Culture and the Church: The Evolution of Modern Methods- Part 1: Tracts and Evangelism Explosion

We have seen over the last few days two biblical examples of the ways that the church has engaged culture.  Today, we will begin looking a the evolution of modern methods through which the church engages culture.  We will introduce the method and discuss some pros and cons of the method and its impact or lack of impact on a post-modern, post-Christian culture. 

Evangelism Explosion (EE) is an outreach and evangelism method developed by Dr. D. James Kennedy.  It focuses on going either door to door or up to random people on the street and asking them questions about their faith.  The questions are usually initiated through telling the person that you are taking a survey.  This survey is built around two fundamental questions that are suggested by EE:

  1. Do you know for sure that you are going to be with God in heaven?
  2. If God were to ask you “why would I let you in My heaven?,” what would you say?

These are opening questions that are used to engage the individual in a spiritual discussion.  These questions are then typically followed up by presenting the person with a tract such as EE’s “Do You Know?”  The person when walked through the tract is then given a chance to pray to receive Jesus Christ as his or her Savior in response to the gospel presented by way of tract. 

Pros: This is a good method for evangelism in that it presents an easy way for someone to begin to share his or her faith with others.  It clearly sparks a discussion through some questions, clearly presents the gospel by way of a tract, and easily transitions into a time of decision. 

Cons: The first negative that I see in this form of evangelism is that it can easily seem like a sales pitch.  I can remember several times over the course of my time in college at UAB that I have been approached by individuals and church groups seeking to present the gospel in this manner.  It seemed really confrontational and like a sales pitch.  The groups would line up outside of the student center and pass out tracts and ended up seeming just like the fraternity who had been in that spot the week before trying to recruit new members.  Students and young adults are one of the most marketed to generations ever.  They are constantly confronted by sales pitches and people desiring their time and money.  This form of evangelism seems to fade into the noise of their lives and is tuned out and ignored by them.  The second negative is that this form of evangelism requires no relationship.  Due to being sold to constantly and being lied to via marketing, students are very skeptical.  Someone who presents the gospel in a forcible marketing style manner would definitely be someone worth doubting whether what they had to say was trustworthy.  This evangelism plan does not allow time for a relationship of trust to begin to be built between the person sharing and the person listening.  This lack of trust leads to another area of ineffectiveness in this method.  The third negative is tracts themselves.  Tracts in general look and feel old and disconnected from the person you are speaking to.  They have a tendency to have unattractive designs and to make assumptions about the individual being shared with that may not be true.  The fourth negative is that in today’s post-modern society the questions which imply that there is a place called heaven that exists and that the person would desire to go there might not be true.  In a culture where individuals can grow up with no religious background or in a worldview that is totally opposite than the Christian worldview, these questions themselves become debatable.  This is another possible problem with this method of evangelism.

  • Ben – I don’t have time for a long response, but your info is limited, and dated. “Classic EE,” which you have attempted to describe, trains people how to share tha Gospel WITHOUT using tracts; the outline is memorized, to be used as a framework for the presentation. It is deliberately NOT confrontational, but seeks to offer information to people who are interested in receiving it.

    If people are approached in public, without previous contact, some form of questionnaire usually is used to lead into the two diagnostic questions, which you have paraphrased above. The actual questions are: 1> “Have you come to the place in your spiritual life where you know for certain that if you were to die today you would go to heaven, or is that something you would say you’re still working on?” Usually some dialogue ensues before the second question, which is: 2> Suppose you were to die today and stand before God and He were say to you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ what would you say?”

    You are correct that many people today do not relate to the concept of heaven, but a sizeable percentage still do. For those who are less likely to identify with the “Classic EE” approach, a new methodology, called “X-EE,” has been developed. It is more relational, as you have encouraged. E.g., the questions follow these guidelines (after an appropriate level of interaction has taken place) is: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how fulfilling would you say your life is?” “What would move you from an ‘x’ to a 10?” “Would it change in either direction if God were in your life?” The focus throughout is on sharing stories – as Jesus did. They include your own story (how Jesus has impacted your life), and others that are appropriateto the person and the situation.

    The remainder of the outline is similarly designed to establish a relationship. It seems to be accomplishing that quite well. I would encourage you to contact me – or EE (954-465-2233 or to find out more. God bless you!

    {You may be aware that Barna’s research shows that 80-85% of Americans are willing to discuss religious matters and listen to another person’s story about how their relationship with God has affected them. X-EE is intended to capitalize on that reality.}

  • Betty Francis

    I actually began EE twenty years ago, but have only solidly been in EE every semester for six years now. I consistently take clinicians (often senior pastors) out on the street with questionaires to tell people what Jesus did on the cross. We don’t call it a survey, because the results are not published, a questionaire is a simple comfortable way to introduce yourself to total strangers, find out where they are spiritually, and with their permission share the most precious truth ever known…. what Christ did on the cross and what grace is! What I hear over and over again from clinicians and new trainees is how surprised they are to learn how interested people really are!
    Personally, I went through training as a trainee for five semesters! Semester after semester, I was there but didn’t spent time reading or developing my presentation. I was not smooth and very awkward. But something happened… outside of Thurday night EE, I began to realize that God was actually bringing people to ME and clearly instructing me to witness to them. It was uncanny! I found myself in front of people who would say something like, “Whew! I almost had a car accident on my way over here, I’m lucky to be alive!” or “I just hope I go to heaven.”… I have to laugh, because this has continued all these years. I used to actually argue with God, “You know I don’t have time, you know I can’t do this, you know how awkward I am, she’s going to think I’m an idiot, this isn’t really you Lord, it’s all in my mind.” Excuse after excuse, until He so firmly laid it on me… that I took a deep breath and just started getting into it. Everytime… everytime I tell you… it was an experience that left me breathless, because often the person would tear up, openly weep, tell me it was the most beautiful thing they have ever heard or shout “thank you, thank you” from across a parking lot as I left. I remember falling to my knees on day and telling God, “This is so much more than I ever realized! What an HONOR that YOU God would allow me to witness your grace flowing into these people. I won’t agrue anymore. I AM YOURS!” The verse “And He opened their minds so they would understand” suddenly took on new meaning.
    What I have seen!…. Oh, what I have seen!…has strengthened my faith beyond anything I could have imagined!
    I stopped arguing with God and everytime He instructed me to witness, I did. My awkwardness became smoothness and I practiced my presentation and best of all, it’s MEANING was magified to me!
    Now, I witness so easily, in a few minutes or for an hour. I do it nearly everyday. Like breathing, it’s natural. Whether it is simply going through a line at Home Depot or at the grocery store. I have found that not only is it incredibly easy to get into the gospel but how responsive and interested people are. And if they aren’t? I don’t push. It’s God, not me. He’ll work it out. After all it is His decision … not theirs.
    You mentioned “relationships”. It is so amazing how a sensitive relationship can be built in just a matter of minutes with people!
    EE is so comfortable when you learn it and practice it. Sure, anything is awkward at first, but once you recognize… see it for yourself… the POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION. know you can never stop telling people. It’s like having a cure for cancer and keeping it to yourself.
    We are commanded by Christ to share the gospel. How can we not? And you know what? I am firmly convinced that sharing the gospel is as much for us as it is for the person we are witnessing to! God doesn’t need us. But He brings us in for a reason! Listen, I have skiied Europe’s best mountains, eaten goumet foods, and had wonderful experiences in this life… but nothing… I mean nothing… compares to the outrageous pure JOY I feel when I see someone understand grace for the first time! He must make it so enjoyable for us so we will keep doing it. For we do things we love doing. But not until you study EE, and practice sharing the gospel do you start to realize just how much fun it is!
    So I urge everyone to get EE trained to share the gospel in a wonderful easy non offensive way. EE is logical and sensitive. I often think of what the late Dr. Kennedy said. “I cannot believe that anyone who is not sharing the gospel on a regular basis can claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Not only did the early believers witness, they witnessed daily to everyone they met. The church is a mighty army. EE takes the church to people, who may never come to church on their own.
    EE is a life changing experience! It is only when you study EE that you see how every argument can be so easily overcome in Dr. Kennedy’s “green EE book.” You have to read it to understand how easy EE really can be. I have to laugh…
    because it’s not the presentation that is awkward… it’s people. We all have communication strengths or weaknesses.
    But what is important is that no matter how screwy we are, we are saying the truth to others about what Christ did on the cross… telling others what grace is!
    Doesn’t matter if it sounds stupid or not… because it is GOD reaching the person’s soul. Let me assure you, you will not find a stronger advocate for a sensitive well “performed” conversational presentation than I. I used to hate to see people get out there and “botch” the presentation by sounding
    rehearsed… I would “cringe” watching clinicians approach people as though they were selling shoes in Cairo… but what I have learned is to relax because God is at work. I remember when I finally decided “master” my presentation skills and was critical of a girl in EE who would not. She stuck only to the simple outline and never did more than that. And one evening, I watched that simple outline presentation reach into the heart of a young man from South America was became amazed that he had never understood the truth before. He had always been trusting in the church and his good works to get him to heaven.
    That simple outline presentation worked! You see it it THE TRUTH… it is THE GOSPEL… that is the POWER OF GOD unto salvation. I often see awkward, presentations from clinicians or trainees win souls to Christ…. and that’s all that matters.
    Do you realize there are EE clinics going on in China and that the Chinese are going in Iraq sharing the gospel because they have been trained in EE? EE holds clinics in every country and territory all over the world!
    It’s absolutely the strongest clearest most sensible way to share the gospel of Christ. Sure people can sound awkard at first, but so what? At least we are sharing the gospel. And if we keep sharing the gospel we get to be really good at it and will do it all the time because it’s so easy.
    Last week, I prayed “God don’t let me leave this store without someone hearing your special truth.” as I walked to the register at Home Depot. I stopped to get a key made, and found myself
    talking to a fellow about who was first in line. We joked. He said he deserved to be first in line because he was such a good person. I actually had forgotten about my prayer just minutes before, but realized God has indeed brought me into a witnessing situation. So I leaned over and asked, “So do you think you’ll get to heaven by being a good person?” “Sure!” he replied. “Well, I’ve got something so wonderful to tell you, you will never forget standing here in Home Depot with me today. May I share it with you?” I asked. “Absolutely” he replied. We stood to the side and he heard what Christ did on the cross for him. Right there, we prayed, unashamed, people walking all around. He was thrilled! “Thank you, thank you,” he said, “I love God so much but never understood that before.”
    I could write a book about all these fascinating unique experiences. A wrong number the other day. The credit card representative. The parking attendant. The AC repairman. What’s really great is when you witness to TWO people and find one is a Christian who has been trying to get his friend to understand for months… his friend listens to you, prays in recognition that Christ is his Lord and Saviour… and the friend turns to you and says… “Wow, how can I learn to do that?”
    So please don’t judge EE too quickly. Satan would love for us to just go to church and not share the gospel on a regular basis.
    Also take a look at GenX EE which has been developed for young people and addresses their need for sensitivity and realationships. GenX EE actually came out of Australia.

  • Thanks so much Chuck and Betty for your comments! I really appreciate your clarifications and perspectives. I was not trying to minimize the fact that God has used the ministry of EE to impact countless lives and draw people into a relationship with Jesus Christ. It sounds like EE is definately seeking to address some the very questions that I raised. I appreciate your new insights and experiences. My prayer is that God would make His glory and gospel known in all nations. EE has definately played a vital role in that mission, and I did not intend to minimize that in any way.

  • Josh

    I think that there are two very distinct forms of response to the EE tracts. Yes, to Christians and outsiders some of the EE material may seem a little elementary at times. However, I would argue that because God has said that he can use us, a fallen creation in need of a savior to accomplish His purposes, He can also use a “sales pictch” of a tract or questionare to reach lost people. I wouldn’t have thought this before I actually was introduced and used EE, but I have had the awesome opportunity to witness God moving through these pamphlets and questionares.
    The other extreme of this arguement would probably be the cons of the blog post. I can see how a person totally turned off to any reference to God would see this as a rediculous waste of their time and ours. Those responses are normal, but don’t discount the impact of EE because of that.

    Who are we to tell the Holy Spirit how He can and can’t move and what is the best way for Him to move in the lives of people who are presented the gospel?

    Change in society and lifestyles is part of our world, but just because something is “outdated” doesn’t mean that it loses its ability to be used by God.