One of the most awkward conversations I’ve had was with a student named Nathan, the president of the campus pagan club called Ways of the Earth. Saldy, my gospel presentation got in the way of a potentially great discussion.
Nathan and the Ways of the Earth members had a booth next to InterVarsity’s at the campus activity fair. As one of my students and I talked to him, I thought to myself, “Perfect! We can share the gospel with him!”
As we were having a conversation about what Ways of the Earth members believed, I launched into a verbal version of the Bridge Diagram. My student nervously stood by, smiling and silently praying. I felt my conversation with Nathan had gone well. But when I saw him later that week, I asked what he’d thought of our conversation:
“Well, it was really nice talking to you guys,” he said, “But it seemed weird when you started mentioning a bunch of Bible verses in the middle of our conversation.”
I was surprised and thankful for Nathan’s honesty about our conversation. I was also embarrassed that I’d been more concerned with showing my student how to “get the gospel out there” than listening to Nathan and learning how God was moving in his life.
Sadly, this is often the case in evangelistic conversations: You’re more concerned with getting the message out than listening to the person for whom the message is intended.
Why Options Are Important
One way to become more comfortable listening to and sharing with others is to not only become familiar with a gospel outline, but to learn a few, different gospel outlines.
Though the elements of God, sin, Jesus, and redemption should all be present in every gospel outline, there are diverse perspectives on how to share those elements. In fact, the Bible presents the gospel in many ways, almost like different camera angles of the same shot.
When you have a few gospel outlines in your back pocket, you can be more attentive to the people you converse with and choose the right “angle” based on what you hear from them in your conversations.
Take Your Pick
Below are a few popular gospel outlines and how they might connect with people in different ways.
As you think and pray about how to share the gospel with a particular person, consider which outline might be more meaningful to them as you talk about God, sin, Jesus, and redemption.
If someone has shared their passion for tutoring underprivileged kids, the New World Gospel Presentation may speak to their passion for justice and affirm God’s work in their life. New World is an adaptation of the True Story gospel outline.
For people who struggle with overcoming an addiction, or have experienced suffering in their lives, the Christus Victor gospel outline may help them see that Jesus has the victory over all sin and death, not only in their lives, but also in the world.
For many people, an illustration like the Bridge Diagram can help them picture how sin separates them from God and how Jesus provides a way back to God.
Based on the book of Romans, the Roman Road gospel outline tells the gospel story using verses. The Roman Road gospel outline is effective for people who have some church or religious background in which Scripture already has some authority.
Steps to Peace with God
Used for decades at Billy Graham crusades, Steps to Peace with God is a more traditional gospel outline based on John 3:16. It is composed of five steps: 1) God so loved the world, 2) that he gave his only son, 3) that whoever believes in him, 4) should not perish, 5) but have everlasting life. While it’s important for you to memorize the outline, the version linked above is designed for seekers to view online themselves.
The Broken Family gospel outline was created especially for use with international students. Geared toward people of different cultures and religious backgrounds, it presents the “big picture” of the Bible to newcomers, and also contains a version of the Sinner’s Prayer.
Two Ways to Live
At its simplest, Two Ways to Live presents two polar-opposite choices and their results: a) live your way and endure the consequences, or b) live God's new way and enjoy the benefits. It ends with the cliffhanger question of which way the seeker wants to choose for their life, and what next steps can be taken.
Your Own Story
There may be times when your own story connects with people far better than a formal gospel outline. God wants to use your story to help people see how he has healed you of sin and is leading your life on a daily basis.
While no gospel outline is perfect, any of these can share the basic message of salvation for people who are far from God.
No matter which outline you choose, start somewhere, begin to get comfortable sharing it with others, and invite them to take a next step towards Jesus.
Have a brief story about how you used one or more of these gospel outlines with someone in your life? Please share below.