November 29, 2012

Two Ways to Live

by Jesse Johnson

2 Ways to Live orangeIt is not a secret that most tracts and gospel presentations are either silly or seriously flawed (if not both). However, many conservative and reformed churches that have traditionally avoided these materials all together do often use a form of evangelism titled Two Ways to Live.

Two ways to Live is a Gospel presentation produced by Matthias Media in Australia. Its website describes the program as, “simply a memorable summary of the Christian Gospel. In six simple points it conveys the key information that the average non-Christian person needs to understand in order to become a Christian.”

Most will encounter Two Ways to Live through their 15-page tract subtitled, “The choice we all face.” But the program also comes in a 1-hour Bible study, a kid’s format, and in resources designed to be given away. The material is well made, avoids theological gaffes common to these types of programs, and is endorsed by D. A. Carson.   

Two Ways to Live focuses on the kingship of God, and on our intended role as rulers over the earth. While God designed us to have dominion over the earth and under Him, we have decided to serve ourselves and rule the world ourselves. This has resulted in “the mess” on earth right now.

Jesus came, served the King perfectly, and then died for our sins. Jesus’ resurrection enables us to return to serving the King, God. While the material does not mention the deity of Christ (or of the Holy Spirit), it does highlight the sinless nature of Christ, the imputation of sins, and the resurrection. It presents the gospel as God bringing rebels into the service of the good king.

The website is correct: it is a memorable presentation. While the diagrams may be a bit convoluted (each of the six steps has a unique diagram that contains a crown, an androgynous avant-garde stick figure, and a circle), they do not detract from the presentation.

As tracts go, this one is pretty good. It flows logically from one point to the next, so a believer should not have a problem walking through the whole booklet with someone who knows nothing about the gospel.

However, as a theological system, it does focus too much on a limited aspect of the story-line of the Bible. I assume that it focuses on dominion and kingship because that allows a simple and straightforward Gospel presentation. However this limited focus waters down the gravity of sin and the glory of salvation.

In light of dominion, Two Ways to Live presents sin as the attempt to rule the earth without serving God. But while this is true, it is missing some key points. Lying, lusting, stealing, and just good-old-fashioned moralism are not presented as sin. Likewise, salvation is not presented as an opportunity to glorify God and have peace with him, but as gaining the ability to rule and live with Jesus.

There are familiar tract-like qualities to this presentation. Six points (instead of laws or steps), odd diagrams, and the sinner’s prayer are all here. But, this is better than most tracts. It is theologically accurate (even if not complete), and it is straight-forward about why some people won’t believe. It deals with unbelief, and even explains why some people will not believe what they read in the tract.

One of the strengths of this program is the on-line resources that are available. The tract has the web address in it, and the website is very helpful and goes more in-depth on some issuesAs a pastor who is considering offering this material in our bookstore, I am mindful that there is too much of a focus on kingship/dominion to the detriment of the presentation of sin and glory. But this is not a flaw that undermines its ability to be used in evangelism. It is better than most short gospel presentations that are available, and will probably continue to be the tract of choice for most evangelistic and reformed Christians.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

    Hello, Mr. Johnson. I appreciate your assessment of this tract, as our church missions team used this tract in Argentina (always thankful when good tracts are translated accurately into another language, leading to a wider audience to be exposed to biblical instruction). This will be something I hope to keep in mind (Phillip Jensen & Tony Payne’s chapter in Telling the Truth was also very helpful in their explanation of their approach in this tract).

    I’m wondering if you were planning on writing a post about other tracts you have found useful in leaving with people after having shared the Gospel with them, or at least able to walk through with them (maybe the first answer would be the same as the second). It just seemed to be the direction you were going, but if not, if you had any recommendations, that would be much appreciated. Thank you for your insights!

    • Well, tracts are hard to critique, and so few are well known enough to really warrant a blog-style critique. I will do a post on recommended tracts in teh future though. Thanks.

  • Peter

    Just wondering what your favorite/most recommended tracts are? Like you said, there aren’t many good tracts out there, and I would love to hear what your top recommendations are.

    • THat would be a great blog post. I’ll keep that in mind!

  • Thanks
    for this, Jesse. Ever since you critiqued the “The Way of the Master”
    presentation early this year, I’ve been waiting to see if “Two Ways to
    Live” would be subject to the same sort of in depth critique. While this
    isn’t that, it is at least a start. As you pointed out with WOTM, TWTL
    also has its strengths, but I think you are correct in getting at the
    major flaw, that “it waters down the gravity of sin and (therefore) the
    gravity of salvation.”

  • Kevin St. John

    Thanks, Jesse.

    Even though I see this as a very vague critique, it certainly sheds light on some of the concerns I’ve had with TWTL.

    Can’t say I would agree with your statement; “and will probably continue to be the tract of choice for most evangelistic and reformed Christians.” as I am suspicious that this is more of a bias opinion rather than solid statistics.

    Also, I would love to see someone like yourself, publish a video taking someone through this tract so it can be used as a teaching aid. Do you know of any? Or would you be willing to produce one in a live setting for this purpose?

    • Like a video talking through the 2 Ways to Live tract? Is that what you are asking? I really think the tract itself is straight forward enough to use.

      Which reminds me, when I’m witnessing, i usually don’t even read the content of the tract. Tracts for me are conversation starters to get to the gospel, and the content there is just for images, pictures, or to leave them with some info when the conversation is over. That’s why with this tract (2W2L), I just talk people through the six steps. I have them memorized, but we aren’t actually really physically reading the tract. Does that help?

      • Kevin St. John

        Sorry I was unclear. A video using the “method” or “six steps” would be helpful. 🙂

  • Ash Curkpatrick

    Thanks for this, Jesse.

    TWTL is a tract that is heavily pushed within reformed circles here in Australia – particularly Melbourne and Sydney. Some members of my church have also been part of the ministry that have helped Matthias Media in developing it.

    Unfortunately, as you say, I think it focuses way too much on kingship/dominion much to the detriment of the glory of Jesus and the extent of our sin’s offence to God and His need to deal with it. And, I think this actually comes out in many of our churches and ministries, and the way we go about evangelism.

    This is something I’ve been struggling with for quite a while actually. My church tends to focus on how much life is more fully fulfilled in the kingship of God and it comes across as more of an alternative way to live. It’s true, but it never gets to the point of confronting people directly on their sin. It never gets to dealing with the offensive nature of sin to God, so the theology tends to more of something you can accept but not live out as a necessity.

    For these reasons, I’ve actually found myself swinging much more towards the direction of TWOTW – which it would be fair to say, has but me at odd ends with many others in my church and Christian community. I find the TWTL approach to be good at explaining an /aspect/ of Christianity – yet it is a typical Australian approach of attempting to remove as much confrontation as possible, so that non-Christian ‘friendships’ might be garnered. Not that friendship is a problem – but it builds up a mindset that we can get away with evangelism never having to address the issue of personal sin against a perfectly holy God

    With myself having such a minority view on the importance of emphasizing these things, it definitely makes it tricky. But I appreciate that you’ve much more concisely addressed the concerns than I could have. Perhaps it will help me in clarifying my issues, which I think has frustrated/confused other members on my church board because of my inability to express them.


    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment. A few things to remember: every evangelism program that is not simply a reading of the Bible will over emphasize and under emphasize important concepts. Just recognize that at the beginning Second, remember that everyone involved has the same goal: the conversion of the lost. So we are all on the same team.
      With those two points in mind, I like that your goal is to balance out the approach. If one approach does not challenge people on sin enough, that is totally the time to dial up TWOTM. If one approach misses the relationship with God and the new way to live, then dial up TWTL. And if you have both in your kit bag, along with a few others, and then apply wisdom in various situations I think you will have fruitful evangelism.
      I share your frustration that too often we let programs on evangelism hinder unity in the body. Remember that one point of evangelism is to bring people into the unity inside the church.