Discuss Evangelism With Rick James and Randy Newman

Rick James AuthorRick James has served on the field and as an author with Campus Crusade for Christ for many years. His most recent book A Million Ways to Die explores the power that comes from dying to ourselves and allowing Christ to work through us.

Randy Newman Questioning Evangelism AuthorRandy Newman has served in ministry with college students, the Pentagon, and various churches in addition to publishing Questioning Evangelism, which helps non-evangelists do the work of evangelists.

What sorts of challenges are you facing in evangelism? What are you learning about the culture to whom you are ministering? What questions do you have that could make you more effective?

  • http://www.facebook.com/dj.jenkins DJ Jenkins

    Sad to see there aren’t any comments on here yet. Is evangelism just not that big a deal for us anymore? Or do we all think we are amazing at it? Or do we not have any questions about it?

    I throw something out there for Rick and Randy to engage on. At our MTL Retreat in January, our regional leaders showed us the national CCC evangelism stats numbers from every region. The numbers overall, were not very exciting. The most striking one was the “average # of decisions for Christ based on full-time staff.”

    Our region, which had the 2nd highest PERSONAL evangelism numbers for staff and students of all 10 regions (from August 2010 to Dec 2010), averaged LESS THAN 1 decision for Christ per full-time CCC staff member. Other regions also had woefully low averages.

    So Rick and Randy, why do you think those numbers are so low? Why is our effectiveness so low?

    • Randy Newman

      This is Randy, hoping this actually posts. I’m not as experienced with this media. In fact, it would help if someone told me if this actually appears and people can read it.

      I wonder if our evangelism might actually be a bit more fruitful than our stats imply. Those stats usually just measure the numbers of evangelistic conversations we can measure. But I wonder if there may be more people coming to Christ through our weekly meetings and they just don’t appear in our stats because we’re measuring the wrong things.

      But I do think we’re not as fruitful as we’d like, even if we could measure perfectly. Here’s one possible reason. We in CCC know how to present the gospel to people who are close to a decision. But we don’t know what to say to people who aren’t ripe fruit.

      I usually express it like this. Think of a spectrum from A to Z (A being the most hardened angry atheist you can imagine, Z being someone ready to trust Christ). We in CCC know how to take people from T to Z but we don’t know what to say to people anywhere from A to T.

      Am I making sense so far?

      • Anonymous

        I would agree with you Randy one of the get challenges on the local level is finding out when did students clearly say yes to Jesus. I feel like we work to bring clarity to when did someone make a decision, whereas the body of Christ at large is simply fine to have them engaged in their activities. Does that make sense? In other words we say “great you are coming to our Cru mtg and/or community events we want to help make the Gospel plain and real to you” in general local church is more satisfied with their attendance. I’ve been on staff for 16 years and I am plenty tired of ppl in the body of Christ who assume attendance is the same as spiritually engaged.
        I also welcome your ideas on helping us move ppl/students from A to T for example. In Miami with so many Latin students and also significant Jewish population pre evangelism is much of what I feel like I’m doing. I simply don’t know if I am doing it well or not. Dj the less that staff do evangelism I think translates to ultimately fewer laborers. The more engaged we are directly in the mission instead of what Mr Slice Survey calls “other priorities” seems to me imperative. I am curious to hear rickrandys thoughts on group evangelism or event evangelism. We have tried to have a big tent on campus and shout “Can I get a witness?” to no avail. Jk. Seriously it seems that all indicators point away from event evangelism as students deem it inauthentic, yet having Rick or the Maze on campus seems very effective. Are we too apprehensive to try some tried and true methods? Also wondering I can get rickrandyrolled?

        • Randy Newman

          I only have a short amount of time right now so I’ll only respond to a few things you’ve said/asked, Chip. We need to become as adept at pre-evangelism as we are at sharing the KGP booklet. Francis Schaeffer’s writings could help us, if someone were to update them or adapt them to our time. In CCC we don’t value pre-evangelism (e.g. we don’t ever ask, on written reviews how much time people have spent in sowing. If we don’t ask about it, it means we don’t value it and therefore, staff won’t do it. This is a tragic mistake).

          Second, we should assume that our weekly meetings have both believers and non-believers there and we should preach to both. Tim Keller has articles on how to do this and he models it in his sermons. Mehtodologically, we have assumed that people need to hear the gospel only once and that is a mistake. Rather, if we assume that you have to repeat it, restate it, and find different ways to emphasize different aspects of the gospel, we will weave that into our teaching venues – large group meetings and small group studies and individual conversations.

          • http://www.facebook.com/karludy Karl Udy

            I agree totally. In Hong Kong we say the number of students who were willing to hear the gospel drop from 1 in 2 to 1 in 6 over a 5 year period. It seemed that the methods we were using to approach them was just not attractive. We have introduced tools such as Soularium and short films, and emphasised that these are not replacements for the 4 Laws, but to help us have better conversations before we get there. I often describe Soularium as “a tool to help us listen”.

            • Randy Newman

              A few thoughts:
              1. We need to be careful about comparing receptivity stats from 5+ years ago and today. Maybe the number of “decisions” has gone down from 1 in 2 to 1 in 6. But we must not assume that all of those decisions were authentic. People may have just been more willing to “pray a prayer” back then and regeneration didn’t really happen. I sometimes rejoice that, today, people are just more honest.

              2. We need a tool (concise, good graphics) that expresses what Keller talks about “Three kinds of people” – younger brother-licentious, older brother-moralistic, and gospel-grace Christian. Matthias media’s “Two ways to live” was nice but fails to capture the older brother kind of lostness. This tool would be especially helpful for people raised in culturally Christian (Catholic or otherwise) settings.

              3. I wonder if a lot of college students finally start understanding the gospel in college due to developmental realities. In other words, I wonder if a 14 year old can even understand substitutionary atonement, etc. as well as a 19 year old.

              • http://twitter.com/timcasteel Tim Casteel

                Good thoughts Randy – I would love such a tool. We have mostly older brothers in our Southern context. And as much as you hammer on Eph 2:8-9 they can not seem to understand that the gospel is different than works-based morality.

                I love how Keller puts it:
                – A lot of people think being a Christian means “I know what I should be doing and now I’m just going to get serious about it”
                -“I’m going to get more intense – more prayer, more Bible study, going to church more often”

                -There has to be a breaking up of your old foundations
                – You can’t be a Christian unless your whole approach to God and religion is smashed
                – You can’t be a Christian unless you see the difference between mere religion and Christianity
                – Jesus comes and says, I have nothing to say to you unless you understand that you stand in the same place morally before God as the murderer, the rapist

                We need a tool where they are pressed to answer – I am the circle on the left (the works-based moralist) and I want to be the circle on the right (with nothing good of my own – fully depending on the grace/righteousness of Christ).

                And good point on developmental reality – that’s why I work with college students and not younger! I personally didn’t think on my own or grasp such concepts until freshmen year in college.

                • Randydavidnewman

                  Tim, you wrote: “- Jesus comes and says, I have nothing to say to you unless you understand that you stand in the same place morally before God as the murderer, the rapist.”

                  First, I would never speak like that to a non-believer. Even though you might be able to make that case, theologically, (and I’m not so sure you can!), it’s too big of a leap for a non-believer to grasp that he or she is on the same moral ground as a murderer or a rapist.

                  Second, I think Jesus DOES have a lot to say to people who are not ready to understand how lost they are. He said, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden” not “all you who finally get how depraved you are.” He told the woman at the well that he had water for her that would never leave her thirsty. In other words, he spoke of some good aspects of the good news before he started talking to her about her immoral life.

                  Ultimately, people need to see their need for a savior – because of their lostness. But I do believe we can start to express truth with some emphasis on the goodness of the good news without compromising the full message.

                • http://twitter.com/timcasteel Tim Casteel

                  I didn’t say it – Tim Keller did! :) (though – in context it makes more sense – He’s teaching from Luke 5:32- “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”)

                  Yeah – I agree – I would never phrase it like that. But I do think there does need to be a stark comparing/contrasting of the two options: religion vs. gospel.

                  And I agree – our lead foot should be the goodness of the good news. But then the religious student needs to truly grasp that they are lost.

              • http://www.facebook.com/karludy Karl Udy

                The stats aren’t referring to decisions, but how many interactions with students (including but not limited to surveys) resulted in gospel presentations. We have found that the percentage of those who do hear the gospel becoming Christians has remained pretty constant. The issue has becoming getting people to listen to our message, which is why pre-evangelism is so important – why should they listen to us if we won’t listen to them?

            • Randy Newman

              A few thoughts:
              1. We need to be careful about comparing receptivity stats from 5+ years ago and today. Maybe the number of “decisions” has gone down from 1 in 2 to 1 in 6. But we must not assume that all of those decisions were authentic. People may have just been more willing to “pray a prayer” back then and regeneration didn’t really happen. I sometimes rejoice that, today, people are just more honest.

              2. We need a tool (concise, good graphics) that expresses what Keller talks about “Three kinds of people” – younger brother-licentious, older brother-moralistic, and gospel-grace Christian. Matthias media’s “Two ways to live” was nice but fails to capture the older brother kind of lostness. This tool would be especially helpful for people raised in culturally Christian (Catholic or otherwise) settings.

              3. I wonder if a lot of college students finally start understanding the gospel in college due to developmental realities. In other words, I wonder if a 14 year old can even understand substitutionary atonement, etc. as well as a 19 year old.

          • http://twitter.com/timcasteel Tim Casteel

            Randy – great thoughts.

            I agree that we have tons of students coming to our weekly meetings who are unsaved (even many who think they are saved but are merely moralists or cultural christians). In my context, in the South, I definitely think our evangelism numbers are skewed very low by the fact that most students will come to Christ not through dramatic 1 on 1 conversations (since 75% think they’re already Christians) but through hearing the gospel repeatedly, as you said (like Tim Keller), at our weekly meeting and Bible studies.

            Years from now I think they’ll look back and say “I became a Christian in college” but in college they just call it “I just started walking with God, or rededicated my life” though, in reality, it’s the first time they’ve understood grace and the gospel and not just moralism.

            I think a lot of time it’s pride that prevents them from saying – I know I grew up going to church and was super involved in youth group but I didn’t hear the gospel until college.

            Not sure at all how you measure that though. Any thoughts?

          • http://mattmccomas.com Matthew Mccomas

            Loved, loved, loved your thought on valuing pre-evangelism. Here in Portland we’re getting a crash course in this. We had no categories for what that looked like as a staff team when we stepped foot on campus last fall. The book I Once Was Lost has really helped us measure success in this area and celebrate specific categories beyond conversions or even KGP presentations. I wrote brief post about it here. http://www.mattmccomas.com/more-thoughts-from-i-once-was-lost/

            • Jess

              ooh thanks for the book reco. This also reminds me that I’ve found Doug Pollock’s “God Space” useful for helping me have conversations for Threshold #1. Having the guts to tactfully & sensitively ask “why did you respond like that when I mentioned Jesus” has been a huge help in going deeper with the lefties I talk to so regularly here in Montreal.

        • http://www.destinoyearbook.com de


          I don’t know the Miami context very well but would love to learn more about where you are ministering.

          That being said, I am SHOCKED that you feel like with a large Latin population that you are doing lots of pre-evangelism. I work with Destino in Texas and we have found that due to their Catholic background, much of the pre-evangelism for Hispanics has already been done.

          Over the past three years on our campus we’ve seen 1 in every 5 Latinos we share the gospel with trust Christ. Nationwide that number for Destino is 1 in 6.5 (in comparison, for the entire USCM the numbers are 1 in 27.5)

          Our context is majority Mexican descent, so maybe that’s one of the major differences between Miami and here. But there is a thriving church in Cuba so I’m surprised to see that Latinos with Cuban background aren’t more open.

          I’m fascinated and am interested in hearing more.


          • Chip Martinson

            Hey DestinoEric sorry for the major delay.
            I started to respond but got delayed a few times and then timed out. Miami is a goofy place Spiritually, I assume with the mexican heritage that there is more of a positive representation of catholic church. What I observe from Miami is much more of a conglomerate of a demographic both Latin and otherwise. You may have burned out catholics from New York/Jersey/CT and you may have pseudo evangelicals from other parts of Central/South America. When I say pseudo they may have been exposed to some context but it is usually not an accurate representation of Christ or Christ centered community.

            Miami is much messier, my theory is that ppl live in Miami are either
            A: Refugees they may be first or third generation from another place and rarely does their religious context make much of a difference in their lives.
            B: Running They are running from their previous life somewhere else, could be failed marriage, failed business, bitterness towards family and they may be from anywhere from Germany, Greenland, Cuba, or Connecticut. :)
            C: Rebooting THey may have been a teacher or some other skill/trade and they come to Miami to reinvent themselves, reinvent their reputation
            It sounds rather different than your context. We observe miami students to like being considered simply from miami first and from wherever they are from second even if its first generation.
            Not sure if that makes sense? More than willing to connect with you again about it. Sorry for being slow to respond.

            • http://www.destinoyearbook.com de


              Thanks for the response. I feel like you know your context in much greater detail than I even understand my own.

              We’re praying that Destino takes off in Miami, could be powerful in such an environment that you are describing.

              Thanks for taking time to share.

    • Rick James

      Well, not knowing the specific situation I’m obviously guessing. But here’s my guess. While the staff are no doubt doing important things including evangelism they have probably failed to establish a context for their ministry. They appear to have come directly on campus from some portal or time machine. It takes awhile for our involved students to know what we do and who we are and why we are there.

      It is, without a doubt, difficult for staff to establish a relational context—they are not peers and everyone knows it. But that doesn’t mean they can’t effectively establish a relational context for their ministry.

      Here is where Old Crusade did some really good things. When I was a new staff I had two target dorms where I spent my entire week. So, first, I had a targeted community where I spent copious amounts of time.

      Second, I established my identity as a campus chaplain. That’s a context. “Oh, you’re a Campus Minister or Chaplain!” This answers the unspoken question of why you lurk around the dorm and tells everyone that your job is to be there when they have problems and ask questions about their spiritual life.

      Third, I did dorm programs. I did them constantly. Do this well and do it creatively and you establish a venue that provides connections and credibility. What I did was Self Defense programs. I had a Black Belt and had taught martial Arts before coming on staff. I did dozens of these programs every year. I couldn’t go in my Target area without guys I didn’t know talking to me about Kung Fu films and what not.

      In short, I was a staff member, but I had a established a relational context for my ministry with the students. This was Syracuse University in Northeast. Not a bastion of evangelistic fervor. But as a staff member I saw between 30 and 40 students make decisions each year, and many were fruit that remained.

      As staff we obviously need to help our students become insiders in their communities. But I think it’s entirely possible and necessary for staff to become insiders on campus
      themselves, establishing their own context and community. Then they will have personal evangelistic impact not simply impact through their students.

      • Rick James

        An addendum. On staff we are notorious for rewriting Crusade history, structuring the narrative in a way that makes our current direction seem both obvious and necessary. Related to what I just posted. The false narrative is that staff of old did initiative evangelism in a period of time when people responded to that sort of thing.

        But I suspect if we went back to successful ministries of yester-yore we would find that the staff were more relationally connected, more successful at establishing themselves as insiders in the dorms, and more personally known in their target audience than many staff are today. In being effective at establishing a context for themselves and their ministry on campus, they were more effective in the relational component of evangelism, not less.

        • Jess

          Hey Rick, this is a *really* good point & helpful one for new staff like me. Coming from Montreal staff experience it’s easy to be like “but that was back then when most people were waiting for Law 4 & not questioning the first few words in Law 1.”

  • http://www.randydavidnewman.com Randy Newman

    Not sure why this didn’t just appear already but, in case anyone’s interested, I have a blog, which often comments about evangelism, at http://www.randydavidnewman.com and I can be found on twitter at randydnewman.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karludy Karl Udy

    Here are three challenges we are facing in evangelism in Hong Kong:
    1) One-third of all high schools in Hong Kong have church connections. This means that many students are exposed to Christian teaching and ideas by the time they come to university. A lot of them feel they have heard it all before and are not interested in hearing the gospel
    2) How do we mobilize and encourage students to share the gospel with their friends. Many find it easier just to go out and do “random evangelism” and our training also seems to push them in this direction
    3) Many students are not willing to share the gospel because either it may put their friendships at risk, or they are afraid of being embarrassed in public

    I’d appreciate any wisdom or ideas on how to approach these challenges. We will be discussing these in a team meeting on Monday.


    • Randy Newman

      1) We need to do a ton of thinking about the topic of “How to evangelize those who have already been evangelized.” I tried to address it a tiny bit in my next book (shameless plug!) but there’s a lot more that needs to be written and tried. It’s a different approach than we usually use. I’ll try to write more about that later.

      2) We need to find other training devices than randoms because randoms don’t transfer as seamlessly as we’d like to relational evangelism. It’s a slower process with fewer numbers so we’d have to be content with lower stats. But, I think, while the number of exposures would go down, the number of quality conversations and authentic decisions would go up.

      3) re: the embarrassment/loss of friendship problem – a) we need to teach a lot about our position in Christ and our standing in the gospel so that people’s approval becomes less of an idol. This will take time. b) we should address this problem honestly but graciously. We, staff, need to be vulnerable enough to admit that we struggle with the same thing. c) we need to train students to think of evangelism as a process, not just an event. We need a sowing mindset as well as a reaping one (and “sowing” does not just mean preaching the same message over and over until people finally believe. Tim Downs’ book, Finding Common Ground, is our best resource to train us in this way of thinking.

      • http://www.facebook.com/karludy Karl Udy

        Thanks Randy. Send a copy and I’ll write a review :-) I loved your other books, by the way. So much I bought it twice!

        Thanks for your insight. Regarding getting our students sharing with their friends – I believe it is the way we have to go. I think initially we will see our stats go down, but I believe there is more potential for genuine multiplication and movement activity if we can align ourselves in this way. Our challenge is not so much seeing that this is something we want to do, as actually making it happen. Having tools that are conducive to a relational setting is part of the issue, and we have been working at that with developing a contextualized Soularium and short films. We also measure “Relational Network” evangelism as a separate category from other evangelism, so we can identify and promote this activity. We are just finding that it is a little difficult getting traction in this area on our campuses.

  • Joe Schlie

    Speaking only from my experiences in France, we really encourage our staff and interns to simply talk to others…how to ask questions, how to challenge ideas, how to become friends, etc. How to be interested in them, and to get involved with what they are doing. It’s not always easy, and there are a lot of challenges. That’s what makes it so enjoyable. It’s true, the stats are not as high, and we really don’t see many decisions. It’s not that we’re not trying extremely creative and/or extremely basic things. We are! At the same time, I’ve noticed that we rarely have anyone in France who comes to faith in Christ and is not very serious about their faith and engaged in a local church and/or the local ministry. The decisions/staff member/year is extremely negligable. However, the same principle seems to apply – Trust God to live out and share the Good News in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God. Just some quick thoughts…

  • http://twitter.com/jaysonwhelpley Jayson Whelpley

    I’ll take any opportunity to interact with Randy that I can get.

    We tell our students and staff that successful evangelism is “Stepping out in the power of the Holy Spirit to share Christ and leave the results to God.” (Or something very similar to that.) So, the criteria for success is conversations.

    But, our “Success Criteria” that we are supposed to report each week or month doesn’t include numbers of conversations that we’re having to continue a relationship. When I was working in a metro area our biggest successes came from ongoing relationships that lasted for months with no decision, but in which the student was fully engaged and really wanted to understand the Gospel. This is especially relevant with the 90+% of new believers that the Changing Evangelism study showed were coming to faith through ONGOING conversations, NOT randoms and not first-time conversations.

    This is a mixed message that we’re sending. How can we communicate this differently?

    • Randy Newman

      I think we need to differentiate that there are varying levels of “success.” Decisions are a kind of success – a rather good one! Conversations are also successes but not “ultimate” successes.

      I think we need to measure both conversations and decisions, just as we measure salvation decisions (win), numbers of people in Bible studies (build), and numbers sent on various projects, conferences, joining staff (send). We should value the partial and the ultimate successes.

      I know it’s a frustration for a lot of field staff that the national offices only want the stat of decisions. The Changing Evangelism study recommended that national change that and, so far, they have not. So…for the sake of encouraging the field staff and to help us evaluate how we’re really doing in evangelism, not just in how many decisions we see, I think local teams and/or regional teams could ask staff for numbers of conversations. I even think we could categorize different kinds of pre-evangelistic conversations.

      This is a topic worthy of much discussion. I would enjoy being part of that discussion with you, Jayson, because I would take any opportunity to interact with you!

  • Randy Newman

    A very helpful (and challenging!) message on this entire topic is one by Tim Keller from the Desiring God conference on The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World. You can find the audio message here: http://bit.ly/bKGior

  • Kai Pottenger

    Just read through all of the comments. This is super helpful/thought provoking. I am wondering if anyone will take steps toward what Randy mentioned ‘We need a tool (concise, good graphics) that expresses what Keller talks about “Three kinds of people”‘

    Catching up on what I missed this week. Impressed.

    • http://twitter.com/brianbarela Brian Barela

      interesting. our team might take a shot at this one–sounds like a great idea and much needed.

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