Celebrating a positive change to the map of evangelism
I worked for Campus Crusade in the early oughts and was constantly frustrated by their unwillingness to adapt. If you’re unfamiliar with Crusade, it’s one of the most powerful evangelistic organizations to arise this century, focusing primarily on college students on campuses. It has changed the world.
But its methodology for evangelism, the Four Spiritual Laws, was created in the 1960s by founder Bill Bright. The strategy reduced the gospel to a series of propositions, and the preferred tactic was to begin cold conversations with strangers and try to convert them through acceptance of the Four Laws.
When I worked for Crusade in Vancouver, I participated in this methodology. I “shared Christ” every Tuesday and Thursday for one hour for one year. I was skilled at it. I was clever. I felt comfortable talking to strangers.
But I never saw a single person express even the mildest curiosity.
Because Vancouver in the oughts was very different than middle-America in the 60’s. The times had changed but the method had not.
I advocated for innovative adaptation, but was consistently told some version of “you must be doing it wrong.” I left Crusade disappointed and frustrated, though I still have fond memories of the people with whom I served.
I say all this by way of introduction, because I’ve recently learned that Campus Crusade (now “CRU”) has changed their evangelism training. Instead of preparing students to share four laws, they prepare students to fill one of four roles. This is a massive step forward for an organization I once considered diametrically opposed to change, and I am terribly proud.
I don’t entirely love the new approach but I love that it teaches students to listen and contextualize and to honor the people with whom they share, rather than treating them as “lost souls” that need to be “saved.”
The four roles are encapsulated in the CRU approach to evangelism known as “Cojourners”, and they are meant to help students understand the relational-dynamics at play in spiritual conversation.
Explorers engage in significant dialogue, trying to discover and understand the spiritual journeys of others. They’re like researchers or interviewers, trying to establish a base line concerning cultural attitudes toward faith. Being an explorer involves active listening and asking questions.
Guides show the way to faith in Christ. This involves sharing their life stories and articulating the gospel in conversationally appropriate ways. In my mind, this is what Crusade was trying to teach us back when I worked there. Guides are the people who “share Christ” explicitly. Please note, however, the emphasis CRU now places on making this approach feel conversational, appropriate, and personal rather than like a spiel or a sales pitch.
Builders create bridges over and beyond the issues and obstacles that hinder others in their journey to Christ. Being a builder means taking on the role of an apologeticist, someone who contends for the validity of the Christian faith, the historicity of the gospels, and the philosophical preeminence of God. It requires prayer and gentle persuasion.
Mentors encourage others to follow Christ. Being a mentor involves helping others make relational connections to other believers and imparting foundational concepts for Christian living. Or, to say it more classically, a mentor is someone who disciples other Christians.
Again, I have a couple lingering concerns about this new approach, but, more than anything, I want to CELEBRATE the incredible leap of faith CRU is taking to rethink its strategy for evangelism.
Way to go!
Our churches need more people trained more like this.