Books

God-centered vs. Me-centered Evangelism

Today I finished Will Metzger's fine book called Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People. It is an excellent guide to God-centered evangelism, set out in four parts. Part one, "The Whole Gospel," defines the "content of our message." Part two, "To the Whole Person" focuses on "conversion of the total person." Part three, "Wholly by Grace," shows how God's gracious work in Christ is the "foundation for evangelism." And part four, "Offered by Whole People," discusses "character and communication in witnessing."

One of the strength's of Metzger's book is it's clarity on the gospel and it's contrast between God-centered and Me-centered evangelism. Here's a summary of the contrasts in regard to each one's views on God, humanity, Christ, and response to Christ. The language and wording of this summary is largely taken from Metzger, although somewhat paraphrased by me.

View of God

The point of contact with unbelievers for Me-centered evangelism is love ("God loves you") or friendship (Jesus wants to be your friend). But God's ownership and sovereignty are blunted. In God-centered evangelism, the point of contact is creation (God made you). God's ownership rights as creator are emphasized, as well as his love and grace. Justice and love are seen as equally important attributes of God. In Me-centered evangelism, God is impotent before the sinner's will. In God-centered evangelism, God is able to change and empower the sinner's will. The message is not "God is a friend who will help you," but "God is a king who will save you."

View of Humanity

In Me-centered evangelism, man is seen as fallen, yet with the ability or potential to choose what is good and to choose God. The sinner is one who seeks the truth, but lacks information. He needs love, friendship, and a new life. He makes mistakes and is imperfect, and needs forgiveness for specific sins. He needs salvation from the consequences of sin - unhappineness and hell. In God-centered evangelism, man is seen as fallen and unable to come to God by his own will-power. His mind is at enmity with God, and he does not seek after God. He needs a new nature (regeneration), not just information. He needs salvation from both the guilt of sin and the enslaving power of sin in his life. In Me-centered evangelism, man is seen as sick and ignorant. In God-centered evangelism, man is seen as dead and lost.

View of Christ

Me-centered evangelism views Christ as a Savior from failures, from sin, and from hell. He exists for man's benefit. The emphasis is on Christ's role as priest. God-centered evangelism emphasizes Christ's role as priest also, but also his kingly and prophetic roles. Jesus is viewed as Savior and Lord. His death is emphasized, but also is law-fulfilling life. In Me-centered evangelism, an attitude of submission to Christ's lordship is optional for salvation. In God-centered evangelism, submission is essential.

View of Response to Christ

Me-centered evangelism offers an invitation to be accepted. God-centered evangelism gives a command to be obeyed. In Me-centered evangelism, man's choice is the determining basis of salvation. God responds to our decision. Appeals are made to the desires of the sinner to escape hell. The sinner is saved by faith - repentance is not emphasized, and is thought of as "works." Assurance of salvation comes from a counselor using the promises of God and pronouncing the new believer as "saved." In God-centered evangelism, God's choice is the determining basis of salvation. We respond to God's initiative and grace from the whole person (mind, heart, and will). Truth is driven home into the conscience of the sinner. Man is saved by faith alone, but saving faith is always accompanied with repentance. Assurance of salvation comes from the Holy Spirit applying biblical promises to the conscience and effecting a changed life. In Me-centered evangelism, the sinner holds the key in his hands. In God-centered evangelism, God has the key in his hand.

Now, Metzger acknowledges that for most of us, our evangelism falls somewhere between these two positions. Most of us are not so extremely Me-centered as this contrast might indicate. I would even argue that many Arminians are not necessarily Me-centered in their approach (consider John Wesley or C. S. Lewis). Nevertheless, this Me-centeredness is latent in much of our witnessing, and Metzger has done us a favor by clarifying the God-centered content of the gospel.

This book is helpful in many ways, including much practical advice for personal witnessing and giving realistic expectations for it. I found the book encouraging. If you want to be a more effective witness for Jesus and the gospel, you should consider reading it (you can link to it to purchase on Amazon on the right).

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