I grew up Baptist, but I could not tell you exactly what that means other than (a) potlucks, (b) baptisms and (c) lots of white people. I am confident it means more than that, theologically speaking, but I am just confessing that I don’t know.
I also remember hearing The Romans Road at evangelism outreaches, often paired with evange-cubes.
The road is (basically) :
- All have sinned (Rom 3:23)
- The punishment is death (6:23)
- The free gift of Life from God is in Jesus (6:23)
- Confess and be saved (10:9)
- You are then justified with God (5:1)
I never liked it. I couldn’t ever say why, but there was just something unsettling to me that (5) verses plucked from a single letter could sum up all of God’s plan. To be fair, that absolutely can be done and, considering T.R.R. now in life, I think that does very succinctly sum up the our sin disposition and God’s plan for resolving that.
The problem I have with it, considering T.R.R. now in my life, is that, to me, it leaves out the more fundamental building blocks upon which this story makes sense:
- Who God is
- Why the sacrifice of Jesus reconciles us back to Him.
- The framework of Israel (the backstory)
- The role of Obedience (out of an overflow of a saved heart)
I think (assume) the response from 80s and 90s evangelists would be something like ‘we have to first get them in the door, then we can unpack those other things’ but, I think, the fundamental problem with that is how it ACTUALLY is worked (or has worked). It certainly seems like for every 10 people that got saved under this 5-stone-road, 6-7 of them (ultimately) have turned from God and left the church. In other words, it seems like during the Billy Graham era (the Evangelical Movement) people would have said “Yes, this is working!” but, now, looking back, we have legitimate reason to ask, “Was that working?”
I wonder similar things today with raising my children. When my wife and I make decisions that impact the shaping of our children and it appears to be working, I can not help but wonder if I will look back (or, perhaps more importantly, they will look back) on life later and say it did.
Put another way, I think it is only when looking back that we can make that decision. We cannot know in the now.
So what then? Are we to do nothing? Obviously not. That’s bad logic. We are to do something and I’m in all seriousness not condemning the use of T.R.R. – it is incredibly useful and does make a difference and has brought countless folks into a place where God has worked in their life. God is sovereign and in control.
What I want, more than anything here, is to simply reflect on God and continue to know Him more. Studying and thinking through The Romans Road is just another way I am doing that.
So what is (specifically) unsettling about it, Logan? Glad you asked.
Check this out :
While Scot does not indict The Romans Road, specifically, he lays a framework for what I am coming from here, that fundamentally 90% of people who make a decision to only result in 22% staying is clearly a broken gospelizing system.
Consider the thousands that come to salvation in Acts, does it change anything in your mind if 2/3 of those later walked completely away? It changes a great deal for me. An encounter with the Lord of Life would not bat .333, but closer to .999 right!? Like closer to .999 in that it should be 100%.
So, like Scot, I think something is (and has been) wrong and, to be clear again, I’m not trying to come to a specific conclusion, but continue to ask questions, in an effort to Know Him who holds us.
A gospel that becomes obsessed with making decisions rather than disciples aborts the design of the gospel of Jesus.
So then, finally, what about T.R.R. bothers me? It bothers me that it’s not more comprehensive and, like Scot says in that video, it seems to focus on people making decisions, first, so that they can become disciples when, in fact, if we focused on discipleship (out of love of God’s plan for our life), we get the decision.
Consider how the disciples became believers. It took years of relationship and for many it took rejecting Christ at the cross and/or physically seeing His return. No where in that process, either, do we read Jesus telling them about their sinfulness and confession is all that is required.
Do we find any instances of Acts where T.R.R. is used? Nope. We see the entire story of God told (and then a brutal death for telling it) and, again, when given the opportunity, Paul tells the entire story, as well.
I suppose, in sum, I land here.
Regardless of what I term ‘The Gospel’ (which I think matters and hope to write about some day), it seems the way it is told is through living life with people, being in community, loving our neighbors, and celebrating together a God who loves us. None of that is found in The Romans Road to salvation and if I were to reach in my bag and pull out a starting point, how is it, then, that I tell the story of the former?
I do not know.