaching-action continuum. On one end, we have churches which focus on the spoken/written presentation of the gospel; and on the other, we have churches which emphasize deeds which meet particular personal needs.

So how are we to go about it? Over the next several days, I’ll address this in more detail, but here’s how I stand: If a choice must be made between corporate and individual action, I prefer the individual. If a choice must be made between speaking and doing, I prefer doing. My path to that conclusion was rather round-about, and my posts will meander along the same route. We’ll stop by several unrelated areas on the way and draw conclusions which influence my view. So buckle up and enjoy the scenic route!


  1. Pa said,

    Are you going to mention the evangelism linebacker method?–no-excuses

  2. Matt Porter said,

    Ha, forgot to mention that one. But, hey, we’ll put that under the “personal interaction, verbal” category. šŸ™‚

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