“Pre-evangelism” – Preparing people for the Gospel

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” – 2 Corinthians 10:5

Mars Hill

I have almost finished a song with a difference. It’s the first serious song I’ve written for probably several years that does not mention God, Jesus, sin or any other directly religious language. Yet I have written it with the need for people to come to Christ in mind. What’s going on here?

A concept I recently heard spoken about (I think by John Piper) is that of “pre-evangelism”. This is basically the idea that there are certain truths that are helpful to prepare people to hear the Good News of Jesus, even if they themselves are not the Gospel. A good illustration of this is in the life of Paul. At one point, he is able to say to the Philippian jailer “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” and see him come to faith. However, as he stood before the philosophers at Athens he did not mention Jesus’ name at all. Why? Because he saw that those at Athens were at a level of understanding so distant from the truth, that to tell them of Jesus would have sounded like nonsense to them. So instead, he starts to tell them of the personal God who created all things, who “even some of your poets” have spoken of (Check out Acts 17:22-34). If this type of thinking interests you, try checking out the work of Francis Schaeffer.

Many people around us may have an even more distant understanding than those listening to Paul in Athens. Some may not even believe that there exists truth, or goodness, let alone a creator and sustainer God who can be known personally through the work of Jesus. So how do we respond to this? I think it is important for us to recognise that whilst some people around us are ready to respond to art and music that directly explains the gospel (and praise God for how many people’s lives have been radically changed by this sort of creativity – so KEEP MAKING IT!), but that for others we need to adopt a different approach.

The song I spoke of at the beginning is about my wish for someone who would go beyond their fears, their self-interest and simply seek out the truth, “to see infinity and not to turn away”. The song talks of what it would cost such a person, and closes by asking whether such a person ever existed. I know the answer is yes. The listeners may not. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, the song could trigger a glimmer of hope in their heart, which might lead them to search – and perhaps a prodigal might return from the pigsty back to the arms of their Father….

– Stephen

4 thoughts on ““Pre-evangelism” – Preparing people for the Gospel

  1. Great Article!
    You’re absolutely right. I’m actually starting to work with this approach in a new song I’m writing. It follows the journey of a man who is “hopeless” and finds someone who explains that there is still hope in his life even though nothing seems to have gone right for him.

  2. I was thinking to myself about this on the bus yesterday.

    It really saddens me how most modern music is about sex or violence, our children are listening to this, some, for MOST of their day. Wouldn’t it be great to see Christians getting out there in the music industry and NOT comprimising, it doesn’t mean that they have to bang on about God all the time, but sing lyrics that are moral, live lives that are honoring to God, and taking opportunities to share the gospel when the time is appropriate.

    What scares me, is it seems that most Christians who make it in the mainstream music scene, seem to fall away and get sucked up by that culture. What is the answer for this horrible situation? I wish that the government would make it illegal for music that glorifies knifes, guns, and mistreating women, because thats what the next generation are growing up in, and thinking is acceptable.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I know this, as a community of Christian creatives we have a duty to pray about all of this, and let God direct us both as a body, and as individuals who are creative for his name.

    Hope that makes sense.

  3. You know, that’s sort of what John the Baptist did. He prepared the way for people to be receptive to the Gospel. There’s certainly a place for that, even today. Especially today. I think a lot of people are ready for the Gospel, even if they don’t know it and aren’t immediately receptive. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Stephen!

  4. There’s also Matthew 7:6-which may seem rather indelicate-but I’ve seen some exegetical work that claims the idea was to avoid offering treasures to those who simply had no use for them (the “swine” metaphor may be less direct/pejorative than we typically consider it).

    That would, if true, seem to support the idea that there are various levels of exposure or introduction that are appropriate.

    On the other hand, there are plenty of examples in Scripture of very direct, even confrontational testimony from Jesus…who did have some privilege in the matter.

    I think James’ mentioning that he does “pray about all of this” might in fact be the fundamental way we are to approach things…since we have been provided a Helper/Counselor in the Holy Spirit.

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