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Evangelism Explosion (EE), one of the world's most widely used methods of church-based outreach, is changing its approach to emphasize relationship-building and discipling new believers.

Minister D. James Kennedy's program has grown from a local ministry of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale 35 years ago to a venture that has been implemented in more than 200 countries. EE is based on two diagnostic questions designed to assess the spiritual position of prospects.

But three-and-a-half decades after EE's launch, some pastors and church leaders are asking whether the program and its personal evangelism methods need to be revised significantly.

"We want to make sure that we go into the twenty-first century with a ministry that is as well-tooled as possible to meet the challenges," says the 66-year-old Kennedy, who remains EE's president.

TOO CONFRONTATIONAL? Results of an EE-commissioned study released in January showed that more than half of those churches not using ee called the method "confrontational evangelism." Many of these pastors cited doubts about ee's "relevancy to meet the needs of today's people" and a perception that EE was "weak" relationally.

"The questions people are asking today are very different," acknowledges EE executive vice president Tom Stebbins. "Even the objections they are raising are different. Back then it was, Is the Bible true? Today it's, Is there a God after all? Is there really life after death? …

"The same gospel meets the needs of lots of different people," Stebbins says. "However, we need to tailor and customize it in a package that will meet people's needs."

Six recommendations emerged from churches in the EE survey: simplify and shorten the program; allow for more flexibility ...

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March 3, 1997

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