“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