Not the Way of the Master

Have you heard of “The Way of the Master” evangelism? I hope not. Why? Because “The Way of the Master” is not the way of Jesus. I’m about 10 years too late on this post, but I recently encountered this form of evangelism again, and was just as shocked now as I was ten years ago when I first learned about it. It was started by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron and is based on a particular understanding of what Jesus is saying in Luke 18 to a rich, young ruler.

So yes, there is some loose connection between “The Way of the Master” evangelism strategies and a misunderstanding of what Jesus does in one or two places in the Gospels. But if we’re basing an entire evangelism strategy off of a few things Jesus did or said, we might as well all go multiply loaves and fishes or get ourselves crucified.

But the main problem I have with “The Way of the Master” is the emphasis on hell. The more I read and study the words of Jesus, the more convinced I am that Jesus almost never talked about hell. That’s right. Even when He talks about “weeping and gnashing of teeth” He is not talking about hell. I’ll explain why someday. But simply from a theological and practical viewpoint, consider what you are telling people when you evangelize by talking about hell. You are saying this:

God loves you so much that He wants to have an eternal relationship with you. And if you don’t want to have one with Him, He’s going to punish you forever in hell.

That’s ominous. What if I came up to you and said, “I would love to be your friend. I want to hang out with you, and go to dinner and basketball games with you. It will be fun. And oh, by the way, if you don’t reciprocate this desire, I will hunt you down and kill you.”

That’s not really a good way to start a friendship. And yet that is what “The Way of the Master” tells you to say. And of course, you only say that after you point out how awful and terrible and sinful they are. So “The Way of Master” involves judging and condemning people before hitting them over the head with the baseball bat of hell.

We cannot threaten people into a friendship with God. This is not the way Jesus evangelized. Ever. The true way of the Master is the way of service, friendship, generosity, self-sacrifice, and love. Without these, you are not following Jesus, nor is He your Master.

Comments

  1. says

    Amen, bro. It’s spiritual abuse at best. Saw them manipulate their way into their pitch at the Micheal Jackson memorial. On film. AND THEY FILMED IT THEMSELVES. Horrible disrespect for grieving people, and totally USED them to demonstrate their mean techniques.

  2. says

    Amen. Definitely a big problem. You’re absolutely right.

    Those guy with this “The Way of the Master” method are we could say the “extreme” of a way of thinking, and a way of doing things. They are not alone in this and there is a range in this teaching. The famous “4-steps” are not very far from that.

    It’s partial truth, half-truth. So this is a problem. And it brings consequences.

    It comes, I think, in reaction to secularization and post-christianity, which many christians do not accept, and have it “in the throat” (as we say in french). That kind of teaching was very prevalent in church 50-100 years ago. And it was somewhat “working”. Why ? Beacuse people were reminded every sunday that God was angry after them. So the “need” for eternal security was there. It was created by preaching, and it was in almost every minds, in almost all the general population. (Atheism and secularization did not come for no reasons…. we have some wrongs here…. but that’s another topic)

    In a post-christendom context, many christians have the feeling that they ought to teach hell and the classical “4 steps” to unbelievers.

    Basically, they have to create this “need” to which their “gospel” fit with.

    Because that’s also originating from a short-view of the gospel, as if the gospel was only a way of preventing us to go to hell. The gospel is so much more than that !

    Another problem is that those guy try to do the Holy Spirit’s work (John 16). He is the only one who can “prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment”. Never us. Never. Because when we do it we put ourself above other, and they see us as hypocrits, and moralistic, and self-rightgeous… and they are right !

  3. says

    Tommy,

    I like your thinking on this, especially your insight into John 16.

    Have you made a post about it on your blog? If so, let me know, and I will link to it on my blog for all my “French” readers (not sure I have any…).

  4. says

    sorry for the very long comment…. ;)

    I wrote some articles about that, but it was much more rought and draft kind of writing. If I write something I’ll let you know.

    thanks

  5. says

    I posted a blog about the very same subject on Saturday. Not so much about scaring the hell out of folks but about whether or not we need to lead out with the law before sharing the gospel. I like your thoughts here and I share your grief.

    Truth be told, it is the good news of who Jesus is and what he has done that carries the power to save. We can’t go wrong if we “go” proclaiming to know no more than Christ and him crucified.

    you can check out my post here: http://bobbyauner.blogspot.com/2011/01/law-before-gospel.html

  6. Harrison C. Greene says

    As our Holy Truine God looks out He see fallen man who the Lord Jesus died for and went to hell for. As He walked around He new He would die for each of us and He contenued and even today love us in spit of ourselves If we do not see ourselves as He sees us then we may take His offer of Eternal without fear of perishing.

  7. Eric says

    The way of the master is an evangilism method in which an individual takes a few questions and asks them to another individual who is trying to get a realistic understanding of who God is and how Jesus Christ offers us the gift of salvation and eternal life. This method asks 4 general questions in which you make the choice to answer. I am sorry if this approach is at times bold and truthful. Hell is real, we are sinners, myself included I chose to pronounce Christ as my Lord and Savior, you too can make that choice or not. This is not up to anyone but yourself. If you feel like you have been condemned or judged by this method, then maybe you need to search your heart for the truth, chances are pretty good you are being convicted by the Holy Spirit for the life in which you are choosing to live. Your choices are your choices. There is none righteous Rom 3:10.
    We have all sinned Rom 3:23. For the wages of sin is death Rom 6:23. Yet we have a Savior in Christ if you confess his name then you shall be saved. Rom 10:9-13. Listen, we can either bow now or bow later, again the choice is yours and yours alone to make.

    • says

      Eric,

      I am fully aware of what “The Way of the Master” is. I even taught a course on it in one of the churches I pastored so that the people could begin using it in their evangelism.

      I have just come to believe that “The Way of the Master” method of evangelism is not actually the Way of our Master, Jesus Christ. That is what I talk about in this post.

    • Conrad says

      There are many ways that Jesus evangalized, not “The”way. And going up to someone you don’t know at all and condeming them and trying to scare them into a conversion isn’t the way. Conviction is the Holy Spirits job, not ours. We are supposed to help lead someone through the motions, not cause the conversion.

  8. Truthbetold says

    Both the way of the master and this article fail to tell the Glorious Gospel as it ought. First of all, the Gospel COMMANDS men everywhere to REPENT. God doesn’t love you…you are an abomination to Him and highly offensive. Not only that, the Bible teaches we are under the wrath of God outside of Christ. Unless a person is convicted of their heinous sinfulness before a the Holy Majesty of God there is no hope. The Love of God is seen only in the person of Christ. Though we are a high offense and abomination…nothing but hell worthy worms…Christ shed sacred blood that vile sinners have now the hope of salvation. The biblical Gospel is that men are COMMANDED to repent and believe or die under the wrath of God.

  9. AL says

    Hello Jeremy,
    I’ve been using the WOTM for about 6 years now, and am currently teaching my second class on it in my church. From your explanation in this post, it doesn’t seem that you have an accurate understanding of the concept. And I am very curious of your explanation of what Jesus was talking about instead of hell – have you posted anything on that yet?

    What you’ve written is nowhere near what the WOTM teaches. As a matter of fact, I’ve come across many people with the same objection that you’ve expressed here, and when I’ve taken them through it, they say that it makes more sense than anything they’ve ever heard.

    Evangelism is always Law to the proud, grace to the humble. Can you point out any witnessing encounter in the Bible where that was not the case?

    Sure, good works of service, friendship, generosity, self-sacrifice and love are all great things, and most definitely should be continued. But that is not evangelizing, and these good works alone are merely humanism.

    The very example you’ve given in your original post is exactly what most unbelievers think Christianity teaches in general:
    “God loves you so much that He wants to have an eternal relationship with you. And if you don’t want to have one with Him, He’s going to punish you forever in hell.”

    That’s silly and makes no sense at all. I think you should study the WOTM style of evangelism more, to understand exactly what they teach. You still might not agree with it, but at least you will have an accurate representation of what is taught, and the opportunity to bring a biblical argument against it.

    By the way, how do you evangelize?

    • says

      Al,

      I taught and used WOTM in one of the churches I pastored, have listened to several sermons by Ray Comfort (Hell’s Best Kept Secret, etc), and have listened to numerous evangelism encountered on “Way of the Master Radio.” So while I cannot speak for everybody who uses this method, I am fairly familiar with it.

      It sounds like your approach may be more loving and gracious than some WOTM proponents I have encountered.

      Regarding witnessing with the law, most of the time the law is used in Scripture by Jesus, it is directed toward the religious elites who thought they were keeping the law, not with the masses. So if someone wants to use the law today, it would be wiser to use it toward pastors and seminary professors, than to nonreligious masses on the streets and at work.

      Regarding my own evangelism methods, here is an old post on how I evangelize. Hope that helps a bit!

  10. AL says

    Jeremy,

    Thanks for the quick response. Since it would seem that you are fairly familiar with this teaching, I’m not sure where the disconnect comes from. I do not know of a single example where “Law to the proud, grace to the humble” is not used in the Bible. When Jesus didn’t use the Law, it was because He was speaking with people who were already humbled. Never did He give grace to the proud or arrogant, thus your correct example of how He used it often on the proud religious elites.

    In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus magnified the law, explaining that merely looking with lust makes one guilty of adultery in the heart (Matt 5:28), and that hatred towards ones brother puts them in danger of judgment (Matt 5:22).

    I do not believe it is possible to witness without using the Law – God’s standard for mankind – to understand that we have sinned against Him and actually deserve to be punished. When we can comprehend that, we can recognize our NEED for a Savior.

    I have found that most people in America today are proud, thinking they are “good” and actually deserve to be let into heaven, as if it’s owed to them, just like Scripture tells us in Prov 20:6. The WOTM style really opens up the Scriptures to show that when held to God’s perfect standard, we are not considered “good”, and only through Christ alone can we be considered righteous.

    You must be familiar with the verses about the use of the Law used in WOTM, that it is perfect, converting the soul, that it’s a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ, and especially that Paul didn’t understand sin, except by the Law. That’s exactly what we find today. People don’t understand the exceedingly sinfulness of sin until it’s made personal to them.

    Thanks for the link, I’m going to check out your evangelism post. I am looking forward to a good discussion on this. I am definitely a proponent of the WOTM, but also open to what others have to say, especially those who might disagree with it. You can’t learn nearly as much about something until you consider the negative side of it and where those objections may come from.
    Whether we end up agreeing or not, I hope that we both will end up with a better understanding of one another’s viewpoint.

    • says

      In my somewhat limited experience with WOTM, most of the encounters I was involved with and which I have heard about, involved what seemed to me to be a lot of pride and arrogance on the part of the one doing the witnessing, which is exactly the opposite of the way of Jesus. So again, it sounds like you may be doing it differently, and for that, I applaud you. My experience with the method was far different. Also, if you are correct, then Way of the Master Radio seems to be a terrible representation of the method.

      • AL says

        I’m sorry that you had a bad experience with this. I think that if you dig a little deeper and see it used correctly, it is not offensive at all.

        The Way of the Master Radio has not been around in quite some time (’06-’08), but I listened to it when it was. The witnessing experiences were with their street fishers; Trish Ramos, Tony Miano and Tiffany Gelpi, none of whom were arrogant or prideful. Todd Friel might have a loud, abrasive personality, but see if anything he says is unbiblical.

        I don’t see any pride or arrogance in this at all – we are not saying that we have kept the law, for the Bible is clear that none have kept it. We are not any better than anyone else, and are simply witnessing as we are commanded.

        I am using it exactly as taught by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, where we ask questions in order to encourage people to compare themselves, even judging themselves, by God’s moral standard instead of man’s.

        Now, there is a big difference between the Open Air preaching and One to One witnessing, because in the open air, you are speaking to a large group of people and have to have just enough controversy to keep the interest of the crowd.
        One to one is much more gentle, but the same biblical ideas are used.

        There are definitely bad street preachers out there, some may even claim to be using WOTM. But look at the teaching itself and not those who misuse it. Used correctly, this is the only biblical evangelism I have found that explains the Gospel in a way that makes sense to people like never before, actually teaching the opposite of “God loves you, but will throw you in hell if you don’t agree with Him” – which makes no sense at all.

        • says

          That’s right, Todd Friel. I don’t remember specifically anything he said that I disagreed with, but I remember getting very upset at much of what he said and especially how he said it. I can’t get into details though, because I just don’t remember what the specifics were.

  11. AL says

    Ok, but I cannot let this go. It would seem that you didn’t like Way of the Master RADIO, mainly because of the personality of the host, but that is not what you were attacking in this post. You went after the main teachings of WOTM itself, even specifically naming Ray and Kirk, and stating that it is not the way of Jesus at all. I don’t feel that you’ve adequately defended your position.

    If I am wrong, I want to know it. If you can give me specifics on exactly what is wrong with this style of evangelism, I would be glad to consider them. But with all due respect, thus far, it would seem that you haven’t done much research before posting this article.

    • says

      As I already said, I taught it and used in one of the churches I pastored. How much more familiar do you want me to be with it?

      And I ended up rejecting it, because I think that the emphasis on the law completely misses the point of the law and misrepresents the good news message of Jesus that anyone and everyone can have eternal life simply and only by believing in Jesus for it.

      My primary concern with “The Way of the Master” is that every experience I have had with it, and have heard of it, is that it is not the way of Jesus at all. If you have a different experience of it, fine. I am not saying your experience is wrong. But accept my experience for when I taught it in my church, how I have encountered and experienced it in real life and have heard it being taught on the radio.

  12. AL says

    I want you to be familiar enough to defend the position you’ve taken against it. You’ve made accusations that I would like to see specifically backed up, but when I press for details, you back pedal.

    You say that it misses the point of the law and misrepresents the good news. How so? Please give me an example of this, because I simply don’t see it.

    How can you NOT tell me my experience is wrong when you’ve written an article like this? The very existence of this article states that this evangelism style, which I am currently teaching people in my church, is wrong. It says so right in the title. I’m willing to listen, please help me out here with some specifics!

    • says

      Al,

      Can you give specific instances that your experience with WOTM is typical and mine is not? For every positive experience you give, I can give a negative experience. That will lead us nowhere.

      My experience is that most people who use WOTM seem very proud, arrogant, argumentative, and judgmental. They come across as people who have all the answers and everybody else who does not agree with them is wrong, and is probably condemned to hell.

      At first, I thought maybe you had found a way to use WOTM in a kind and gracious way. I was pleased that you had done so, and was open to considering the possibility that it could be done. But now I am having my doubts. I have had many negative personal experiences with WOTM, and this is rapidly turning into another one of those.

      I am open to the possibility that my experience with WOTM is not universal. But you do not seem open to that same idea. You want to make your experience typical of everybody, and anybody who disagrees with you and your experience is wrong. Why is that, do you think?

  13. AL says

    I suppose it’s because I am currently using it on a regular basis and you cannot seem to recall any details of what specifically bothered you by it.

    I have not found a “kind and gracious way” to use this biblical teaching – I do it exactly as it’s given in the Bible. Some people are convicted when they see their sins in a personal way, others don’t care. Still others, and in my experience mostly false converts, get angry because they are enjoying their sin while attempting to deceive themselves into thinking that they’re saved. But many (and I do this on a weekly basis) listen and tell us that it makes sense like it never has before – I’ve even had atheists tell me this.

    So, I’d like to hear just one of your negative experiences, to see how it all went down. I’ve had good experiences as well as bad, and everything in between. But that’s really not what’s important. I don’t make converts, only God will do that. I am simply obedient to the Great Commission and telling others about the Gospel, in a biblical way.

    This is exactly how Jesus did it, when He talked with the rich young ruler, when He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, and even when dealing with the Pharisees. Law to the proud, grace to the humble, every time.
    So, of course it’s not always going to be a warm fuzzy experience. If Jesus went around telling everyone what they wanted to hear, He never would have been crucified. Paul wouldn’t have been stoned, beaten and left for dead.

  14. AL says

    Jeremy,

    I think we’re getting off track here. First, I’d like to thank you for discussing this subject with me, and I apologize if I’ve sounded rude or short in my posts. I generally like to get straight to the point, and in online conversations, that sometimes seems a bit abrupt. I don’t mean to sound arrogant or mean in my posts, and I hope you don’t take it that way. I enjoy the conversation and want to learn more about what others think, especially in the objections to WOTM.

    As I was going back through previous posts on this subject, I found this objection that you had posted about using the law:

    “Regarding witnessing with the law, most of the time the law is used in Scripture by Jesus, it is directed toward the religious elites who thought they were keeping the law, not with the masses. So if someone wants to use the law today, it would be wiser to use it toward pastors and seminary professors, than to nonreligious masses on the streets and at work.”

    This stood out to me, “…who thought they were keeping the law….”
    Let me run this past you, if you ask the average person on the street, “How do you get into heaven?” what do they say? I’ll tell you what I hear most of the time, people say, “By being a good person.”
    Did you catch that? Works righteousness, and they actually think they’ve kept the law!

    This is why they first need to be humbled, to understand that they have not, and could not keep God’s law perfectly. Maybe this somehow translates to the seeming arrogance that you’ve experienced with this style of evangelism, and we must be careful of being perceived that way.
    But if we know something as important as this, shouldn’t we tell others? Shouldn’t we love them enough to tell the truth, even if they might hate us for it?

    Now, in your original article on this, you summed up your objection to the WOTM, claiming it’s like saying:

    “God loves you so much that He wants to have an eternal relationship with you. And if you don’t want to have one with Him, He’s going to punish you forever in hell.”

    However, this seems more like what I see when NOT using the Law in order to make sense of the Gospel. The WOTM actually teaches the opposite of this, so I’m still a little confused by your objections.

    • says

      Al,

      Thanks for the comment. I can get a bit frustrated in comments also. I’m sorry for that.

      Anyway, I 100% agree that most people think they are getting to heaven based on their works. I think the vast majority of Christians believe this also.

      So you have no argument from me there.

      Regarding my statement… are you saying that in your use of WOTM, you rarely (if ever) tell anyone that because they have broken the law, and are therefore a lawbreaker (a sinner), they are headed for hell?

  15. AL says

    Of course I do. Wouldn’t you warn someone if you saw them in danger?
    First, I ask them questions. If they admit to breaking God’s law, then I explain the penalty of that to them. You see, they believe that they are getting into heaven because they’re basically a good person. They compare themselves to Hitler and murderers and rapists, and think, overall, they’re good enough to get in. I explain God’s moral law, and His standard of perfection so that they understand that their “good works” they are counting on to get them in are not even close to what God requires.

    When they can see that they have indeed broken God’s law, and actually deserve hell, then they are ready for the Good News. Not “if you don’t believe in God, He’s going to throw you into hell” (which makes no sense at all) but because you’ve broken His law, you deserve to go there. Yet, He does love us, so that is why He provided a way, one way, to keep us out of the hell that we all deserve (myself included). We repent of our sins and trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. So, fully understanding that we are not victims, but criminals, His grace can actually make sense. Grace means unmerited favor, and getting something other than what we deserve.

    I think it is an essential piece of the Gospel to know WHY we need saving, don’t you?

    • says

      So I guess I don’t understand the problem. If I say in my post that people who use the WOTM tell people that they are headed for hell, and you do this also, then what is inaccurate about my statement?

      You have taken exception with this summary of WOTM:

      God loves you so much that He wants to have an eternal relationship with you. And if you don’t want to have one with Him, He’s going to punish you forever in hell.

      But isn’t that what you tell people, or something similar to it? Sure, you talk about the law in there somewhere too, but the general message is similar to that, right?

      So I guess I don’t understand how you can say I have an inaccurate understanding of the message of WOTM.

  16. AL says

    No, we don’t say that at all. You didn’t answer my questions:

    1. Wouldn’t you warn someone if you saw them in danger?

    2. Don’t you think it is essential that people know why they need saving, and what they need saving from?

    Here’s something else that just occured to me: Is it the doctrine of hell that you disagree with?

  17. AL says

    Where did I say that I don’t? You still did not answer my questions.

    Here’s another comment from your original article that I take issue with:

    >>So “The Way of Master” involves judging and condemning people before hitting them over the head with the baseball bat of hell.
    We cannot threaten people into a friendship with God.<<

    We judge no one, we condemn no one, and we do not hit them with anything. Nor do we consider threatening anyone into a friendship with God. That is all quite ridiculous. It’s a straw man argument from the beginning, and if you truly know anything about WOTM, then you are purposely deceiving people with this libelous accusation.

    I think I've discovered the problem now, though. You like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, while I listen to John MacArthur, Paul Washer and Mark Cahill. I don't think we're ever going to agree, or even understand one another's position.

    You have failed to convince me of any error in the WOTM. So, I’m going to continue teaching Biblical evangelism to every believer that I can, and explain the Gospel in a way that makes sense to every unbeliever that I can, all to the glory of God.
    It’s been an interesting conversation. God bless.

    • says

      Al,

      I am sorry, but you are speaking gibberish.

      Here is a summary of our exchange, with links to the comments in which we said them:

      My article: Way of the Master Evangelism tells people “God loves you so much that He wants to have an eternal relationship with you. And if you don’t want to have one with Him, He’s going to punish you forever in hell.”

      You: How can you say that! It is a total misrepresentation.

      Me: So you don’t tell people they are headed for hell?

      You: Of course I do.

      Me: Then what is the problem? I said WOTM primarily tells people they are sinners and headed for hell, and you say that is a misrepresentation, but you say this yourself.

      You: No, we don’t say that at all.

      …What????…

      I certainly have answers to the questions you demand I answer, but I think you are just demanding answers to them because you cannot provide coherent answers to the questions I ask.

  18. says

    As a follow-up to my post above, I just read the following in a book today which sums up nicely some of my concerns with Way of the Master Evangelism:

    “As a matter of principle, prophets and watchmen didn’t hold non-Jews accountable to God’s unique covenant with Israel; their role was only to hold Jews accountable…

    “This is why Nathan exposed the sin of David, but not the sins of any pagan kings… why Jesus, assuming the role of a prophet, exposed the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders, but never concerned himself with Gentile religious or political leaders.

    “[In confrontational evangelism] people are taught that it is the job of Christians to get others to realize they have broken one or more of the Ten Commandments and that they, therefore, deserve God’s eternal wrath. The goal is to get people to see their need for a Savior.

    “The trouble with this approach, of course, is that despite the veneer of civil religion, most people in America aren’t worried about whether they break one of the Ten Commandments now and then, and they certainly don’t see the logic behind the claim that infractions of that sort warrant everlasting damnation.

    “The situation is no different from, say, a Muslim telling a non-Muslim stranger who happens to be eating pork that he deserves to go to hell because the Koran forbids eating pork. Why should the non-Muslim care what the Koran says?

    “When Christians confront people on the basis of presuppositions not shared by the people they confront, they come across as rude (hence unloving, 1 Cor 13:4-5) and usually render the gospel less credible to the people they confront.”

    The Myth of a Christian Nation, p. 156-157.

  19. John says

    If we are not told of the consequences (hell) of not living a righteous life (living within the guidelines of the 10 commandments) why would we! To explain what I mean in a way most can relate to, if we weren’t aware or informed of the consequences (arrest, fines, imprisonment) of speeding or driving under the influence who would stop from doing so!

    • says

      Good question. I am not saying there is no hell or that we cannot or should not tell people of it. But Jesus rarely mentioned it (no, “weeping and gnashing of teeth” does not refer to hell, nor do most of his references to fire). Besides, there are grave and serious consequences for sin in this life that can be used to warn people about sin, some of which you mention.

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