Beyond Awkward, Models of Evangelism, and Attic After School

I recently started reading Beyond Awkward: When Talking About Jesus Is Outside Your Comfort Zone by evangelist Beau Crosetto. The big idea in this book is that while talking about Jesus is beyond awkward it is nevertheless worth it, both for us and for those in conversation with us and so we must get beyond awkward and be willing to share when God gives us the opportunity. Good stuff. I got this book from Jessica Fick, who is currently in the editing process of her own book on evangelism: Beautiful Feet. I’m really looking forward to reading and passing along that book as well.

After a few chapters of straight-up exhortation, Crosetto moves into a meaty chapter which discusses several models of evangelism. Our generation is different, he says, then previous generations. Specifically, people of younger generations “want to act their way into faith, while previous generations needed to think their way in.” That is, our current culture is experienced based. More cognitively based generations responded well to reasoned arguments for the gospel (the persuasion model), but today’s generation may be better served by a different model of evangelism.

At this point Crosetto presents what he learned as the “Celtic model” which emphasizes process, journey, and “belonging before believing.” Crosetto argues that while propositional truth is still necessary for evangelism – he is not rejecting the persuasive model – it might not be the best thing to open with. Instead Crosetto suggests we open with personal stories of life change, of our personal testimonies or the testimonies of others. Experienced based cultures, says Crosetto, are asking whether or not “it works” and transformational stories demonstrate the truth that it does.

Crosetto offers the analogy of a house. These “transformational stories” are the front door. From there, Crosetto invites people who are interested to join seeker-style discussion-based Bible studies (the living room). InterVarsity calls these “God Investigation Groups,” or GIGs. It’s in these settings that Crosetto is able to offer the propositional truth of the gospel. It’s also in these settings that Crosetto sees a lot of people come to faith in Jesus. From there, Crosetto tries to help the young believers see that following Jesus is a journey of faith and he asks questions such as “are you submitting to Jesus in every area of your life?”

In the first stage of evangelism, the front door, Crosetto thinks in terms of a “center-set” model. Is the person moving toward or away from Christ? In the second state, Crosetto thinks in terms of the “bounded-set” model. Has the person believed and accepted the gospel? In the third stage Crosetto thinks in terms of a journey model. Is the person following in the way of Jesus?

What struck me most about this chapter was how closely it matches what we are doing with our Attic After School ministry at church. As I discussed in an earlier post, our After School ministry is our open door. We emphasize belonging before believing. We spend the first several weeks sharing our personal testimonies publicly and also share in private conversations what God is doing in our lives. The teens who come perfectly match Crosetto’s description. They want to know, “does the gospel work?” and we try to give them the opportunity to see that it does by experiencing the love of God in community, whether or not they believe the same things we do – which they often don’t. A lot of the teens feel they belong to our church in some fundamental way before they would ever make a verbal ascent to the gospel. Our focus during this time is building relationships and trying to slowly but surely point the teenagers to Christ.

From there we invite the teens into a deeper study of the Word, to Youth Group, and Sunday morning worship. As Crosetto, we want to move unbelievers through the process and to, ultimately, becoming full followers of Jesus.

It’s important to note that we didn’t have any of this foresight in mind when we started our Attic After School ministry. It’s also important to note that the same principle applies to adults. The new recent believers in our church followed the same process. They weren’t swayed by an evangelistic sermon but through relationships with believers who loved them enough to point them to Christ. Evangelistic sermons are necessary and often provide the content which accompanies the relationships but they function together with experiential model Crosetto describes in his book.