Innovation for the Sake of the Gospel

Is there a “right” way to share the gospel with someone?  Or is there a “best” way to share the gospel?

Certainly if you are on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ like I am, then you have personally witnessed the Four Spiritual Laws, or its newer cousin, the Knowing God Personally (KGP) booklet, bear much fruit.  Perhaps you are even willing to say yes to those two questions after thinking of the 4-Laws/KGP.

But what if our culture, by and large, is so diverse now, and the spiritual beliefs of people are so diverse now, that it is actually unhelpful for today’s CCC staff (or anyone) to think of a “right” or “best” way to share the gospel?  What if what we most need for today’s students is to have a spirit of innovation in regards to how to share the one true message of the gospel?  This is exactly what some of the leaders on evangelism inside and outside of CCC are arguing today.

In May of 2009 the CCC Mid-Atlantic Region commissioned a group of senior staff to do an intense study on the state of evangelism within Campus Crusade movements.  This study can be found at  I highly, highly encourage everyone to read through it.  I think it is actually a tragedy this study hasn’t circulated CCC more.  Either way, here are two things they highly recommended our National & Regional leadership must do:

  1. “Acknowledge at major events and in major communications that our traditional evangelistic methods are not sufficient to reach every student in the American campus culture.”
  2. “Invest energy in communicating, even overcommunicating, why we must have an expansion of our evangelistic skills.”

And pastor and missiologist Tim Keller writes (in an article that is up on CCC’s Cru Press Green website):

“No one form of the gospel gives all the various aspects of the full gospel the same emphasis. If, then, you only preach one form, you are in great danger of giving your people an unbalanced diet of gospel-truth. What is the alternative? Don’t preach just one gospel form.”

So what should we do then?  I propose that CCC adopt the spirit of the Apostle Paul in his ministry to various cultures:

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might WIN more of them…I have become ALL things to ALL people, that by ALL means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:19, 22b-23 (emphasis mine)

For the sake of the gospel, Paul became all things to all people and adapted the gospel differently depending on the audience he had.  He tells us he does this so he might “win more of them” and “that by all means I might save some.”

We have such an amazing heritage of evangelism within Campus Crusade for Christ.  Let’s continue this rich tradition by leading the charge in innovation in evangelism beyond one tool or one method, like the Apostle Paul himself.

  • Drew

    Strong work, DJ. I saw the Changing Evangelism study about a year ago and really enjoyed it. Here are a few thoughts I had regarding how to answer this question of innovation:

    1. Try stupid stuff. Seriously. Innovation requires a desire to try new things and be ok with failure. If you’re not looking back on an event and thinking, “Man, that was dumb.” I would question whether or not innovation is happening. Congruently, don’t wait for buy-in. Just do something, regardless of whether or not you think it’s going to fail. Check out this interview The City (Mars Hill Seattle) did with my pastor re: innovation:

    2. Continue to invest time teaching students how to engage with their friends and their surroundings. The concept of flexible engagement is, in my opinion, at the heart of 1 Cor 9:22-23 and will be a incredibly necessary skill once students graduate. Also, who are we, as CCC staff, culturally engaging with? Try participating in an activity off-campus where at least one non-Christian is going to be present and jump in. We ask our students to do it, so why aren’t we?

    3. Stop talking about innovation and actually innovate. I’m curious why it took a research study of that magnitude and complexity to give people permission to try new things.

    • DJ

      In response to thought number 3 Drew, I think there are several reasons CCC staff tend to not innovate in regards to evangelism I believe.

      1) WE DON’T THINK ITS NECESSARY: I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with staff that just don’t buy that the culture has changed so much that we should move beyond our trusted KGP and 2×2 sharing methods. In fact, I have had staff tell me that flat out disagree with the findings of the study I referenced based on their own subjective experience.

      2) CCC PRIDE: Well, it would be something I call CCC pride. Very often you will hear CCC staff say, “We have the best training in evangelism you can find ANYWHERE. Students will never get this quality of stuff in churches or other movements.” While there may be some valid points to how God has blessed us and used us, that prideful attitude leads to, “Why do we need to innovate when we are already the best there is?”

      3) FEAR OF UNKNOWN: My wife and I are serious change agents, so we love blowing up the box. However, many staff are not built this way (which is not bad at all). But we have had so much success in the past (and continue to with traditional methods in many places) that this temperament leads again to not wanting to “mess things up.”

      Steve Sellers, one of the CCC VP’s, said at our National Staff Conference in 2009, “I fear we may be just successful enough that we never change.” Those are extremely wise words in my opinion when it comes to evangelism.

  • Brian Barela

    great thoughts here dj.

    really like the keller quote.

    have you been able to mobilize or produce some gospel sharing resources? i’d love to see some campuses who are thinking like you start to produce some prototypes that could be improved upon and shared across the broader ccc landscape.

    • DJ

      Brian, much of the last three years have been us “trying stuff out” to see what is most helpful in light of the changing culture. I would say we have “landed the plane” on certain things that are very helpful for our students and ministry. Let me give just a couple. So much of it is philosophy shift:

      1) GIVE CATEGORIES OTHER THAN DECISIONS: We use ASU Cru’s “CPR” or “Cultivate-Plant-Reap” to help qualify evangelism. The “Reap” stage is all we have traditionally counted in our movements for EV, that is, bringing someone to a point of decision. But we never count spiritual conversations or even friendship-making which is so often the first step lost students need before a whole gospel presentation. So “Plant” counts any spiritual or gospel content, and “Cultivate” counts any friendship building. Then we encourage students to take steps of faith in any area depending on what the person needs. This is huge.

      2) DON’T LIMITE THE GOSPEL TO 4 POINTS: If all our students think of when they think of the gospel is the KGP outline, I believe we have greatly failed them. As Tim Keller says, the gospel is not the A-B-C of the Christian life but the A-Z. When you teach that the gospel applies to all of life, then you can help students share it in all of life.

      One example is a girl named Karyn in our movement who struggled with getting perfect grades, so her life was captivated by studying more and worrying about grades. It was slavery, in a sense. Well as my wife Alisha helped her see that success and good grades were her functional “God” if you will, and that she was in sin by building her life on that, she was able to repent and see that Jesus is her satisfaction and joy. She then was able to share the gospel with a non-believer friend of hers who was doing the same things in her life. This girl had no felt need for “Knowing God Personally” but she DID experience “How can I truly be satisfied?” and she was looking for it in good grades. If Karyn only saw the gospel through the KGP and not in how she studies then she would have missed this opportunity.

      3) USE OTHER RESOURCES: Simply, we have taught and trained our staff and students in Backstory, and in “Invisible Tools” or sharing the gospel with no tool. Just doing this helps round-out EV practice.

      For some examples on these tools, you can see our website Brian and check them out yourself:

  • Drew


    Some really good thoughts and I can think of several examples from my own experience that mirror all three of your points.

    I especially liked Keller’s metaphor of the Gospel and the alphabet.

  • Jimmy Williams

    Hey DJ, thanks heaps for posting the link to the MA survey on evangelism. I was unaware of that study too, but I’m finding it quite interesting to chew on some of this. I’m gonna pass this study on to others too.

    • DJ

      Awesome Jimmy. I think half of what I am hoping for is just that more CCC staff would read that study and seriously consider the implications.

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