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Changing Evangelism

In May of 2009 several leaders were commissioned by Campus Crusade’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Directors to conduct a research project about our staff’s satisfaction and effectiveness in evangelism.  Those leaders are Joey Payne, Operations Manager of the GAiN Distribution Center, Scott Blom, Associate National Director of the Military Campus Ministry, Roy Baker, MTL at West Virginia University, Dan Flynn, MTL at James Madison University, and Tim Henderson, MTL at Penn State.

Our findings are available throughout this site.  

To hear the audio of our presentation in which we make the case for urgent change to our regional and national leaders, click here: Changing Evangelism Presentation

To download the report as a pdf, click here: Changing Evangelism Report

We’d appreciate your thoughts on all that is discussed here.  To read other people’s comments or enter your own please click here.

27 Comments

  1. Julie says:

    I will say that this rings so true. I love the idea of equipping students to be in the lives of the lost. Not only will it truly communicate the love of the Gospel, but that is what life looks like after college. It is also personally challenging to put myself in a place I can intersect those in need.

  2. Mike says:

    Awesome…this is the first time I’ve seen a well thought through, research supported process that brings to light that which many people “feel” but has yet to be articulated in a meaningful way.

    I think this will have a significant impact on our evangelistic efforts worldwide.

    Thanks for your work on this,

    Mike

  3. Eric says:

    How did your own personal perspective or hunches change as a result of your research?

  4. Roy says:

    In response to Eric, I was blessed to be a part of the team working on this. I am more convinced after doing the research that we need to invest more time in “sowing” activities. I’ll admit it’s a struggle within. It feels like we are in a race and we need to slow down in order to do well.

    My fear is that the culture will change again, before we are prepare to engage this generation. I am praying for a revival. We need a supernatural moving of God’s Spirit!

  5. Scott says:

    Eric, thank you for your question.

    My perspective is that if we keep heading in the same direction we are in grave danger of losing our right to speak, not just to the culture but to the influence in which we help the Church worldwide. Campus Crusade has obviously held a major role in helping to keep evangelism as the tip of the spear, but if we are not willing to change how and why we do evangelism it has grave implication which affect the whole of why God put CCC on the planet in the first place.

    My take aways are:
    1) that this matters–and it matters a lot.
    2) I have to help our staff help students do the type of evangelism which our research confirms is actually helpful/works.
    3) I have to seek the Lord to move.
    4) I was re-lit in my heart for evangelism.

  6. Tim Henderson says:

    Eric,

    Thanks for the question. My perspective before the research was simpler, but in general agreement with what the research showed. We had a hypothesis at the very beginning that is detailed in this document. As you’ll see our final perspective ended up being more multi-faceted.

    Tim

  7. Kyle Sponaugle says:

    I think there is a lot of truth in these ideas. I have had the privilege over the last two years of working on a campus where students are naturally insiders in communities all over campus. We also have very restricted opportunities for ministry mode evangelism. This lead us to really focus on doing things differently (Body mode evangelism, and students being our primary missionaries). It’s been sloppy but very exciting, I’ve never had so many unbelievers at our weekly meeting (~ 10%) or seen so many people come to Christ (not through me sharing).

    I’d love to see some of the “Reason for God” cards to help make natural mode transferable. That would really be relevant to my students. Right now we’re just winging everything and it’s even hard to keep track of what’s going on and where people are at on that believe, belong, bless scale. There are quite a few people who “belong” to our community that I’m sure don’t believe yet.

    Anyway, great stuff!

  8. Jenn says:

    I agree with your findings and Kyle. I cannot think of one person who has come to Christ on our campus that was not first touched by the relationship of a believer. The major point of the Gospel is relationship. We need to be showing that in how we do evangelism.

    One thought on tools that have been around for a while. Many of our students sharing with others will start evangelistic conversations over time and then at some point they will go through the Knowing God Personally booklet. Many of them still desire the help from the tools even if they are not the first step in starting the conversation. I think they are comfortable having a “leaving piece” and not having to go from complete memory. It gives them a little more confidence.

    After having spent time experiencing evangelism in this way. I can’t argue in any way with your findings. It is actually nice seeing them put into words because I have a hard time expressing what we are seeing here.

  9. Maria W says:

    Some questions:
    Is there dissonance/dissatisfaction because staff don’t have relationships with people in “real life” – not having a “personal” ministry with non christian friends? how does this “count” in our job?
    Is it realistic for staff to do natural mode with non-christian students when we’re not living among them? What should be the expectation of doing natural mode here (or is the point that we’re equipping students to do natural mode)?
    When/where/how are the new staff learning about our organizational value of evangelism, especially if every campus/area may be communicating differently and have different experiences?
    if we have such a hard time seeing the value of staff being sowers, what does that point to as to what we believe about our standing before the Lord? do we really understand grace? are we an organization of “elder brothers”? how do we grow as a community of staff who experience the gospel & grace in our personal lives more? How/when/where will this be addressed among staff?

    Some thoughts: There could be pre-evangelistic problems because staff don’t do life with students – our team sees much our job being equipping students for campus ministry, since students are engaging more with students on a regular basis to have the pre-evangelistic conversations, not necessarily having the relationships with nonchristians. Our time with nonchristians is usually when we’re on campus launching or taking a student already involved sharing.

    We’ve seen success in freeing our students to see how they’re the ones who will really change the campus, not us as staff. our role is to coach, encourage, challenge and equip them to see the value in having relationships with non christians (therefore having time for nonchristians, ie, not having a Cru event every day). we can (and should when appropriate) go with them but we try to give our staff freedom in their schedule to also have time to build relationships with nonchristians. There are 2 students who started small groups without staff involvement (just encouragement) with nonchristians. there are 2 other students launching movement in the Greek system @ Pitt on their own, with staff coaching.

  10. Mark Randall says:

    Hey Tim and team – you hit this out of the park. Way to go! Way to get it all down in writing so everyone can benefit from your findings. Needless to say – I’m in complete agreement with your findings.

    In Rochester, NY – our team in many ways has already embraced your findings and are starting to see tremendous growth in our CRU, AIA, Bridges, Deaf and Impact movements. We still need to see better multiplication happen to really blow the roof off, but we think we are heading in the right direction. Time will tell.

    May God continue His favor on CCC for many years to come!

    Eternally thankful,

    Mark

  11. Dave Brindley says:

    Great talk and report!

    Have cards for the other 6 chapters in Reason for God been developed? Is there a plan to make them?

    Though I agree that our metrics are deeply flawed, I am uncomfortable with the Navigator’s model of just telling stories. Telling stories work if we are confident enough of who we are in Christ to share disappointments as well as successes. At CSU last summer, it felt like a parade of every ministry and region sharing their prayer letter highlights.

  12. Warren says:

    Grrreat work-and well said, you guys. Thanks. These are thoughts/findings we have been kicking around for over a decade…thanks for making it ‘presentable.’ Maria’s comments about freeing students up to actually be with nonchristians is right. I know we put them in ‘leadership’ to build them–and it is good. But it takes time/focus/energy away from building disciples–and especially out of nonchristians.

  13. Warren says:

    Another thought–David Geisler has been doing some training for our staff in Asia–and has offered it for us here in states…off his book “Conversational Evangelism:How to Listen and Speak So You Can Be Heard.” by Harvest House–it is the best thing I’ve read–and most practical on making meaningful conversation with unbelievers…his website http://www.meeknessand truth.org–he lives in Singapore but will be in states in a week or so…

  14. Mike says:

    Each Christian must let the Holy Spirit guide them in how they are to approach each indiviual. I think the findings of this study is great, but if we let the unsaved dictate how we promote Jesus, or they cause us to water down the truth, then what have we done?
    People are the same today as they have been in the past, and that is spiritually lost. Let us focus on how Jesus dealt with sin and the sinner, let us look how the Apostles presented the Gospel, then we will know how to act.
    We cannot pretend or assume that we must somehow change the message, or even the direct approach of the message, just because this is a “new day”. Sinners never want to hear about hell, but hell is real!
    The preaching of the cross is foolishness to them that do not believe, and that will not change until our Lord returns. It is God’s business to first draw the person and to give the increase of salvation; we must be faithful enough to sow and water.
    Enjoyed the results and thank you for your efforts.
    Mike

  15. Hey Tim and team, I am very encouraged by reading your report and seeing the work you are doing within Crusade to give helpful suggestions to CCC leaders as to how we can better understand the times in which we live and know better what we are to do (1 Chron. 12:32). 16 years ago I was hired by the graduate branch of campus crusade to develop a pilot program at U.T. Austin to reach skeptical graduate students. They determined back then that a four spiritual laws approach was not working well with graduate students. However I saw more and more people moving away from a more content oriented approach to evangelism based on Jesus’ credentials and relied more and more on a testimonial approach only. I saw the danger in this and after reading J.P. Moreland’s book Love Your God With All Your Mind, it stimulated me to develop a new paradigm in evangelism that combined evangelism and “light” apologetics and yet that was postmodern sensitive. This approach was a further step forward from what I helped Crusade developed with graduate students 16 years ago. This concern eventually led me to leave Crusade five years later and start my own ministry because I saw the need for this kind of training all over the country on college campuses. At the same time I started developing this idea with my home church Hill Country Bible Church Northwest (Which is the mother church for Hill Country Bible U.T. Austin that you mentioned in your report). We developed this pre-evangelism model in partnership with my home church partly because they needed something to supplement the Bill Hybells’ Contagious Christian Training materials our church was using. Then after reading Nick Pollard’s book, Evangelism Made Slightly Less Difficulty, I finally felt I was put on the right track and had all the pieces and so last year (after doing this ministry for 11 years on my own) Harvest House published a book I wrote with my dad (Norman Geisler) called Conversational Evangelism: How To Listen And Speak So You May Be Heard. The book took Nick Pollard’s ideas one step further and made them into a transferable model that was also comprehensive for teaching the art of pre-evangelism conversations that could open up more doors for more direct evangelism. I currently live in Singapore and train CCC staff and other mission organizations througout Asia. I would be interested hearing more about the progress you are all making on these things. To be honest, everywhere I go in Asia to train CCC staff (Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Japan, and etc) I hear the same concerns among the national leaders, which is that their numbers for conversions are down and they are desperate for solutions. Though I left Crusade staff 11 years ago, I still feel a strong connection to my former family and try to help them in any way I can. You are all in my prayers! Keep up the great work! In Him, David Geisler

  16. Mark Collins says:

    I enjoyed reading the report and resonate with some of the tensions many are expressing. I think it would be a huge win to champion sowing and reaping, which is obviously challenging since we all get naturally more excited hearing a conversion story than about a good conversation with small progress. But we must improve here, for the work of evangelism in a pluralistic society in which Christians are a minority will require engagement- humble and able to address the worldview of people rather than just encourage them to make a quick response.

    There were a couple of places in the report that seem to me to require some more thought before it is clear what our response should be. It makes sense that non-Christians want a respectful, non-confrontational approach. The question is, are we Biblically called to give them both? Respectful…clearly yes. But non-confrontational, is that even possible? This wasn’t in any of the conclusions of the SLI, but I think it is simply worth remembering that we are going to have to help our people, and remember ourselves that the gospel is an offense to those who are perishing. In East Asia we do tons of natural mode evangelism because of security, and one of the biggest challenges that students and staff face is not falling into endless incarnational ministry and never confronting the reality of the persons dire condition. It is this that I as the leader needed to work to constantly keep before us. My concern is that if we don’t hold this intention with the desire to be respectful we risk compromising the scandal of the cross.

    The other concern I have is with thinking about Good Deeds as a help to our evangelical image problem. I am not totally sure what it means to say that proclamation is our ultimate goal and not our ulterior goal. I guess it depends on whether ulterior as a word has negative baggage- doesn’t ulterior just mean momentarily hidden from view, or subsequent to some previous action? If so, and one of our aims of doing Good Deeds is to improve how people view us so that we can share the gospel- isn’t this our ulterior motive? I think it’s much safer ground to do present good deeds as things that should be done entirely for their own sake. I don’t think these things should be done for our “perceived image on campus.”

    Relatedly, it would be helpful to be clear that while a spectrum of proclamation to demonstration of the gospel is helpful in our thinking, I think it would be good to make it clear that demonstration without proclamation is not evangelism. This may be an underlying assumption, but it would be good to make is explicit. Demonstrating that we are good people who want to help society is not good news to a lost person who is not told about the cross.

    Thanks for all the work you guys put into this. It is making me think more deeply about these issues.

    Mark

  17. Amy Lewis says:

    Quick feedback JUST after listening to the presentation.

    As a new staff person with CCC I felt very encouraged to hear how the organization is seriously considering how the world has changed. How students are responding differently to the Gospel, and Gospel presentations. I look forward to being a part of dreaming new ideas, following our own “genius leaders”, and maintaining the heart of cutting edge – relative – “sharing” that maintains the vision Dr. Bright had for Campus Crusade while also pursuing relevancy in 21st century culture.

    Also appreciated the emphasis on the necessity for God to work, as it has always been.

    Thank you for your time and I look forward to exploring this website further!

  18. John Vampatella says:

    Hey Tim,

    I sent you a long email with my thoughts, so I’ll keep this brief:

    1. Without having the current terminology, I’ve been operating basically with this kind of philosophy ever since I became a Campus Director back in 1995. We’ve been working on new ways of helping our students and staff develop an “oikos” out of which to minister. I’m 100% on board with this.

    2. I also agree completely that we need to change our approach to statistics in Campus Crusade.

    3. Now, on the cautionary side….I still am a believer in the old, tried-and-true definition of successful witnessing. And let me say, I’ve seen far more students come to Christ – and get involved with us – through ministry mode than any other mode, the past few years. To those that say that ministry mode doesn’t work any more, I say…..bzzzzzzzt! The world hasn’t changed so much that the power of the gospel is only potent if shared a particular way. That doesn’t mean we lack sensitivity in how we do it, or that we don’t seek to be more effective. But if we step out in faith, trusting in the Holy Spirit to guide us to the appointments He has, in His Providence, laid before us, He will work. I am concerned as we move towards a more “pre-evangelistic” methodology that such a philosophy will allow our staff and students already afraid of sharing their faith an organizationally-approved excuse for just “hanging out” with people and never getting to the gospel.

    I personally don’t care *how* we share the gospel (i.e., what mode, etc.); I am gravely concerned *that* we share the gospel. I’ve seen too many instances where people claiming to want to emphasize relationships never actually get around to sharing the gospel. The relationship provides wonderful cover for fear. We cannot lose our distinctiveness in evangelism.

    Good work on this project, to you and your whole team. Excellent and interesting stuff.

  19. Chris Zaugg says:

    Having been involved in a ministry that is often used as a tool on the campus, I can only say that you have done a wonderful job of capturing objective data that supports the anecdotal evidence that we have seen for years. Our culture has completely changed in the 28 years I have been on staff, and I think we can all agree that it will continue to change at an exponential rate.

    What has NOT changed, as many in this thread have mentioned, is the MESSAGE. How then do we communicate this wonderful message to this ever-changing culture? Well, I think we can start by taking the advice you have outlined!

    Thanks for taking the time to put this report together. Terrific stuff!

  20. Grace says:

    I’m a Christian college student. I am very involved with Cru but have felt distinctly dissatisfied with the type of outreach promoted. This report encompasses all the thoughts and ideas I’ve had, things I’ve noticed from my peers, things I’ve read and believed biblically for many years. I think we are taking an important step in the right direction. I find the research and proposals to be spot-on in my personal experience as a current college student. I am incredibly encouraged!

  21. Bruce Henderson says:

    Thanks for this great piece of analysis and insights. This data seems to back up what many staff have seen/thought for years now – the world/students have changed, but many of our tools, methods and leadership in the area of evangelism has been lagging.

    I do believe more students today are further from the gospel (in the -10 to -3 area) than in the past. This fact demands we change as well. Most of our tools, training and certainly statistics we measure have not changed.

    I remember going to E. Europe in the early 90’s and we talked that many students didn’t believe in God, or not the Christian God. A successful “appointment” was engaging a student about their life, beliefs and then beginning to help them take steps toward Christ. It was very much a sowing mentality. We still shared Christ whenever possible and rejoiced when one crossed the line to eternal life, but we also rejoiced that person x, y, z moved from no belief in God to the point where they believed some God must exist, even though they weren’t sure it is the Christian God.

    More of American college students believe in the realms of where overseas students were at one time. We changed our tactics overseas, it’s time we change them here.

    Great work again – thanks so much.

  22. Tim Casteel says:

    Absolutely brilliant. I read all 75 pages (do I get a badge or something?) and loved every bit of it. Incredibly thought-provoking.

    As others commenters have said, this matches up VERY well with what we are doing on our campus, especially in the areas of emphasizing natural/relational evangelism and good deeds.

    I have many, many thoughts on next steps but to start off. . . it seems that in addition to needing a tool to respectfully deconstruct an unbeliever’s worldview, it seems that we need to train staff and students in how to clearly explain the gospel in contrast to religion (again, using Tim Keller as the model).

    If unbelievers are “convinced they’ve already heard” and new-believers “needed someone to correct misconceptions they had about God” then it seems like we should be developing resources and tools to clarify that when I talk about Christianity I am NOT talking about religion (do more stuff so God will like you).

    This is THE key for us in the South where most have been inoculated to the gospel, having grown up in the church and rejected religion (but obviously Tim Keller has found it to be Key in the NE also). So when you talk about Jesus they will immediately think you are talking about religion and they will dismiss you out of hand.

  23. Kelly Scott says:

    Thank you for all the work that you all have put into this study! Frustration in evangelism, particularly a sense of feeling unequipped for the work of sowing or undervalued in the work of sowing, is the probably most persistent struggle I have seen among staff. On the other hand, in the instances that I have seen staff equipped and freed up to sow, it has brought both satisfaction to staff and borne much fruit in ministry. So the types of changes you are suggesting for our ministry are, in my opinion, crucial and urgent.

    I appreciate some of Mark Collins’ concerns expressed above, but not because I felt that your report provoked these concerns (at least for me). I agree with him, of course, that the gospel itself is confrontational and scandalous. It is bound to offend many. Our trouble is that we often offend people (or at least lead them to ignore/isolate us) before we ever get to the gospel because we are insensitive to their backgrounds, needs, concerns, and questions.

    As I read the NT, I see that Paul’s message was always Christ, but when he was talking to Jews he got there much differently than when he was talking to Gentiles. When he was talking to Pharisees, he got there differently than when he was speaking to the philosophers in Athens. When I read the gospels, I see that Jesus spoke differently to the Samaritan woman than he did to the rich young ruler, and differently to the Syrophoenician woman than he did to Nicodemus, and differently to Nicodemus than he did to other Pharisees, because they were all coming from different places and had different beliefs. They all needed Jesus, but because their immediate concerns were different, Jesus approached them differently. Likewise, our staff need to be equipped to question, to listen, and to apply the gospel to very different people in a pluralistic society, which will usually require patient sowing and watering before reaping. The “Reason for God cards” seem to be a great step in this direction.

    Mark was also concerned about seeing good deeds as the solution to our ‘evangelical image problem.’ I actually like the distinction between ultimate goal and ulterior goal in regard to good deeds, as “ulterior” often does have a negative connotation. Good deeds would come from an “ulterior” motive if they were seen solely as a way to help us get the message across. Mark makes a great point that good deeds are valuable simply because they are, uh, good. They promote human flourishing and God’s intentions for the world (and the new world to come). God is glorified through them as we reflect his kindness, justice, etc. and as we help others to be more fully human. At the same time, there is no shame in the desire to have our good deeds point beyond us and beyond the immediate good that they bring about. Ultimately, we really do want our good deeds to point people to the One who is truly good. We really do want our good deeds to cause people to ask us the reason for the hope that we have (i.e. provide credibility). Given the tendency among evangelicals to see good deeds as simply and ONLY a stepping stone to sharing the gospel, Mark’s caution is very important. But if we heed his caution, I think the “ulterior goal”/”ultimate goal” distinction can be a good one.

    Training our staff and students in these things (i.e. the suggestions of the report) can seem daunting, much more difficult than training someone to share the four-laws, and, therefore, non-transferable. But I would argue that they are transferable and that they will produce more mature, more secure, and more satisfied staff. It does not require that all of our staff become experts in all religions or worldviews, or memorizing a bunch of facts. It simply requires a deep understanding of the gospel and the fuller story of Scripture so that we can readily recognize counterfeit gospels, and it requires a willingness to love people through listening and seeking their good. It can be readily caught as well as taught.

    Thanks again for all of your work!

  24. Brett says:

    Awesome work! I am so encouraged reading through this report. It’s already motivating me as I think about the Fall semester.

    Affirmation for all of us on staff to spend time in pre-evangelism and sowing activities is so crucial. Thank you for pursuing that affirmation! We created a “pre-evangelism stat” for our staff team this past year to acknowledge that all the hard work and time our staff were spending in pre-evangelism was real staff work. Not only is it real work but it’s vital to completing the mission. Discussing worldviews and pursuing on-going discussions will help students see Christ who would never get near him otherwise. I think this was motivating for our team. It was for me!

    It’ll be messy finding the balance of good words/good deeds in our movements but I think we all know they go together and the world desperately needs both interwoven. I’m excited to jump into the mess, evaluate and then jump into the mess again.

    Thanks for this well thought and challenging report!
    Brett

  25. Jerry Rice says:

    I have only begun reading this report, but the subject is of great interest to me.

    In 1979 as a student I was riding the bus back to campus after Daytona, having a conversation with Jesse James. I remember this main point: Crusade, and specifically the Campus Ministry has been around since 1953. In that time thousands of students have been trained in evangelism and had active practice, using the 4SLs. Not all those students joined Crusade staff. Where are they all? Why have we not seen the evangelistic impact on our country, just from Campus Crusade, let alone others? This was after Here’s Life, the Explos, etc.

    I was on Campus Ministry staff for 9 years and certainly shared the gospel clearly in hundreds of situations. Since 1989 I’ve probably shared my faith only a handful of times. It’s just not the same, living in a small community. I don’t like that because in my heart I bonded with Crusade. I still think Win, Build, Send; Transferable Concepts, Ten Basic Steps, etc.

    Crusade has always been about agressive evangelism, being in the reaping end of the evangelism continuum. We left “relationship evangelism” to others, usually because we chose to deal with large groups of people and filter out those who were ready now (Team Meetings, College Life, traveling speakers). And after those meetings were done we just did some more, since the campus or Summer Project population was so large or transitional.

    I hope Crusade doesn’t shift away from that emphasis. It is easy to not “do” evangelism, especially the hard work of trusting God with getting a large group meeting set up. But in the follow-up evangelism, the kind that is engaged by the students themselves in the dorms, greek system and then after college, we need decent training on how to engage the conversations and be winsome in the community.

    Bottom line: we still need to open our mouths and trust God with the results. Jesus lived a perfect life, yet I am forever persuaded that during the first 30 years of that perfect life there is virtually no mention in the gospels of anyone coming up to Jesus and asking him why he was so different. Nothing really happened until “Jesus began to preach and say, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand’.”

  26. David Broome - Pastor 35 years in NZ says:

    Yes – I agree some approaches like The 4 Spiritual Laws are dated. I use and still teach the ShareJesusWithoutFear concept over a period of time – rather than all at once. I have seen success when we listen to their questions, rather than thinking we know their questions and preparing answers like the scientific response. I remain open to ‘anytime, using all means’.

  27. Betsy Guilford says:

    I see that this report was published in May? It is September now and I’m bummed I am only now being exposed to it. At any rate, I am so encouraged by your willingness to do the hard work of research and simply state the results- hard to argue with the facts. I am working with Priority Associates and am convinced that your proposals/solutions are transferrable to those of us working in the marketplace. I completely agree that the key to all of this is found on our knees, before our Compassionate Father. I am praying that He lights a fire in all of our hearts.

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