The most powerful evangelism has always been about listening and prayer. The best presentations, sermons, invitations, and tracts are shaped by listening and prayer. People will have questions and want to understand how Christianity works, and what difference Jesus makes. The best answer is usually to tell a story, to share different ways that Jesus has given hope and strength for life, and how the community of faith makes a difference, and how God gives purpose and meaning to make a difference.
Sometimes, though, people want a more formal presentation of the good news. For a long time, the Four Spiritual Laws have been the “go to” way of explaining the gospel. They were written by Bill Bright of Campus Crusade in 1952. The Four Spiritual Laws are: God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life (John 3:15; 10:10); humans are sinful and separated from God and can’t experience God’s love and plan for their lives (Rom 3:23; 6:23); Jesus is God’s plan for sin (the bridge) – through Him you can know God’s love and plan (John 14:6; Rom 5:8); we must individually receive Jesus to know His love and plan (John 1:12; Acts 16:31).
The Four Spiritual Laws are a simple and powerful way to explain the gospel to people who are aware of their own guilt. Unfortunately today, most people are not aware of their guilt. 61% of people feel no sense of guilt (John Finney, Emerging Evangelism, p.49). Most people outside of the church question many of these spiritual “laws” – they do not believe they are separated from God’s love or that Jesus is the only way to know God’s love. The Four Spiritual Laws are still relevant today for those who have a sense of guilt. For most though, we need a new way to make the gospel presentation.
I have found it effective to talk to Christians about “Four New Spiritual Laws”. This is a way to talk about the gospel in our generation, a generation that starts with the assumption that life is broken. (James Choung also has a great new outline in his book and pamphlet True Story.) People today are looking for hope and strength for their lives.
I have outlined the Four New Spiritual Laws below, and included references separately from Romans for those who have learned the old “Roman Road” to be able to learn a new “Roman Road”.
- God loves us and is with us in our pain and struggles (Matt 28:20; Psalm 34:18) (Rom 8:35-39).
- Pain is in our lives because of the selfish choices of ourselves and others (Luke 22:42; James 3:16) (Rom 2:1; 5:12).
- Jesus suffered and died but overcame – and offers us His strength (John 20:26-28; Heb 2:18) (Rom 6:4-6).
- Jesus invites us to live in Him – personally, in community, and on His mission. In Christ we have His strength to overcome and bring healing – with God, in ourselves, in community, and in creation (Matt 10:1, 7-8; Gal 6:2; Rev 21:4) (Rom 8:15-17; cf. 12:1-21).
The Four New Spiritual Laws start with the assumption that life is hard and that God is with us in our pain. Jesus came to the sick and sinners and walked, talked, and ate with them. God is not apart from us in our pain but with us. Law 2 seeks to answer the questions that many have: “Why is there pain in the world? Why does God allow suffering?” Pain and suffering exist because of people’s choices. Jesus died because of people’s choices (Law 3) – Jesus understands our suffering and hardships. Jesus overcame the evil that people did to Him; Jesus is stronger than sin, death, and pain, and He offers His strength to us (Law 4). Jesus may not take all of our pain away, but He can give us His strength to overcome. Christ invites us to live in Him and in His Body (the Church) and in His mission to heal and re-create the world. We can bring healing and hope to the world with Jesus.
Evangelism in our culture and generation must embrace brokenness as the common ground of conversation. Evangelism is listening to and walking with people in their struggles; it is praying with people so they can hear the Spirit’s voice and invitation; it is sharing our stories of strength and hope in Jesus. At Covenant Grove we have talked a lot about listening and prayer and stories as evangelism; we have created a culture that has open arms and lots of joy for people in pain. Let’s continue to listen and share God’s hope and strength. Let’s continue to be filled up with His strength so that we can share His love with a world in need.