Gospel in Context

God loves you, and offers a wonderful plan for your life. – Bill Bright, The Four Spiritual Laws

I could see no purpose in putting the Christian proposition before a man unless it was made in such a way that forced him to struggle with it in terms of surrender to the ultimate and most basic demand that could be placed upon him. In order to know what had to be addressed to the depths of his being I had to wade down to it through what I was convinced were only outward displays of a deeper need in his heart. – William D. Reyburn, Identification in the Missionary Task

I have no huge problem with the Four Spiritual Laws per se, but I wonder if they as an evangelistic tool really address the needs of the human heart cross-culturally. For example, in the presentation of the gospel in our Western culture an emphasis is placed on sin and forgiveness. Though this emphasis may have become less successful in the past few decades, it did address a basic psychological need. In an animist context, this aspect of the gospel (vital though it is) does not have as much impact. What resonates more with them is the power that Jesus has over sin and death. Westerners seek comfort (hence forgiveness) and animists seek control over the environment that threatens them.

When we share the good news of Jesus Christ we cannot exclude any part of it. Death for sin, burial, resurrection for justification, ascension for present rule. What we need to understand is where to place the accent on that presentation. I once shared with a coworker about law and grace. He understood and repeated it back to me with clarity but remained unconverted. Why? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that for him is was not a matter of the heart but a philosophical discussion. There is no magic accent placement for each person that will turn the key in the lock of sin on their heart, but I think it is part of witnessing that we need to be more sensitive to.

What has “to be addressed to the depths of [the] being” of those we live amidst today? What aspect of the gospel will resonate more soundly in a post-modern context? What part of the gospel should we accentuate that will cause a Muslim to “struggle with it in terms of surrender to the ultimate and most basic demand that could be placed upon him”? God may continue to use the Four Spiritual Laws and evangelist methods like them to grant faith and repentance, He is able to do that. But that doesn’t excuse us from working hard to present the gospel in a fashion that speaks to those we intend to hear it and to do that without changing the content of the good news.

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