I’ve been training students in evangelism for several years now, and one of the things that we teach them is a simple illustration that helps explain the basics of the Gospel to a non-Christian. The bridge diagram is a classic evangelism tool, and very useful because it visually shows the need of all people to have the gap between us and God “bridged” by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. But last month I was having lunch with some pastors in
However, I do not believe that sin is the main problem that God came to address in Jesus Christ. Rather, the main problem with all people is that because of the Fall (Genesis 1-3), we are born dead in our spirits, and we need life. Therefore, we sin because we are grabbing life from any place we can get it, except for depending on God. I do not believe that people become sinners because they sin. I believe that people who are not in Christ sin because they are sinners – they are spirit-dead and lifeless in their core. (Incidentally, Christians sin for much the same reason - we are grabbing life from sources other than God. The main difference is that Christians have free and instant access to God's Life at all times, giving us the choice to depend on Him as our hope and life rather than try and produce it on our own.) Jesus said, "I have come that you may have life, and life abundant," and He told Nicodemus in John chapter 3 that the way to see the kingdom of God is to be born again, i.e. to be born with new life in our spirit.
If this is a more faithful statement of the main problem, the bridge diagram is not the most faithful illustration of God’s solution or even His end-goal for all people, because it’s main focus is on the sin of the unbeliever and posits the purpose of the cross as simply forgiving our sins and that God's goal is for us to accept His forgiveness. We have a Life problem, and Jesus’ death on the cross cleared the barrier of sin so that God might give us what we really need- His life.
And I while I do believe that there is one specific moment of salvation (rebirth) at which the Believer becomes a permanent member of God’s family, believing and experiencing the Gospel is an ongoing process in our lives. Believing the Gospel is not simply a one-time assent to the truth of the work of Christ, but it is a daily, moment-by-moment belief in our need for the Life of God to fill us, lead us, and move through us as we depend on Him for our acceptance, worth, and purpose – really, depend on Him for all things. Again, the bridge diagram would lead us to believe that belief in the Gospel is something we do one time.
While the bridge diagram is simply that, a diagram, it points to some fundamental flaws in traditional methods and beliefs about evangelism, and I think that those hampered Christians’ ability to articulate the Gospel to others. These flaws have also severely limited the depth and scope of our own understanding of our need for Christ and the ongoing work of His Spirit in our lives. Thus we try to give away in evangelism what we ourselves are not receiving. So, I have endeavored to come up with a simple illustration that Christians might use to show the Gospel to someone who does not know Christ, being faithful to the main problem of spiritual death and how the cross and resurrection of Christ give us what we really need, forgiveness which paves the way to life. In the next day or so, I hope to draw this out and post a video here of what that might look like.