In the short run, we will win by mobilizing the people on our side and demoralizing the people on their side. And what will convince people in the long run to switch sides is not reasoned arguments, but positive changes to their lives. Those of us who have switched from being conservative to liberal, for instance, didn’t likely do so because we read a pamphlet and decided abstractly that our beliefs were wrong. We changed our views because our lives changed, because the communities formed by conservatism were no longer working for us and more progressive settings were. That is the way it is and should be — no one should make a major change to their deep convictions because of a mere argument. So if we want to convince people, for example, that the government can provide certain important goods better than for-profit companies, we need to take power and make that the case, so that people can live out that fact and see for themselves. [bold added for emphasis]It's easy to ignore these facts. The power of the gospel was not in merely providing true arguments. There's a place for that, certainly, but it's not the hinge upon which people move. There has to be some perceived and tangible good that one receives in shifting from one side to another. The Gospel is not just intellectually graspable content; it is not just knowledge. Rather, faith in Christ is a pattern of how one lives one's life. I'm not denying grace here, but grace should not be understood as some sort of spooky and invisible process. God intervenes to gather up His elect in ways that can be seen, but of course only through the eyes of faith. Jesus Christ's disciples saw men healed and praised God, while Pharisee opponents accused the Lord of demonic possession. But the presence of grace was something someone could grasp. It was restored vision, healed ligaments, even life from the dead. It was also forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and wisdom.
When I had a period of detachment from Reformed theology, I was frustrated with Evangelicalism's Four Spiritual Laws but was at a loss as to what to replace them with. How was I going to present the gospel to someone who wanted to know? While I'm more comfortable with certain aspects of a moderate Calvinism (for lack of a better category), I've since realized that my concern was way off. The early Church did not need Bill Bright's mutilated and mutant covenant theology to make converts. However, the Four Spiritual Laws were doing something right, namely offering people something.
I think Reformed theology, especially in a godly preacher like St. Richard Sibbes, has done well to emphasize the free-offer of grace in evangelism. For those with weary consciences, ones who are broken through failure and abjectness, the gospel offers reprieve. Reformed theology at its best tore down tyrants from their haughty thrones, and made them aware that God's wrath burned against them for their oppression and wickedness. It also collected up the weak and beggarly and made hope known. There was a way to salvation through the Word of God who took on flesh and offered Himself on the cross as a propitiation for sins. Forgiveness is on offer.
Of course, I also appreciate the general Patristic emphasis on the gospel as the true way of life. Women and slaves, the lowest of Roman society, humiliated the philosophers, perfecting what many of them could only dream of. They scorned mortality and earthly goods with an unquenchable courage. St. Irenaeus could say that martyrdom was the moment in which a Christian fully achieves Humanity; St. Ignatius could turn his own death into a duel to the death with the devil. The holy martyrs Felicity and Perpetua made the great Roman men look like bashful schoolchildren in their indomitable faith in the Lord of Glory. The premise of philosophy was not just knowledge content, but a way of life which achieved Human flourishing. In the hands of an able scholar like Origen, the gospel outshone every pagan philosophy. It was not only righteousness now, but righteousness eternal forever. In his apologetic Against Celsus, Origen makes it clear that people convert to Christ because of how the Christians live.
And besides the Patristic and Reformed emphases, there are more common benefits. Christ told the Apostles that all those who left their own to follow Him would be restored with families and households a thousandfold in this age. Christ is not referring to paradise, but the church's unity and the brotherly care for one another. This fact comes and goes, and is more prevalent in some areas than others. But it is clear that the truth of the gospel should be manifest among Christians who share earthly goods with one another, supporting each other in their livelihood. No Christian among other Christians should starve while the others feast. St. Paul condemns such behavior, as it was manifest in the Lord's Supper of all places. Material succor should be an attraction to the faith, even as it always points beyond itself. The error with Prosperity Theology is that material benefits become goods in and of themselves, rather than Christ's miraculous feeding which points to bread that won't corrupt.
I've avoided talking about the more unusual benefits, such as divine healings, tongues, and other such things. I do believe that such things still occur, but not in such a way that many Charismatics do. But even if such things don't occur, there are others goods that preaching the gospel ought to bring to bear. If we miss out on the fact that Christ's saving work has tangible effects in the here and now, we're going to do our evangelizing efforts a disservice. Of course the Lord Jesus will gather up His flock no matter what we do, but He will do so through finding those willing to learn from Him and do as He teaches in Scripture.