March 28, 2012

Strengths of The Way of The Master

by Jesse Johnson

The Way of the Master is an approach to evangelism that stresses the use of God’s moral law as seen in the 10 Commandments to show people their sin and their need for a savior. Led by Ray Comfort (with the occasional presence of Kirk Cameron), they have books, tracts, training seminars, videos, a TV show, and a web based program all designed to teach people how to use the 10 commandments in their evangelism.

In its most frequently encountered form, the method of evangelism looks like this: the person being witnessed to is asked if they think they are a good person. If they say yes, then they are asked how they would measure up if they were judged based on the 10 commandments.

TWOTM describes their approach to evangelism by using the acronym in the logo on the left (WDJD), which stands for “What Did Jesus Do?”

You can go through that acronym by asking these questions:

Would you consider yourself a good person?

Do you think you have kept the Ten Commandments?

Judgment by the Ten Commandments: If you were judged based on those 10 commandments, would you be guilty or innocent?

Destiny: do you think you will go to heaven or hell?  (What did Jesus Do, 170).

In practice it often looks like this:

Evangelist: Have you ever lied?

Sinner: Yes.

Evangelist: that makes you a liar, in violation of the 9th commandment. Have you ever looked at a person with lust? That makes you an adulterer at heart, in violation of the seventh commandment. Have you ever used God’s name as a curse word? That makes you a blasphemer, in violation of the third commandment.

The idea behind the presentation is that you show the person that they are guilty of breaking God’s moral law by showing their lack of conformity to the Ten Commandments. Before a person is able to understand the gravity of their condition before God or the greatness of the gospel, they first must need to know that they are guilty of violating God’s moral law.

Ray often points out that if someone tells you that they have paid a fine for you, if you didn’t know that you owed the fine, you would laugh at them. But if someone tells you that last week you were photographed speeding through a school zone, during a law enforcement crack down, talking on your cell phone, you almost nailed the crossing guard, and you didn’t notice because you were texting, and they have it all on video, and then you see the video and it is you, then suddenly the person paying that fine seems much more helpful to you.

Here is an example of what is probably their most well known tract. However, this same concept is evident in almost all of their material.

Before looking at some concerns I have with this approach to evangelism (tomorrow), let me be quick to point out that there are some strengths here. First, it makes conversations easy to start. Most people are eager to explain that they are a good person, and everyone (if they are honest) admits that they break the ten commandments. Most people grant that they have lied, stolen and lusted. They just don’t realize that God takes those sins seriously, or that they will be judged for them. It is an effective way to start conversations, and it is a compelling method because of how quickly the average person on the street paints themselves into a logical corner with lines like, “all thieves go to hell, I am a thief, but I think I’m going to heaven.”

I also like this gospel presentation because it is centered on God’s glory, rather than people’s decision. It confronts people with their sin, and it shows them that their sin matters. Too many gospel presentations put the focus on what wonderful plans God has for us, if only we let God bless us. That is not the case here. The focus is on God’s glory defiled by sin, and on the penalty for that sin.

Finally, I completely agree with TWOTM that you have to confront sin in evangelism.  Ray writes, “Many modern preachers have strayed far from preaching about sin, righteousness, and judgment, despite the fact that we are commanded to pursue the biblical example” (What did Jesus do, 33-34). In a day where some pastors strive to make non believers comfortable in church, or other pastors say “our world doesn’t understand sin, so speak to people in terms of idolatry and satisfaction but not in moral terms,” this is a huge point. Ray understands that those terms simply don’t cut it, and that a faithful evangelist must call sin sin, and confront it.

Tomorrow we will look at a few areas where I think TWOTM approach to evangelism is lacking.

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.
  • Excellent points here, Jesse. I’ve heard about Ray and “The Way” over the years, but haven’t explored his ministry or approach before. Thanks for the interesting introduction, and I look forward to your post tomorrow.

    Also, I’m so glad I stumbled upon this blog (doing a Google image search of all things!). Great way to start my morning readings. You are all doing great work here.

    Best to you,
    Scott

    • It may sound strange, but of those that find our site through a google search, about 25% are google image searches. So Scott, you are not alone.

  • You know Jesse. Once I got to reading and thinking about this fine topic, I became more aware of my inclination to agree with you. Good post, sir.

  • Thanks for this. I am looking forward to your post tomorrow. I agree that you have to get people lost before you can get the found but I think what is missed many times is the importance of relationship and earning the right to ask such questions in the first place.

    • That’s a great point Peter. I’m not covering that tomorrow, but there are some books that go into that really well. Questioning Evangelism, by Randy Newman is one of my favorites.

      • Thanks Jesse,

        I looked up the book and it looks very interesting. I will pick it up.

  • Michael Delahunt

    Hey thanks Jesse for the post. I often like to watch Todd Friel’s Wretched TV, and he loves showing Ray at least once a week do this evangelism. I am curious to see your critique tomorrow, as I find his approach compelling.
    As an aside, this whole piece you’ve written on TWOTM has been a great example of frank Christian charity, as you’ve praised his work for the Kingdom, and then are going to give some thoughts on ways you think he could improve…”iron sharpening iron”!

  • Larry

    This is a tough one. For one, TWOTM points out sin. Personal sin. Personal violation. And as implied earlier the question is “What is God’s moral law”? In fact Peter on the Day of Pentecost just preached Christ and at the end said God had made him (Jesus) both Lord and Christ “Whom ye have crucified” and BAM!!!, they were cut to their hearts. The scriptures also mention, Phillip preached Christ to the African enuch in the desert (Acts 8) and he comes to Christ. Paul was on Mars Hill and simply preached Christ and called the pagan worshippers to repentance, and they “bowed the knee.” Did Paul ask “Have you ever lied”? “Have you ever stolen”? “Have you ever looked at a woman and lusted”? (He probably did not). Yet he called them to “change their mind” about God, who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Point is, perhaps people come to Christ (authentically) without the “Ray Comfort” way. (btw..I love Ray Comfort and his contribution/commitment).

    • csrima

      It definitely is a difficult line. I struggle with this approach for the same reasons at times. It seems that for some, this approach is the only way that they even understand what sin is and how pervasive it is.

      I think a huge problem today is just the hardness of hearts to that message. Sin, repentance, redemption, condemnation…these are foreign words to our culture. Foreign, or “judgmental”.

    • Good observation Larry. One of the things though that makes things tricky when looking at how evangelism was done in the scripture, is the fact that Jews where versed in the laws from early in their youth. They were taught of a Messiah, they understood the Decalogue and all the other laws given to them. Even Gentiles seemed to have known things of the law and messiah as seen by the woman at the well, who was able to talk about the Messiah with Jesus. And so when a Peter, Paul confronted ppl with their sin the Jew def understood the concept of breaking the law.

      But my question is how do we evangelise to a ppl of the 21 century who know far less about God and his law compared to persons in biblical days? Often we witness in the Bible interactions between Christians and non-believers who have either seen or heard of the person Jesus Christ. Though many never believed him to be God, they would have at least heard of his exploits and the “crazy” disciples that follow him. When all is said salvation is of the Lord and it takes the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit to draw and turn a heart of stone to that of flesh, to make an individual saved. But I don’t think we can deny that there is a certain knowledge lacking amongst our listeners today.

      but thank God the foolishness of the Cross still saves now as it did then.

      • Larry

        Hi Shawn.

        That was a bit one-sided, as the Gentiles were paganistic, idolaters (for the large part) that came to Christ. I don’t think the church at Corinth were students of the Decalogue. You know?

        God said his law was written in the hearts of men. Your conscience tells you, you’ve broken the law of God.

  • csrima

    Thanks for this post, very helpful. I have appreciated many WOTM materials, as well as being a fan of the Wretched Radio podcast/broadcast, particularly when I was just learning how to be a Christian. It was vital for me to be exposed to my sin, because as a pastor’s kid who was always fairly nice and well-mannered in church, I had become quite comfortable with the fact that I was doing just fine without thinking about my sinful tendencies.

    Another really short book I’d recommend is “God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life” by Comfort. It’s a response to the usual shallow “feel good, be good” approach.

    For all it’s warts (which every ministry has), I’m indeed thankful for its existence, and the faithfulness of Ray Comfort to evangelize the lost.

    Thanks again!

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