I want to keep this review as short and to the point as possible. I listened to Jesse Johnson’s take on evangelism and Ray Comfort’s WOTM method. I agree entirely with some of the points Jesse makes. However, there are other points that make me a tad uncomfortable. From my vantage point, I heard two fundamental points in Jesse’s lecture. First, I heard Jesse decry the idea of method in evangelism. The main idea is that the NT does not use a method for evangelism nor does it instruct us to adopt one. On this point Jesse is correct on this point. The NT does not endorse a method of evangelism nor does it provide examples for one. The NT also does not endorse the ideal of method in evangelism. However, is this truth alone enough to criticize the ideal of method in evangelism. I am not so sure that it is. The NT does not speak to a specific method for doing church either, but one would be hard pressed to find one that did not use a method. The only hint of a worship structure is that we should do all things decently and in order. We have music pastors and youth pastors, none of which are mentioned in the NT. Yet, these offices are built on a very specific method for doing church ministry. On the one hand it seems to me that to avoid the idea of method or the concept of some sort of method in evangelism is impossible. Even if we say that our method is simply to introduce people to Jesus Christ, that is still a method. Moreover, even if we say that that approach requires a high degree of fluidity, that is still a method. It seems self-defeating to me to dismiss even the idea of method in evangelism.
On the other hand, Jesse is right to correct the thinking that evangelism can become more successful if only we can find just the right method. The right method for evangelism is to confront people with the person of Jesus Christ and the revelation of God that He delivered. The goal is to give men and women the truth of the gospel as clearly and as accurately as we can without regard for how they will respond to it. It is when we concern ourselves with results that evangelism and methods begin to run afoul of Scripture. This is the major problem with method in evangelism in modern, western Christianity. Methods are established that are designed with human response in mind as opposed to effective and accurate presentation of the truth. Jesse also mentioned that evangelism methods tend toward arrogance and condescension. I think this is irrelevant. It isn’t the method that is to be faulted here. It is the person. There is no logical connection between method and arrogance. This could be just as true for those not using a canned approach. Eliminating method does not guarantee the removal of arrogance.
Secondly, Jesse criticized Ray Comforts use of the Law of Moses in evangelism and some of his misuses of Scripture. I think Jesse is right on this point. The Law of Moses was never given to Gentiles in general. Therefore, it is inappropriate to specifically reference the Mosaic Law when confronting unbelieving Gentiles with their sin. However, I do think Jesse’s point is a bit over-stated. First of all, I think it is unfair for Jesse to go off on the tangent he did regarding the numerous uses of the word nomos in the NT. I do not think Ray Comfort believes that nomos always refers to the Mosaic Law. This was a bit over-blown. I do not think this portion of the lecture added much value around the specific subject of evangelism. Confronting people with their rejection of the greatest commandment to love God with all their being accomplishes the very same thing. What does it mean to love God with our whole being? It means we do those things which are pleasing in His sight. Moreover, the ethical components of the Mosaic Law are clearly drawn from the overarching Law of God. The command not to commit adultery is applicable to all men, not just those under the Mosaic Law. With a few tweaks, one can engage the unbeliever without referencing a Law that was never given to them even though the morality of that Law is identical to the one that exits in their conscience in many respects. Romans two makes this point unambiguous.
Finally, after listening to the lecture and agreeing with most of what Jesse had to say, I was still left with mixed emotions. I wondered if this was such a big problem that it required a resource at a conference like this taking this kind of time to deal with something that seems quite low on the list of priorities. In other words, I wonder if this time could have been better spent on something more significant than Ray Comfort’s errors here and there in his evangelistic ministry. Maybe this is a good question, maybe it isn’t. But it is a question I have and I do not think I am alone.
In summary, I have said that it is invalid to criticize method in evangelism on the basis that the NT does not use a specific method nor does it teach one specific method. This fact does not ipso facto nullify method in evangelism. What it does is call into question any view that would be overly restrictive or insistent that one specific method be employed to the exclusion of other methods. What it does is support the argument that a variety of methods may be used in evangelism. In this regard, Jesse makes his case even if he may take it a bit too far. I have also argued that the most important aspect of evangelism is a biblically accurate introduction of the individual to Jesus Christ and His mission and revelation of God the Father. It is when we become concerned with the impact of this introduction on those to whom it is made that we begin to encounter problems. While Ray Comfort may be misguided in his method by imposing the Mosaic Law on those to whom it was never given, this error fails to reach egregious levels. I do not fault Jesse for making the correction whatever. All error is worth correcting. In the end, I think Jesse would have been much better off making a case for evangelism from a positive standpoint rather than selecting the most popular reformed evangelist our country has known in modern times and offer a critical review that accomplished little more than correct an error that is far less harmful than most of those confronting the church today. I appreciateJesse's concern for truth and for biblical evangelism. We agree on more than we disagree in terms of his critique of WOTM evangelism.