Thinking Out Loud

September 26, 2010

Frontline Ministry

I was going to just casually include this in one of the Wednesday link lists here, but I realized it needed a longer setup.

Tony Miano has a blog, The Lawman Chronicles, which gets its name from the years Tony spent in law enforcement, which I’ve been reading for a long time.   He does a lot of street preaching, and seems to strongly subscribe to the Ray Comfort school of evangelism, sometimes referred to as “The Law and The Gospel” approach to what is termed “soul winning.”

Now right away, I know there are people reading this who I have immediately alienated because that whole methodology is about 180-degrees different from what you believe in.   But you know, I think you need to give the dozen or so minutes it takes to watch the related video because I think we all need to see ministry on the frontlines.

I’m not doing this blog post today because I necessarily agree that this is the best approach, or that everybody should be called to evangelism, or that other methodologies are not as good.   Nor do I do this solely so that we can sit on the sidelines and critique the process like Statler and Waldorf, the two guys in the upper balcony on The Muppet Show.

I admire guys like Tony.   They are doing something, something they believe in with great passion, while other people are doing nothing.   In fact, I would want to disqualify anyone from commenting on this unless they have shared a verbal witness with at least one person in the past fortnight.

Of course, where we might differ is what constitutes “sharing a verbal witness.”    For some, like William Booth, that meant putting a uniform to distinguish himself from the surrounding culture; to take his turf with him so that everyone was meeting him on his turf.    Then, a step or two down from that type of identification there are contemporary street preachers like Tony.   And then there’s people who prefer “witness lite.”

The trouble with “witness lite” is that it’s often neither Biblio-centric or Christo-centric.    It neither draws directly on the source (the Word) nor the object (the Savior) of its intent.

I don’t necessarily agree with “The Law and the Gospel” approach as an all-purpose template.   It seems very formulaic.   Eric, the guy in the video in this link, is coming from a Roman Catholic background, and I think there are ways of identifying and connecting with that personal history and ‘tweaking’ the approach accordingly.

But again, if you’re reading this and you’re not doing anything, you’ve got to have something to fall back on.   The “Roman Road;” the “Four Spiritual Laws;” the “Bridge Illustration;” etc., are all examples of materials you want to always have, at least figuratively, in your back pocket.  Scripture tells us to always be prepared to give a response for the hope that we have.

I also realize that someone will want to note that the video linked here documents a somewhat artificial example of one-to-one street ministry, since Eric was fully aware of the camera; fully aware that he was being filmed.   I thought about that in the first three or four minutes, but I’m not sure it really distorted or affected his responses.   I do question the presence of cameras on this type of outing, though I suppose if this serves as a model for others, it has some validity.

It doesn’t always though.   Some of the other videos of this ilk include some rather tense exchanges involving street preaching to larger crowds.   Occasionally, someone versed in less confrontational approaches will question whether or not this more traditional approach conveys Christian love and compassion.    Sadly, it’s at that point some polarization takes place with the street preachers suggesting the post-modern Christians are “false converts.”

Knowing many genuinely-converted, Spirit-indwelled Christ-followers on both sides of this divide, I can say honestly that at this point it becomes a battle that nobody will win.    The “Law and Gospel” people feel that more modern approaches neither produce an acknowledgment of sin nor do they convey the essence of the hope of the gospel.    The new “Missional” believers are committed to outreach, but know too many statistics proving that guilt and fear produce short-term decisions but not long-term disciples; and showing that many a hasty conversion just doesn’t ‘stick’ over time.

What is the solution?

I don’t believe in formulas or templates.   I believe you should know a basic plan for conveying the essence of the following: (a) that we are sinners in need of forgiveness; (b) that such forgiveness is offered in Christ’s work on Calvary; and (c) how a person avails themselves of this forgiveness and moves, as the older Bibles put it, “from death to life.”   But it should be unique to your personality and flexible to the situation you’re in.   Jesus healed one blind man in an instant, but with another, it was a more tentative, two-step process.

But not everybody has the gift of “closing the sale.”   You may be a major influence in someone’s life, but it may be God’s choice that someone else is the chosen instrument to help that person “cross the line of faith.”   Bill Hybels devotes a chapter — and a moving example — to this in Just Walk Across The Room; and Mark Mittelberg and Lee Strobel bring no less than 42 different examples of varying forms of witness in The Unexpected Adventure.

My bias is a little toward Hybels, Strobel and Mittelberg; but I raise this whole topic today because I think you’ve really got to watch the video and look at the other things people are doing; not to armchair quarterback their approach or critique them, but to allow it to inspire you to do more.

Here is the link to the video, and also embedded in the comments section of this very post.   But if you link to Tony’s blog, take some time to click over to other posts and get a feel for what he is doing, because the major take-away from all this is that he is, in fact, doing.

You can also click through from the video itself (see comments) or from this direct video link to more than two dozen other videos the group that filmed this have posted at YouTube.

Related post on this blog:  Considering Deborah Drapper (May 15, 2009)


  1. Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 26, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

  2. Paul, I think John Dickson’s new book, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission (Zondervan)is relevant to this topic.

    Comment by Jon Rising — September 26, 2010 @ 2:31 pm

    • Thanks, Jon; I hadn’t actually heard about this new book. Here’s a 5-minute video preview I just watched; there are also shorter previews for all twelve chapters.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 26, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

  3. This video of a ‘conversion template’ for street-witnessing sounds VERY much like the ‘Master Evangelism’ course that’s being offered and promoted by Kurt Cameron and friends at . Same Q & A.

    The thing of it is, it does seem to be an effective template for ‘first contact’ type witnessing (although I only viewed the first 3 minutes or so).

    Nancy and I are just finishing up a book called, “What’s Wrong With Today’s Gospel”, recommended to us by Pastor Joe LoSardo of Bread of Life Community Church. The failure in modern evangelistic techniques as put forth by Walter J. Chantry, lies in the fact that you don’t make real converts on a ‘decision being made to just believe in Jesus’. His primary example of this is given in how ‘harsh’ Jesus seemed when looking at how he dealt with the rich, young ruler. Not your typical soul winning approach, but the sense of conviction that produced genuine sadness in the man could have gone only one of two ways: a complete about-face-change-of-life OR a dismissal of the request from Christ to follow him (which is, as we know, what happened). Chantry makes a good point: modern evangelism has a ‘sugar coated Jesus’ approach – something which I think led to MY personal ‘dismissal’ of ‘Churchianity’ and temporary loss of interest in following Christ. Had there been more – “You don’t follow Christ, you might as well not be in the faith” warnings, I wonder if I’d stayed on the straight and narrow?

    We have to preach – in our living and in our message the narrow road…that following Jesus isn’t based on a ‘spot-decision’ that got you your after-life insurance.

    Repenting is OUR action prompted by the Spirit who (I’m very thankful to say) makes us feel like crap (convicting us of sin) when we’re serious about following Christ and realize how far we miss the mark. There is value in ‘reason’ apologetics, surely. But as a previous blog you posted re the ‘Not a Fan’ guy suggests:

    “There is no forgiveness without repentance.

    There is no salvation without surrender.

    There is no life without death.

    There is no believing without following.”

    Let’s remember the narrow road. Litmus test: If you’re you’re not feeling the weight of a cross in some shape or form in your walk with God, I would question if you’re really walking with God to begin with. I know what my cross is and I cherish God more because of it. How about others out there?

    Martin Barret

    Comment by Martin & Nancy Barret — September 26, 2010 @ 7:56 pm

    • Thanks for that. I actually listed Kirk Cameron in the post tags, though he isn’t mentioned specifically in what I wrote.

      You’ve got some great thoughts here, but I especially like:

      If you’re you’re not feeling the weight of a cross in some shape or form in your walk with God, I would question if you’re really walking with God to begin with.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 26, 2010 @ 9:01 pm

  4. A little late posting this, but just to say that I think this is the beauty of the Body of Christ.

    We are not meant to be carbon copies of each other. God uses our intellect, our personalities, where we each are in the different stages of our spiritual journal, to witness to others. I have used many ‘methods,’ only they are not methods, they are what the Holy Spirit puts on my heart for a particular person at a particular time — because the people I talk to are all different too, and will respond individually to what I say and how I say it. And we can never leave the Holy Spirit out, because He is the one who convicts, and tugs at the heart. He is the one who takes the words we speak and works them into a heart and life. Without Him involved, it all would be a waste of time.

    Comment by Kaybee — September 28, 2010 @ 6:42 pm

  5. I used part of this approach at a large family gathering this weekend. I’ve watched and learned from seeing it often on, and noticed one thing I really like about it – people are attentive because they are answering questions. There was none of that eyes rolling to the back of their head feeling. I planted some seeds and moved on.

    I don’t believe that the appoach carries a great deal of weight other than to get people thinking that they just MIGHT be in need of a Savior.

    I don’t agree with such concepts as there is no forgiveness without repentance, or no salvation without surrender; that’s not the Gospel according to Paul, and afterall, we are not the one’s doing the saving. I think we can do great harm with that kind of thinking.

    Comment by Laura — October 4, 2010 @ 2:45 am

  6. […] Neither is Hybels suggesting a methodology.   This is not advocating that you know the “ABCs of Salvation;” “The Four Spiritual Laws;” or “The Bridge Illustration.”  (For more on those, consider this blog post.) […]

    Pingback by Salvation Verses « Christianity 201 — October 9, 2010 @ 5:03 pm

  7. […] an actual encounter between an apologist and a student in the comments section of this blog post. Note: This uses a formulaic approach that may not be effective in all cases.  13 […]

    Pingback by The Way, The Truth, The Life | Christianity 201 — September 29, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

  8. […] an actual encounter between an apologist and a student in the comments section of this blog post. Note: This uses a formulaic approach that may not be effective in all cases. 13 […]

    Pingback by How Many (Spiritual) Children Do You Have? | Christianity 201 — September 3, 2018 @ 6:28 pm

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