That by All Possible Means, We Might Save Some: Different Approaches to Modern Evangelism
Myself being a pastor of a growing church in Lithuania, I have extensively been involved in evangelism for twelve years. After reading Tell It Often, Tell It Well and Lifestyle Evangelism, I have to admit that, notwithstanding the cultural differences in America and Eastern Europe, I find both books to be very motivational as well as extremely precise in their explanatory character.
The goal of this paper is to show the main differences between McCloskey and Aldrich in their approach to evangelism. I will also indicate the issues both authors agree on. Finally, I would like to point out the strengths and the weaknesses these two philosophies of evangelism.
The very first chapters in Tell it often, tell it well and Lifestyle evangelism reveal the differences between the authors in their approach to evangelism. For McCloskey, the gospel is the only remedy for fatally sick. For Aldrich, it is the beauty to be spread around by the church. Let us compare their definitions of evangelism:
· "This is the work of evangelism: announcing the good news of the cure to sin-sick men and women, reasoning with them and convincing them that Jesus is indeed the Great Physician who came to heal and restore them to life." 
· "Evangelism is a way of living beautifully and opening one's web of relationships to include the nonbeliever. A person is exposed to both the music and the words of the gospel." 
McCloskey sees the sin-sick and dying world, which does not realize the tragedy of its condition, and that picture compels him "to blow the trumpet in Zion." No doubt, Aldrich too believes that the world is sin-sick and that the only remedy is the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, evangelism for him is more than a program. It is not what we do, but what we are. According to Aldrich, evangelism is the overflow of a believer's life with God. Spreading the beauty found in Christ to those around is the essence of it.
While McCloskey's theological concerns illuminate the value of the gospel and its own power, Aldrich is more concerned with the quality of a messenger's life. The former pays close attention to the unique content of the gospel, showing its multifaceted message. The latter argues, "Even the pagan Greeks understood that the ‘medium is the message.'" As with Christ, so is with the Church, his body: the Word has to become flesh in order to be heard and accepted. Aldrich quotes well-known adage of Floyd McClung: "People don't care how much we know until they know how much we care".  However, McCloskey is not convinced by such arguments at all. He overtly confronts Aldrich, saying that we are limited in our reflection of the glory of God, due to our continued fallenness. 
These different approaches to evangelism stipulate different contents of the two books. Aldrich takes for granted that Christians know well the propositions of the gospel and the provisions it offers. Thus, from the very beginning he focuses on the barriers that hinder Christians to reach non-Christians. The greatest obstacles to evangelism, in his opinion, are not theological but social and/or cultural. He competently shows the different worlds that believers and non-believers are living in. The attitude that a Christian has towards secular culture determines whether one is effective in sharing his faith. Aldrich points out four different responses to culture a Christian can have, showing that neither rejection of nor immersion into culture are right. He advocates what he calls "critical participation" of a Christian in the affairs of culture and society.
"God is not in the business of putting healthy babies in malfunctioning incubators" and "personality is a product of relationships," assumes Aldrich.  For this reason the second part of his book is almost entirely dedicated to the role of a local church in the task of evangelism. Aldrich considers biblical principles a healthy church is built around. Since every new convert eventually is brought into a local church, the spiritual condition of the church determines whether or not that person is going to grow spiritually. Unless he does, the evangelism has not accomplished its task.
In contrast, McCloskey hardly, if at all, discusses the role of relations between Christians in a local church. He expounds on theology and methodology of evangelism, instead. His concern is that every member of Christ's universal body would be involved in sharing the gospel. McCloskey does not avoid cultural issues. On the contrary, he gives us the definition of secularism, points out different categories of it, and even provides some guidelines on how to respond to objections of secular mind. Differently than Aldrich, who acknowledges the legitimacy of other evangelistic approaches, McCloskey attempts to not only question the effectiveness of the Aldrich's approach to evangelism, but also disputes its veracity. He devotes a substantial part of his book (chapters 12 through 15) for this purpose.
Aldrich in his Lifestyle evangelism indicates three distinct categories of evangelism, namely proclamational, confrontational/intrusional and incarnational/relational. It is the last one that Aldrich himself is a proponent of. The principles of evangelism described in McCloskey's book would naturally fall under confrontational/intrusional category. However, McCloskey refuses to accept that. He changes even the title given by Aldrich. Therefore, confrontational/intrusional evangelism becomes "comprehensive-incarnational" evangelism in Tell It Often, Tell It Well.
In McCloskey's opinion, such dichotomies as "People Versus Programs" or "Boldness Versus Sensitivity" are artificially made and false in their assertions. He argues that the comprehensive-incarnational approach, contrary to what the opponents claim it to be, seriously takes the communication principles and the theological concerns. It is grounded in the New Testament data on evangelism, not as relational-incarnational approach of Aldrich, which finds little room for some crucial theological considerations. The lack of urgency is one of them. In matters of heaven and hell the sense of urgency is a normal factor, argues McCloskey. In contrast, Aldrich's philosophy, in freeing Christians from so-called pressure to evangelize, creates a false comfort zone. Western culture worships convenience. This convenience factor, according to McCloskey, is more likely to rob Christians of their motivation in evangelism than any other aspect of American culture. Dr. John Nyquist expressed the same thought in our class: "The danger of ‘process evangelism' lies in its ability to eliminate the urgency of the gospel. Lifestyle evangelism can easily degenerate into lifestyle without evangelism. The longer we wait the harder it becomes to share our faith with those we know".
However, McCloskey's sharpest critique is directed towards Aldrich's proposition of "stereophonic" evangelism, in which both messenger and his message are conveyors of good news. "The idea that ‘I don't speak, I let my life do the talking' or ‘I shouldn't speak until my life has done some talking' forces us to ask, ‘Whose life is good enough for such an assignment?'"  McCloskey is especially alarmed by the shift of the focus from the gospel to the personality and experience of the evangelist. This not only discourages Christians (for no one feels adequate to share the gospel), but also confuses the non-Christian, who instead of being exposed to the clear witness of the self-authenticating power and authority of the gospel, is exposed to its dim reflection in a fallen human life.  McCloskey simply cannot agree with the notion that the gospel and the life of the one presenting it are two equal channels. "The gospel creates its own platform for effectiveness. It calls attention to itself; it earns its own right to be heard," affirms McCloskey. 
Now, after we have looked to the main areas of disagreement, let us point out a few propositions that both authors agree on. Aldrich as well as McCloskey affirms that evangelism is more than what a pastor does on a Sunday morning. Both, Aldrich and McCloskey, are dealing with the challenges of overcoming various barriers dividing Christians and non-Christians. Both authors would love to see Christians passionately involved in evangelism. For Aldrich, loving your neighbor is prerequisite for evangelism. Who can argue that? McCloskey agrees: "evangelism is grounded in love".  Moreover, McCloskey in his endnotes confesses his own admiration of some of Aldrich's thoughts: "Joe Aldrich offers and excellent section, "Evangelism and You," in his book, Lifestyle Evangelism. This section probably is the best material available discussing the ins and outs of establishing an evangelistic witness within your natural sphere of influence." Likewise, Aldrich, speaking about confrontational/intrusional category, respectfully admits that training in this methodology is necessary.  In fact, it seems that there is greater agreement between McCloskey and Aldrich than a first reading of their books might indicate.
In my opinion, even their approaches to evangelism can be reconciled. The comprehensive-incarnational method of McCloskey usually breaks the fallow ground, i.e. effectively works where the gospel message has not been heard and where Christian Church has not yet been established. On the other hand, churches that are not new in their communities may find the Aldrich's approach to be very effective. We could as well assume that Aldrich's relation-incarnational approach might be the best for Christians living in a small village, where sense of community is very strong. In contrast, McCloskey's type of approach might effectively work in urban and metropolitan areas.
In my judgment, we need to use both of the approaches in different places and at different times, as the Holy Spirit leads. In some cases, it is impossible to establish long-term relationships. Yet, that does not mean, that then it is forbidden to share the gospel. I do not find that kind of assumptions in Aldrich's book. On contrary, he admits that all the types of evangelism are legitimate.  They are not equally successful, though. On the other hand, there may be times when confrontation-intrusional approach is improper and even damaging for the work of the gospel. Sometimes, we have to be very patient before trying to haul the catch. After all, evangelism is about fishing, and no angler succeeds without great patience!
What are the strengths and weaknesses of these two philosophies of evangelism? The strength of Aldrich's relational-incarnational approach, without any doubt, is its emphasis on sensitivity towards those that we want to present the gospel to. If we are not sensitive and not contextual, the content of our message looses its meaning, in spite of how great it might be. As Francis A. Schaeffer brilliantly remarked: "If we want to speak to a man, we must first learn his language. . . . If we wish to communicate, then we must take time and trouble to learn our hearers' use of language so that they understand what we intend to convey."  There is no sense in trying to present answers to the questions we do not know. That is why Aldrich wants us to discover needs before sharing the solutions. He finds Abraham H. Maslow's famous hierarchy of needs to be very helpful and applicable to evangelism. Second strength of Aldrich's approach is that it connects evangelism and the church life. Aldrich realizes that the separation of the two, ultimately, nullifies the evangelistic fruit.
On the other hand, the weakness of this approach is that it can lose, as McCloskey promptly observes, its sense of urgency. It is true that complacency and passivity of Christians are among the biggest hindrances in the work of evangelism.
In contrast, McCloskey's approach leaves no room for passivity. His strong emphasis on the "go" in gospel liberates Christians and prepares them for action. McCloskey skillfully shows that aggressive evangelism need not be offensive, confrontational or socially awkward. Evangelist can be bold and sensitive, aggressive and caring at the same time.
Another strength of this approach is its emphasis on the message of the gospel. In my judgment, McCloskey's chapter on the multifaceted message of the gospel is a must in a book on evangelism. McCloskey's concern for clarity, depth and cross-centeredness of the preaching is very plausible. Only this kind of message is capable of producing the fruit of genuine repentance and actual conversion. I think, McCloskey did an outstanding work in finding balance between motivation for and sound theology of evangelism.
Consequently, McCloskey's comprehensive study on evangelism seems to have very few weaknesses. One could assume that his emphasis on the power of the gospel belittles the role of a messenger. However, it does not. McCloskey dedicates entire chapter to the issue of the character of an evangelist. One might object that McCloskey scrutinizes methodology of communicating the gospel too much, thus making it too formal and legalistic. However, anyone who has been practically involved in teaching and equipping others for the task of evangelism will tell that it is not the case. On contrary, his hints on communication and strategies are very helpful.
I would like to conclude with the words of the apostle Paul:
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some (1 Cor 9:19-22.)
Let this attitude and the intensity of the apostolic thrust - "to win as many as possible...by all possible means" be ours too, so that we also "might save some."