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Why this pastor stopped telling people how to go to heaven

We need better questions.

Not long ago, I was sharing with a group an experience I'd had in evangelism several years ago. Anticipating the climax of the story, one person in the group stopped me and said, "And that's when you told him how to get to heaven." Some members of the group were a little surprised when I responded, "No, actually, I didn't."

The notion that evangelism is primarily about going to heaven when you die has been perpetuated for a long time in North American Christianity. This is due, in part, to the wide use of two questions from Evangelism Explosion as an evangelistic method: (1) Do you know that you're going to heaven? and (2) If God were to ask you, "Why should I let you into my heaven?" how would you answer?

In this video, I explain why those questions are theologically problematic, which is also why we need better questions. I then offer two alternative questions that are a more faithful way of framing the gospel. Click over and watch. And be sure to leave a comment on YouTube telling me about (1) your experience of evangelism or (2) your favorite evangelism strategy.

Dr. Matt O’Reilly is Lead Pastor of Hope Hull United Methodist Church near Montgomery, Alabama, Director of Research at Wesley Biblical Seminary, and a fellow of the Center for Pastor Theologians. He is the author of Paul and the Resurrected Body: Social Identity and Ethical Practice, The Letters to the Thessalonians, and Bless the Nations: A Devotional for Short-Term Missions. Connect at

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