Monday, November 27, 2006

Deconstructing Postmodern Discipleship - The Evangelism Shift

Postmodern Discipleship begins with a shift in evangelistic method. Ultimately, there are two distinct methods of evangelism. These methods are Deductive and Inductive.

(The bulk of this information is found in the work of Delos Miles who was the Professor of Evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have focused in on a book called The Gospel for the New Millenium, which is comprised of essays written in honor of Dr. Miles.)

Deductive Evangelism
Deductive evangelism is defined in terms of the three P's of the church growth movement. These three P's are proclamation, persuasion, and presence. Deductive evangelism practices the P's precisely in that order. It's primary emphasis is the proclamation of the gospel with the purpose of persuading the hearer to accept the terms of the gospel. It maintains less emphasis on the believer living out his faith in front of the non-believer.

Some key words that would be associated with this style are rational, lips, canned, monological, traditional, and religious. I would dare say that many of our churches are geared this way. The calling is for the individual congregational members to invite the people they come in contact with to come to church on Sunday and hear a gospel message. This approach might be modified to challenge a believer to get to know the person first and practice a little bit of presence first, and then invite them to church to hear the message. You might think of Pentecost as a biblical example of this approach to evangelism.

Inductive Evangelism
In contrast to deductive evangelism, the inductive approach places primary importance on presence, then persuasion, and finally proclamation. Establishing credibility with the unbeliever is of utmost importance in inductive evangelism. One must show the relevance of the gospel to the unbeliever's life by living faith out loud in front of them. Much of the persuasion is accomplished before the gospel is ever proclaimed to that person.

Some key words for this approach are lifestyle, relational, dialogical, friendship, conversational, and spontaneous. This approach is dramatically seen in the current emerging church movement, Brian McLaren, Rick Warren at Saddleback, and Bill Hybels' contagious Christianity motif. This style challenges the individual to live out the gospel in the midst of a lost world and walk alongside of the unbeliever guiding them to faith after gaining their trust. This approach is also often accused of watering down the gospel because of it shying away from a strong confrontational method. Think of the time Paul spent in cities, or even Prsicila and Aquila and their approach. I would speculate that much of our modern missions is based on an inductive approach to evangelism.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23
This means I am not bound to obey people just because they pay me, yet I have become a servant of everyone so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Jews, I become one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with those who follow the Jewish laws, I do the same, even though I am not subject to the law, so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way, I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. But I do not discard the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are oppressed, I share their oppression so that I might bring them to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ. I do all this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy its blessings.

It is easy to see above that Paul recognized distinct methods in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel remained the same no matter what, the delivery was fluid. Likewise, we should not champion one method over the other, and especially not decry the evils of one's use of either. The goal is to share the gospel, and reach people for Christ. Both methods are valid and should be employed in various forms.

My point in bringing out this distinction is that a fundamental shift has occurred between a Modernist approach to the evangelism and a Post-modernist approach. This shift is from deductive to inductive. The post-modern Gen X/Bridger is more interested in walking alongside someone to faith than being shouted at from a pulpit. Recognizing this shift and accepting it is paramount to beginning to develop a post-modern ethos of discipleship. This shift carries methodological applications throughout our Christian lives. Think about educational development. If learning is more inductive now, why are so many classes in seminary strictly lecture style? Why are so many Sunday mornings centered on a 30 - 40 minute sermon? Why are we so afraid of the question "why"?

A key point to make in this evangelistic shift is that a form of discipleship often occurs before conversion ever takes place. Now, before you get all tied up and talk about how spiritual maturity cannot take place in a non-believer close your mouth and think about it. Basically, pull your head out. The shift to inductive evangelism allows the believer to instill basic spiritual principles into the potential convert. Essentially, it allows a foundation to be built before the building is ever considered. What a concept!!!!!! The sad truth is that the person who comes to faith in Christ through proper inductive evangelism is years ahead of the other at conversion in regards to spiritual maturity. The inductive approach in post-modern conversation is key to laying the groundwork for continued spiritual growth once there is conversion. This shift signals to us that a new approach to discipleship must take place to foster the continued growth of the postmodern believer. It must incorporate the key values and concepts that define the postmodern and identify him. The core will never change, but the method of developing that core must make cultural shifts amongst believers.

Previous Posts can be found below:



Blogger GuyMuse said...

Great post, just my cup of tea! You write, "A key point to make in this evangelistic shift is that a form of discipleship often occurs before conversion ever takes place." This is so very true. In our own work we use what we call "open groups" which are discipleship groups for both believers and any non-believers whom they invite or show up. For the believers the open group is a form of further discipleship, for the non-believer it is a form of leading them (process) to Christ. Usually somewhere along the way the non-believer will give their life to Christ, and be that much ahead of the game having been discipled beforehand. It really works. If you think about it, Christ didn't say, "go, evangelize the lost, disciple them, etc." What He said was go make disciples. Period.

Blogger OKpreacher said...

Professor X,

I couldn't agree with you more. I read recently that churches that don't have evangelism training are having more converts than churches that have evangelism training. The point isn't that evangelism traning is bad, just that we are training people the wrong way. I think churches would be more successful in reaching those without Christ if every member sought ways to share the gospel in "inductive" ways. Thanks for the great article.

Blogger David Rogers said...

As you (okpreacher/professor X?)refer to in your post, I believe the Contagious Christianity training course (out of Willow Creek) does just what you are talking about: helps us to adapt our presentation to the context in which we are working. I highly recommend it.

Blogger Professor X said...

David, you are certainly correct. As a part of my job as a spiritual formation minister I have studied a number of curricula that accomadate both methods. I believe there has even been some recent messages and blog posts on evangelistic styles. My goal with this post is to point out the shift in effectiveness of the methods. The deductive approach was effective with a modernist perspective and remains effective with those who maintain a modernist philosophy (even if they don't recognize it). The post-modern tends to respond better to an inductive approach. My future posts on this subject will reflect this in more detail. The short of it is the post-modern wants to see the impact of the gospel in your life before they accept it into their own life. In my opinion, the current state of our denominational politics and debate is greatly affecting our ability to reach the young generational post-moderns. Consistently calling them relativists doesn't help either. Their affinity for asking "why" doesn't make them relativists. We must live the gospel to them, before we earn the right to preach it to them.


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