Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Three Minutes to Live (In Three Steps)

Several years ago I listened to a CD by Ray Comfort titled Three Minutes To Live. It revolutionized the way I present the gospel to professing Christians. I've modified the approach somewhat, in keeping with my own personality and manner of approaching strangers to present the gospel.

What you are about to see is a real encounter with a college student, during which I employ the "Three Minutes to Live" technique. To remember this technique, you need only remember three simple words: "Listen," "Proclaim," and "Explain."

Chris is a music student at Cerritos College. He plans to transfer to BIOLA University (a Christian college) to finish his degree. He professed to be a Christian. He attends church and listens to an audio version of the Bible, regularly. He seemed to be a very nice and personable young man. I use the word "profess" because I try never to make assumptions about the spiritual condition of the people I meet who claim to be Christians. Many of the people I meet on the streets claim to be Christians, but they do not actually know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

In this first clip, you will see Step 1 (Listen) in action. When I meet someone who professes to be a Christian, I will give them a hypothetical situation in which they are a Christian and I am not.

It is important to present a scenario to the person with whom you are speaking that places them in a hypothetical, life-or-death situation. One that Ray likes to use (and I will use from time-to-time as well) is this: "While you and I are talking, someone comes up behind me and stabs me in the back with a knife. I'm dying. I have only three minutes to live. You're a Christian. You know I'm not. What would you say to me." You can make up your own scenarios. The important thing is use scenarios that bring a sense of seriousness and urgency to the conversation.

Why is it important to do this? Jesus said, when speaking to the Pharisees, "You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). He also said, "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person" (Matthew 15:18).

By applying a little gentle pressure, putting the person on the spot, what comes out of their mouth as they try to present the gospel will be that which proceeds from their heart. Just like military and law enforcement personnel who train regularly will revert back to what they've learned in times of critical incident stress, the professing Christian will revert back to what they know and believe about the gospel when asked to share it, on the spot.

Listen closely to Chris's presentation of the gospel.

Sadly, more often than not, what the person presents is anything but the gospel. Such was the case with Chris. Was he sincere? Yes. Did he appear to care for me, even in this role-playing situation? It seemed that way to me. But, Chris did not share the gospel with me. He described Jesus (although he did say Jesus is God) as "cool guy" who was his "friend." He told me that cancer wasn't part of God's plan. There was not mention of sin, judgment, Hell, the cross, the death of Christ, His resurrection, repentance, or faith.

What Chris presented to me was a modern, false gospel that can be heard in too many churches around the world, today.

In this next clip, you will see Step 2 (Proclaim) in action. During this step, the evangelist simply switches roles with the professing Christian. This is your opportunity to present the Law and the Gospel to the professing Christian, in a loving and biblical manner.

I always close this portion by asking the person if what I shared with them makes sense. And as I'm sharing, I'm watching the looks on their faith and their body language to see if they are listening and considering what I'm sharing with them in light of what they shared with me.

During this portion of the encounter, I cannot recall a time in which the person with whom I am speaking interrupts me to argue. They are listening intently. They are listening for differences in our presentations of the gospel.

And this brings us to the last step, Step 3 (Explain). In this clip, you will see what I (and Chad) like to refer to as the "Nathan Moment" (see 2 Samuel 12:1-15). At this point, it's time to gently confront the person about their understanding of the gospel. I do this by asking the person something about them. I try to find out something about which the person knows a lot. In Chris's case, it was playing the violin.

I presented myself as someone who professed to know a lot about playing the violin. I then shared a minimal amount of information about the violin, in order to make it obvious to Chris that, in actuality, I knew very little about the violin.

Watch this last clip to see Step 3 in action.

The crescendo moment in this technique is when you ask the person the tough question. In Chris' case, the moment came when I ask Chris the following: "Chris if, based on what I said, you wouldn't believe I know how to play the violin; then why should I believe you know Christ when you can't tell me how to come to know Him?"

It is often at that moment the person comes to the painful realization that they are not truly a Christian--that they are not a born again follower of Jesus Christ.

But this is not always the case. And you want to be careful not to make a person who is a true Christian feel as though they are not (see Matthew 13:24-30). You will run into genuine believers who, either because of their spiritual immaturity or because they are sitting under weak teaching, are just not yet equipped to biblically and succinctly share the gospel. When you run into brothers and sisters in Christ like this, take the opportunity to explain the importance of biblical evangelism in the life of every Christian.

So there you have it: Three Minutes to Live, in three steps. Give it a try the next time you meet someone who professes to be a Christian. And let us know how it goes.