Trek 2008 - Cookbook Evangelism
Trek 2008 – Cookbook Evangelism
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady
I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Deut 32:3 NIV
In the kitchen, I depend on my cookbook. I’m not naturally adept at cooking so if we want to be able to eat, cookbooks are required. In business, I taught business and sales procedures, which I called “Cookbook Techniques That Work.”
Cookbook Evangelism uses a set of prescribed instructions or a procedure for telling people about Jesus. People usually learn it from a class and use a set of memorized scriptures, which they present in a certain order. It is the most common form of evangelism I’ve witnessed in evangelical denominations and usually what people mean or think of when they use the word “evangelism. “
I’ve taken many evangelism classes and even taught a few. Most offer a logical Biblical process that begins with a question like, “If you died today, where would you go?” and ends with the person being invited to pray what is nicknamed “the sinner’s prayer.” This process is particularly effective to help normally timid people get started evangelizing. It is also effective for street corner witnessing, where groups have a booth set up.
I’ve experimented with different approaches and when I feel led to use Cookbook Evangelism, I usually “mix and mingle” the various techniques I’ve been trained in, depending on the audience. The difficulties I’ve found with the technique are two-fold and they both revolve around modern day American cynicism:
1: Many non-Christians recognize the long used technique and have grown cynical about what appears to them as an impersonal “canned speech.” When they hear it, eyes glaze over or roll and they stop listening.
2: Cynical modern day Americans question everything. Statistics tell us it usually takes over eighteen months from the fist introduction to Christianity to someone deciding to invite Jesus into their life.
Having said that, I must confess to loving a simple technique that is efficient, speaks the powerful words of God, gives all the relevant facts, gets right to the point, and ends with an invitation. While many say no to the invitation, the question will haunt them. Cookbook Evangelism is powerful in the right setting and there is nothing more humbling than to be with someone when they invite Jesus into their heart.
It was laundry day in the campground and God presented me with the perfect opportunity to use Cookbook Evangelism, repeatedly. First you have to know that I’m also not good at laundry either but have learned a “Cookbook Technique That Works.” I was working on the computer in the laundry room while waiting on clothes when a bus full of 11th graders pulled up to the campground.
Young men and women bounded out of the bus and to their tents, racing to be the first in line for laundry. As they began to crowd into the tiny laundry room and negotiate with whom they would combine their wash, I realized that most of them had never washed clothes before.
God, is this a joke? I asked. Is my assignment really to help with laundry. Don’t you remember that I’m not very good at this – and that I don’t particularly like it?
I sighed and started answering their questions. I had to teach the difference between a washing machine and drier. I explained how you put soap in and where to buy it. It boggled their minds that the washing machine was a set dollar amount while the drier could take anywhere between 3-6 quarters to get their clothes dry. They had no idea about sorting, washing settings, and temperatures. Where were the adults? I wondered and then realized they were probably hiding. I relaxed into it and started enjoying kibitzing.
It didn’t take me long to find out these clean cut polite young people were students from a Catholic High School and that this was an annual trip for their high school juniors. I was impressed that they were not allowed to bring cell phones, i-pods, or video games. As soon as I explained that washing clothes was like playing a video game, their attitude about washing improved. My clothes were done but I sat there as scores of young people cycled through the laundry room.
This was the perfect setting for Cookbook Evangelism. I had an audience and had established a rapport. My audience had similar interests and experiences. I figured out immediately what my opening question would be. With each young person I said, “I hear you go to a Catholic High School. I’m sure they teach you about Jesus.”
I waited for them to nod and then asked, “Are you a Christian?”
There was usually a moment of stunned silence as they pondered their answer. Before they could answer, I said, “May I tell you what I mean by that question?” Relieved to be “let off the hook,” they always said yes.
I launched into a short version of a procedure that gives the scriptural facts and then ended with asking them if they had prayed this prayer, “Jesus, please forgive me for the mistakes I’ve made. I believe in your birth, death, and resurrection. I would like to invite you to come into my life.” Their answers fell into three categories.
Some said yes. I was thrilled. I asked a follow-up question, “If you died today, would you go to heaven?”
If they said something like, “I hope so,” we talked further.
Some said no but I could tell that they were puzzled about why not. I kicked myself for not having my tracts. I’d used all my hands to carry laundry. I considered inviting them to pray the “sinner’s prayer” on the spot but knew teenagers in a group setting would usually be too self-conscious to say yes.
Instead, I asked, “Do you believe in Jesus?” Everyone of them said yes.
I then suggested, “When you get to your tent tonight, I want you to pray that prayer and invite into Jesus your life. You already believe in Him. It is time to make Him a part of your life. It will be the most important thing you ever do.” I repeated the prayer.
Not In So Many Words
Some hesitated and said, “Not in so many words” or “Not exactly.” While I’m not picky about the words, I know that many young people spend their life in church and Christian schools, learn about and believe in Jesus, but never actually invite Him to be a part of their life.
I followed up with, “Believing in Jesus isn’t enough. Jesus has to be invited into your life. Just to be on the safe side, when you get to the tent tonight, I want you to pray that prayer. Will you do that?” I repeated the prayer.
I left the laundry room wondering if they were laughing about the strange Jesus freak who helped them with their laundry. Most were friendly, interested, and agreed to what I suggested. I’ll probably never know the end of their stories but I have hope.
It did seem impersonal to have the same conversation with each group entering the laundry room. There was nothing impersonal about my heart and everything I told them was true. The message was simple:
- God had plans for them – Plans to prosper and benefit them. (Jeremiah 29:11)
- God wanted a relationship with them – He loved them so much that He gave His only son for them. (John 3:16)
- They were imperfect and needed Him – For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and the wages of sin are death and the gift of God is eternal life. (Romans 6:23)
- They couldn’t earn their way into Heaven even by going to a Catholic School – For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of your selves. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
- They had the ability to ask for this gift – Confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
All they had to do for eternal life with Christ was to pray - Jesus, please forgive me for the mistakes I’ve made. I believe in your birth, death, and resurrection. I would like to invite you to come into my life.
Cheryle M. Touchton is the Director of Pocket Full of Change Ministries. For more information or to schedule a speaker for an event, go to www.pocketfullofchange.org or call Gail Golden at 904 316-5462.
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