I have never thought of myself as a technologist, but now I realize that we all are. As Tim Challies has pointed out in his book, The Next Story, humans are incurably and inherently technological. We shape and form and make things constantly as we fulfil God’s creational purpose for us to multiply and subdue the earth. The things we make are usually neither good nor evil in themselves—a wheel, a fork, an office block, a chair, a screwdriver, a book—but each one can be used well or badly, and each one comes with both risks and benefits. (Some technologies, I would contend, are just inherently evil—such as the office laser printer—but we will leave that discussion for another time.)
In other words, when we think of ‘technology’ we usually think of the latest electronic or digital technology—the iPhone, the LCD TV, the GPS navigator, and so on—but these are no more ‘technological’ than all the other things that humans devised and made, all of which were new and exciting at some point: the telegraph, the wireless, the printed street directory, and one my favourite pieces of technology, the reclining armchair.
Christians quite rightly use technology all the time as we seek to fulfil our particular part in God’s purpose—that is, to subdue the earth under the dominion of the Son of Man, to proclaim his rule, and to call on everyone everywhere to repent before him, and to put their faith in him. In pursuit of this purpose, we make use of books (and especially The Book), buildings, cars, paper, chairs, sentimental rock ballads, electric lighting, and much else.
In this article, I want to reflect on what is now a very familiar piece of technology in the Christian world, and explore what it can do to help us in the great task Christ has given us. I am referring to a little outline of the gospel called Two Ways to Live, that was originally devised and made more than 30 years ago. (For those who aren’t familiar, Two Ways to Live is a six-point outline of the central message of the Bible, focusing on the momentous news of Jesus’ death and resurrection as the saving, life-giving Lord who deserves our repentance and faith.)
At one level, as a piece of technology Two Ways to Live looks about as thrilling and ground-breaking as a fork. At another level, it conveys a message that is more exciting than a moon landing, and has been used to spread this message very effectively all around the world in a multitude of ways in multiple languages by more people than will ever be known. It is quite extraordinary in God’s providence how such a simple tool (a six-point gospel outline) has proved to be so adaptable and so widely useful for so many aspects of evangelistic ministry.
I want to explore three particular ways in which Two Ways to Live continues to be especially useful—that is, three ways in which this particular piece of ministry ‘technology’ can help you not only in your personal evangelism, but in equipping a whole congregation with an evangelistic culture and practice.
1. It can help you clarify and teach the gospel clearly
The Two Ways to Live training course starts with a very revealing exercise. Without any preparation or notice, participants are asked to have a go at briefly explaining the gospel, as if they were sharing it with a friend.
Everywhere I have seen the course run, the result is the same. Even quite experienced or long-serving Christians struggle to articulate the gospel in a clear, straightforward way:
“It’s got to do with loving God and Jesus. It’s a relationship with Jesus that really matters. And there’s forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is God, although and also God’s Son, and of course we need to live a good life but salvation is by grace not works…”
And so on. It’s rarely outright heresy—just a woolly jumble of ideas and truths that makes it hard for them to bring the message to others with clarity, coherence, and power.
Is it like that where you are? Would many people in your church be able to articulate a simple, clear, compelling explanation of the gospel to a friend?
This lack of clarity is a real challenge to building an evangelistic culture in a church. We can’t encourage and equip our people to be gospel-minded and to be gospel-sharers unless they actually know what the gospel is.
Two Ways to Live is designed to help with this challenge. It is designed to bring crystal clarity to what the gospel actually is, so that this can be thoroughly learned and internalized, and then shared.
Now, achieving this sort of clarity about the gospel is not as easy as it sounds. This is partly because so many barnacles have accumulated on the concept of ‘gospel’ over the centuries, and because (as the Bible itself promises) many false gospels have arisen to pervert or twist the gospel, or to get the emphasis on certain elements so wrong that the whole thing is out of whack.
The other complicating factor is that the Bible has quite a lot to say about what the gospel is, and there is no one Bible verse conveniently marked for us as The One Gospel Definition To Rule Them All. In clarifying and summarizing the gospel, we have to take into account all that the Bible says.
This is what Phillip Jensen and his team did when Two Ways to Live was first written, and what we’ve done repeatedly over the years as we’ve tinkered with and revised it. We’ve tried very hard not to assume that we know what the ‘gospel’ is, but to let the Bible (and particularly the New Testament) instruct and teach us about the message that we’ve been commissioned to preach. And there’s plenty of material to take into account:
You have to look at what the four canonical Gospels themselves reveal about the ‘gospel’. What does their shape and content tell us about the essential truths at the heart of the Christian proclamation? What are we to make of the fact that both Jesus and his disciples preach ‘the gospel’ in the Gospels (e.g. Mark 1:15; Luke 9:6), even though they are doing so in advance of many of the key events of Jesus’ life, particularly his death and resurrection?
You also have to consider what Jesus commissioned his disciples to go out and preach to the world in his name. Just prior to his ascension Jesus opens the mind of his disciples to the Scriptures and then says to them: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:48). In view of the death and resurrection of the Christ, the disciples are to proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all nations. Would it be fair to say that this was their ‘gospel’?
You then have to look carefully at the apostolic evangelism in Acts—at what the apostles themselves actually preached. Looking through all the evangelistic speeches in Acts and seeing what sort of ‘gospel’ they contain is a very interesting exercise. You notice, for example, that although much the same basic content is proclaimed both to Jewish and Gentile audiences it is packaged in quite different ways, presumably because of the different levels of assumed knowledge in the two groups. You also notice a striking emphasis on the resurrection in Acts that is the obverse of most of our gospel preaching today—that is, most gospel presentations we hear today are very heavy on the atoning death of Jesus and the forgiveness that it wins, but very light on the resurrection and lordship of the risen Christ. In the Acts speeches, the emphasis seems to be the other way around.
In Acts 17, Luke describes Paul’s gospel preaching in Athens as simply preaching “Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18, lit. ‘gospelling’). Would your evangelistic speaking be easily summarizable as “Jesus and the resurrection”? In fact, if you didn’t mention the resurrection in your gospelling, would anyone notice or miss it?
The other major piece of data to take into account is all the summaries and descriptions of the apostolic gospel in the epistles. There are the famous ones, such as 1 Corinthians 2:2: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”. There is Paul’s well-known summary in 1 Corinthians 15:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Cor 15:1-5)
But there are some less well-known ones to be considered as well:
…on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Rom 2:16)
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel… (2 Tim 2:8)
(Would you be able to summarize your gospel, like Paul does, as “Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David”?)
So what do we get, when we pull these different strands together, and integrate them theologically? What is the common core that makes sense of it all?
Firstly, and most basically, we have to conclude that the gospel is a proclamation of certain incredibly significant events and their meaning. It’s an announcement that something of massive significance has happened. In this sense, the word ‘gospel’ means something like ‘big news’ rather than simply ‘good news’.
What is this big news? My attempt at summarizing it is as follows:
- That God sent his own Son into the world to die as an atoning or propitiatory sacrifice to bring forgiveness of sins to the world;
- That God raised this same Jesus to life, vindicating him and enthroning him as lord and Davidic Christ, the ruler of the whole world, the king and judge of the imminent kingdom of God;
- That this risen saving lord, Jesus Christ, now gives forgiveness and eternal life to all who repent and put their trust in him, and that he will return to judge the world at the ‘resurrection’ (or judgement day);
- That in light of these extraordinary events culminating in the present rule of Jesus Christ, all people everywhere have a choice to make. They can continue rebelling against God and his king Jesus, and suffer his judgement; or they can turn back and submit to Jesus Christ, and put their trust in him for forgiveness, salvation and eternal life.
That essentially is the momentous announcement that we call ‘the gospel’. That’s what the apostles went around proclaiming, in numerous ways and in different contexts. And that’s what we must proclaim if we are to be their faithful successors.
One striking feature of this gospel is that it is mostly not about us. It’s not primarily about solving our problems or finding a way for us to be saved or set free. It’s almost entirely a declaration about Jesus. It’s the announcement of him—of who he is, what he has done, what his current status and role and place is in the universe, and what response he requires from us in light of these facts.
This response has two aspects—repentance and faith. Because the crucified and risen Christ is the only one in whose name there can be forgiveness, we must throw all our trust and loyalty and allegiance upon him or be destroyed when he comes to judge. And as we do so, we must repent before him in submission, because it is the lord and ruler of the world that we are putting our trust in. One is impossible without the other. It is no true faith that does not repent, because it is not a trust in or allegiance to who Jesus really is (the crucified and risen lord of all).
My observation is that in many evangelical gospel sermons or presentations, we stop with the death of Jesus and salvation from sin. We preach forgiveness through his blood, by grace not works, through faith alone. But I have lost count of how many gospel presentations I have heard that do not even mention the resurrection and lordship of Jesus, and the need for us to repent before him, let alone giving these truths their due emphasis. My guess is that most people in your church, if you asked them to summarize the gospel, would barely even mention the resurrection and lordship of Jesus.
Downplaying or failing to mention the resurrection and lordship of Jesus is not only unfaithful to the gospel as the New Testament gives it to us, but has a very unfortunate consequence—we effectively bypass repentance as a key response to the gospel announcement. We preach a response of trust in the death of Christ for forgiveness and eternal life, but not repentance before the risen Christ unto the forgiveness of sins (as Jesus puts it in Luke 24).
Leaving out the resurrection and lordship of Jesus leaves us wide open to the kind of therapeutic, man-centred gospel of cheap grace that is so common today. This is the modern ‘gospel’ that preaches Jesus as the answer to my life problems, who helps me to have my best life now along with a free ticket to eternal life in the future, but without any concept of repentance before him as the lord of all.
This is one of the great advantages and uses of Two Ways to Live as a piece of ministry technology: it is designed to give due weight to both the death and resurrection of Jesus. The latter half of Two Ways to Live clearly explains both of these key truths, and the response that they require. In this sense, the Two Ways to Live framework is essentially a catechism, the regular use of which will embed a clear understanding of the full biblical gospel into your people’s heads and lives. That’s a useful technology!
2. It can help you explain this gospel in multiple contexts
Two Ways to Live can help you clarify what the gospel is. But there’s another significant challenge we face, and which Two Ways to Live can help with: How can we explain and proclaim this gospel in a context where people don’t share many of our assumptions?
This is certainly the case in my neck of the woods (in Sydney, Australia). But it is increasingly true in most of the Western world. We live in a post-biblical society—although in Australia’s case one might argue that our society was never particularly biblical in the first place! It’s a society in which Christianity is a small and marginalized presence, and where the average unchurched person has very little knowledge of even the most basic Christian concepts or beliefs (like ‘God’ or ‘sin’ or ‘atonement’ or ‘repentance’ or ‘faith’).
In that sort of context, how do you explain a gospel about Jesus dying for sins and rising to be Lord and Judge, before whom we must repent and have faith?
This was a key factor in the design of Two Ways to Live, largely because we realized that we were seeking to make the great gospel announcement in a world that looked rather like the world of the New Testament. The everyday non-Christian today has a lot in common with the everyday Gentile of the first century—with no appreciation of Israel’s story, or the moral law, or all the categories and background information that the Old Testament brings to the gospel. We realized, in other words, that we are evangelizing today more in Athens than in Jerusalem.
So to proclaim the momentous news of the crucified and risen Christ in the modern West, we needed to help Christians do the kinds of things that the apostles did in Acts when addressing the Gentiles. In particular we needed to provide a way to fill in the necessary background information that helped someone understand the massive earth-shattering significance of Jesus’ saving death and lordly resurrection; and to do so while using as little Christian jargon as possible, because most contemporary Westerners either have no clue about Christian jargon or misunderstand it.
The results of this approach can be seen in the first 3 boxes of Two Ways to Live, which expound:
- God as the loving creator and ruler of the world (which establishes the idea of ruler and lordship, and of God’s claim over us as his creatures);
- Humanity’s rebellion against our creator, whereby we reject his rule and seek to run our lives our own way (in other words ‘sin’ explained not so much as the breaking of rules, but as a defiant rejection of God and his rule)
- Judgement as God’s inevitable and right reaction to this rebellion. You can’t rebel against the ruler of all things and expect that to end well! By the end of box 3 in Two Ways to Live, the listener is left in no doubt as to the dreadful predicament of each one of us before God.
In this sense Two Ways to Live falls into two halves:
- Boxes 1-3 give the background information necessary to understand the gospel; much like the “story so far” montages that begin many TV shows. Boxes 1-3 provide the “Previously in the Bible” information that sets the story up for the crucial episode when Jesus steps onto the stage.
- Boxes 4-6 tell the momentous news of the gospel itself, as outlined above.
Our experience has been that this framework makes it easy to explain the gospel in many different contexts, which is why Two Ways to Live has been used so effectively all over the world in multiple languages to multiple age groups in multiple different cultures.
This is the second way Two Ways to Live can help you with evangelism: by not only giving clarity on what the gospel actually is, but by providing enough of the biblical background and context to make that gospel clearly comprehensible by anyone.
3. It can help you equip your people to evangelize in multiple ways.
The third way Two Ways to Live is such useful ministry technology is that it comes in multiple forms, and can train and equip people for evangelism in multiple ways—both as individuals and as a congregation. Fundamentally this is because Two Ways to Live is an outline rather than a doctrinal statement; it’s a set of hooks on which to hang a gospel presentation, not a prescribed form of words that must be used every time.
People all over the world have put the framework to various and many uses. Let me conclude this article by telling you briefly about one classic way to use Two Ways to Live, and two new ones.
a. Two Ways to Live: know and share the gospel
One of the most common and effective ways to utilize the Two Ways to Live technology is via the classic seven-week training program, used in various editions all over the world for the past 30 years. The course does what the title says:
- It trains people to know the gospel clearly, simply and thoroughly for themselves;
- It then equips them with the basic skills to share that gospel naturally in their own words, using the framework to keep them on track.
Most people’s experience is that this training only works effectively if you devise some way for the participants to open their mouths and actually speak the gospel to someone else. This may be informally with a family member or friend, via some door knocking, in a shopping centre, or on a university campus. The more ‘live’ practice and training takes place, the more it sticks, the more the participants get used to having gospel words on their lips, and the more they keep sharing the gospel informally with their friends in the months and years to come.
The course gives all the resources and ideas you need to pull this off, including video role-plays, examples, audio material and so on.
b. Introducing God
Introducing God, recently released in a 2nd edition, is an evangelistic course in the genre of Christianity Explored or The Alpha Course. Its author, Dominic Steele, describes Introducing God as “the theology of Two Ways to Live set to the music of relationship”. What this means in practice is that Christians can invite their non-Christians along to a relaxed, relational, six or seven week series of get-togethers (usually over dinner) in which the message of the whole Bible is presented using the basic framework of Two Ways to Live.
With a set of very well-produced videos to convey the content, and excellent training material for your congregation in how to invite their friends and how to participate in the discussion, Introducing God is a simple, effective and proven way to mobilize the whole congregation to work together in evangelism.
c. You, Me and the Bible
Sometimes a new way to apply an existing technology seems so obvious, you wonder why it wasn’t thought of before. Not long ago, some bright spark in one of Matthias Media’s editorial meetings said: “Why don’t we have a resource where a Christian could sit down with a friend and just read the Bible together over six weeks or so, and work through the framework of Two Ways to Live in the Bible’s own words?”
The answer to this statement of the obvious is You, Me and the Bible: a six-part guide to the central ideas of the Bible. Each of the six sessions contains two shortish Bible passages to read, along with discussion starter questions and a short summary video to draw the ideas together.
We’ve also produced some short, fun, sharable videos to send to your friends, as a first step in inviting them to sit down and read the Bible with you.
I hope these various ways of accessing this evangelistic technology will help you clarify the gospel, explain it in multiple contexts, and equip others to convey this extraordinary message to others.
 See matthiasmedia.com/?sku=2wsub for details.
 See matthiasmedia.com/?sku=igbun
 For more details, see matthiasmedia.com/?sku=ymb.