Evangelism Tool Review: New World Gospel Presentation

Article
09.09.2013

InterVarsity’s “New World Gospel Presentation” is an evangelism outline “designed to lead others to make a decision for Jesus Christ and join his mission to heal the world.”[1] As of today there are training materials on their website, Vimeo and YouTube. Additionally, they have developed a free app (iOS and Android) to help illustrate the main points of the presentation during a gospel conversation.

ENGAGING THE “FOUR WORLDS”

The presentation is built on the premise that most people ache for a better world. The outline works through the paradigm of a world, using four worlds to communicate the biblical story.  These four worlds are the four points for the conversation. Like many other presentations, they aim to frame redemptive history in their main points:

World 1: The world and all that’s in it was designed for good.

World 2: We—and the world—were damaged by evil.

World 3: Jesus came to restore the world and everything in it to what God intended.

World 4: Jesus invites us to join him and his community to heal the world.

InterVarsity ambitiously attempts to pull off the evangelistic version of a hat-trick with this presentation. They aim to listen to people’s stories (especially their scars and wounds), frame them within the context of the Bible’s story, and clearly communicate how Jesus answers their aches and pains. All of this they do while aiming to be faithful, winsome, compelling, clear, and understandable. Do they pull it off?

In communicating the first two worlds they do a fairly good job showing the divine design for creation and the problem we brought through human rebellion. “This better world really did exist,” they say, “and was designed for flourishing and intimacy with God. However, we rejected God, put ourselves in the place of God and as a result damaged the world.”

Yet here we see the good and the bad of contextualization. The good is seen in how they unpack words like idolatry with the helpful phrase “putting ourselves in the place of God.” The bad is in what they do not say. After all, why is it a problem that we put ourselves in God’s place? Is it bad simply because it wrecks our world or because it breaks his law, lies about his glory, and earns his just wrath? In an attempt to simplify the presentation many crucial questions go unanswered.

In world three we learn, that

Instead of leaving us in our brokenness God sends Jesus to be like us, to die on the cross and to rise from the dead. In this Jesus identifies with us, owns our judgment we deserve for damaging the world, and releases his power to restore the world for better.

Again, all of these statements are true but they are dangerously reductionistic. How does Jesus become like us? After all, we are the ones who messed everything up (see world 2). Did he contribute to this? Why did he have to die on the cross? How does this intersect with how I have “damaged” the world?

The fourth world is the invitation to join Jesus and his community in healing the world. In order to do this we must do three things:

(1) Identify with Jesus; believe that his death and resurrection broke the corruption in the world and in our hearts.

(2) Own our responsibility for the damage and the scarring in this world.

(3) Overcome by choosing to follow Jesus. Jesus does not leave us alone; he gives us himself, the Holy Spirit, and his people to go together and follow people.

These things are not untrue but they are, in my view, unclear. Following Jesus is reduced to becoming a conduit of healing. If we have not explained who God is, what sin is, and how the reconciliation is exclusively achieved through the cross of Christ, then we are not being totally forthright. At some point Christians have to agree that the gospel has irreducible components. These categories need to be developed and explained; they cannot be glossed over and certainly cannot be replaced with vague phrases like becoming “a conduit of healing.”

Another point that I found troubling in reviewing the material was the sheer lack of Bible. The videos I reviewed were curiously devoid of any mention of Scripture, even in passing. Yet the Bible should feature prominently in our evangelism. After all, it is the word of Christ that brings faith (Rom. 10:17).

BOTTOM LINE

What’s my bottom line?

I appreciate and even applaud the four worlds, the drawings, and the goal of listening to people’s stories in order to show how they fit within the big picture of God’s story. However, in setting out to do this, we must exercise great care about what we say, not just how we say it.

While it’s set in the Bible’s storyline, the New World Gospel Presentation is so user-friendly that it is simply not Christian enough. I would imagine that Roman Catholics and even Mormons could use this material within their doctrinal framework without violating their convictions. While helpful in some points, the New World Gospel Presentation simply lacks the main ingredients of the gospel. I would not recommend this program for use in your church.

[1] http://evangelism.intervarsity.org/how/gospel-outline/new-world-gospel-presentation; accessed 8/5/13.

By:
Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is the senior pastor at Redeemer Fellowship Church in Metro Boston. He and his wife Christie have six children. He blogs at Ordinary Pastor. You can find him on Twitter at @erikraymond.