Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Bridge to Nowhere

Yesterday morning at a men's group I attend, we were discussing 1 Thessalonians 1 which gives a great description of conversion—the response to the Gospel/Good News by which one becomes a Christian.

... our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.... You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what happened when we visited you. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God...

Is that message ringing out from our churches today? How are we doing at evangelism? Could I say enough to be able to invite a friend to trust in Jesus and to experience the life change I have experienced? John Bowen wrote a great book which aims "to show that evangelism is, or at least can be, normal for all those who consider themselves followers of Jesus" (p.16, Evangelism for "Normal" People). In contrast to those Thessaloniansimage and their ringing message, many of us may resonate more with Rebecca Manley Pippert who confessed, "There was part of me that secretly felt evangelism was something you shouldn't do to your dog, let alone your friend" (p.16, Out of the Saltshaker).

Recently, on a church website, I came across a new way of presenting the gospel called "The Big Story." The author, James Choung, believes we need to go beyond The Bridge illustration which we've used so much in the last few decades (think: Four Spiritual Laws, Steps to Peace with God, or "The Bridge"). Maybe you'll recognize it...


It seems to me, that for many Christians today, this Bridge illustration has become "the bridge to nowhere." We know the plan, we can talk about this bridge if we had to, but we're not actually sharing our faith with others, so it remains just a bridge we could draw if we needed to, not one that people have actually crossed. And a bridge that exists only in our minds, my friends, really is "a bridge to nowhere."

Evangelism is one of the many activities we no longer have time for in our busy, fast-paced world. Ironically, it is in this busy fast-paced world where I've heard more about evangelism in the last couple years than in the church! Evangelism is the sharing of good news, so Tim Sanders believes we should diligently read the latest greatest business books so that we can "evangelize" the best ideas from these books to everyone we know. Sarah Palin and John McCain are showing what mavericks they are by evangelizing Alaska's infamous Bridge to Nowhere which was never built because Palin said "no" to the pork barrel spending of Congress. This "evangelism" that has nothing to do with the Good News of Jesus started with Guy Kawasaki who pioneered the concept of evangelizing a product to promote its sales. Thanks to Kawasaki's plan of evangelism, from the early years of Macintosh computers to today, Apple owners never stop talking about the superiority of their computers! I've been wondering if the church could learn a point or two from a book I've been reviewing titled Creating Customer Evangelists. Everyone seems to be out there evangelizing something! Hopefully, the problem is just me and there really are many, many Christians out there evangelizing the good news of Jesus because we really do have a life-changing message to share. Maybe it's high time to reclaim evangelism for the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

I know one Christian who is doing something—my wife. She told me that her new carpool friend from work is visiting our church this Sunday. I think that's great since they've only just met a short while ago. And, actually, it's really great since this friend is also bringing her boyfriend who hasn't been to church for over five years since leaving a narrow-minded, ultra-conservative church (and I might be tempted to say cult-like group). Last year, my wife invited a friend that she had taken a class with to come to our church's Alpha Course, and she did come because she had been meaning to get around to looking into Christianity! So I do know from my wife's example that some evangelism is taking place. (And as a footnote about myself, I guess I do want to clarify that I am trying to share my faith, but I've had some friends in the last couple years that I just haven't been able to make much progress with.)

I'm hoping to get some feedback on what you think about this new way of presenting our good news. I like that James Choung is trying to stress not just a "decision" but transformation. He talks not just about the "individual" but about the Christian community. And he is less focused on the "after-life" and more focused on our life together on a mission. I really would like to hear what you think about this presentation. (After playing "The Big Story", you'll see a link to play "The Big Story, Part 2" which I recommend as well.) After viewing it, think about, and make a post. Maybe we can talk about it together. Just maybe we should be ready to draw four circles rather than our plan for a bridge which doesn't seem to be leading us anywhere. Let me know what you think.

Related Sermons

Forfeiting Life

God's grace is amazing and even overwhelming at times. But forfeiting the grace that could be ours is not a winning strategy. The book of Jonah offers several "prophetable" insights about the lengths God will go to so that no one forfeits the grace that could be theirs (Jonah 2:8).

Not Ready

This message from John 4:27-42 explores the top reasons why so many of us in the church today believe that we are "not ready" to share our Christian faith. The Samaritan woman from the well instantly becomes an evangelist and her town is changed! What could we learn from this scene in the life of Jesus?

The Gospel according to Canada

There is a rather Canadian way of being a Christian. We value the privatization of religious beliefs. What Jesus says in Mark 4:21-25 challenges our Canadian practice, urging us to make public what is now private.


  1. Christianity Today mag did an article on this guys and the 'new' drawing. I think it looks good, but some people say it makes it too easy for people to say "Well, I think we can get to that 4th circle without Jesus"......but then again, they have been saying that all along to the other drawings as well. I think it probably relates better to people today than the previous ones (that should be vice versa)

  2. Hi Ken,

    I read your blog posting and watched both videos. I thought the Big Story was a great way to discuss the concept. It puts things in every day language, and the simple pictures direct the concept. It takes what could be complex and turns it into something that is relatively easy to understand. I have found that people like this -- they like things reduced to a common denominator, and then once this is understood, can build their knowledge from there.

    Having said that, how useful is it a tool in order to evangelize as is our duty as Christians? Well, I love your paragraph "The Gospel According to Canada." I'm afraid that's where I am on my Christian walk. I tend to be very private about my beliefs. (This past election was the first time I've ever allowed a sign endorsing a candidate be put on my front lawn.) But when I am ready to evangelize, I think I would tend to use the Big Story way, versus the traditional.

  3. One of the problems I see with evangelism is the actual message. (I'm Simplifying the message just to make a point. )
    Our first job after establishing a rapport, is to convince an individual that they are a hopeless good for nothing sinner, and that they want and need heaven. It is a hard sell. Some will buy it to some extent. Then we have to use blackmail to enforce the importance of being a follower of the faith. We wrap it up in something we call the Good News, then we have to tell them the whole thing is conditional. It's a great system for those who like rules and regulations and a somewhat certain future.

  4. Chad, I still believe that the good news Jesus came to share with humanity is relevant today, and that Jesus calls us to continue the sharing of this message of hope, life and forgiveness. Tools like "The Big Story" are important helps to us to be able to communicate clearly but they are by no means meant to reduce the Christian faith to simplicity. No introduction is ever meant to contain the contents of the whole book! That said, you do point to the difficulty of compacting a great message into a little presentation. Difficult as that task may be, I do see the benefits of "The Big Story" over "The Bridge."

    Peter, it amazes me how God sometimes simplies the whole "process of evangelism." Some people (we know) are ready. And God will sometimes show us those opportunities. "The Big Story" is one way to be ready to begin to share more about our faith.

    And, Pat, thanks for mentioning the reference to the CT article. I meant to include the link to it:

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. It's good to get some interaction.

  5. Chad, speaking from my own experience - I never regret making a decision for Christ. Best move of my life.

    The bottom line is that there really is a moral God actively moving in the lives of people to put things to right in this world.

    I agree with you however that there is never a reason to scare or intimidate someone into believing. While some people have been guilty of that throughout history, it is not always the case. Sometimes people are attracted to the love and acceptance they see when they look at a God who would die for them.



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