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Chess, Not Checkers: Part 3

Continuing our series on the "Text-Driven Soul-Winner" and the analogy of chess, we'll observe the objectives in each phase of the evangelism encounter and how the moves and methods accomplish those objectives this week. Last week, the general outline of an evangelism encounter was given. This week, the basic "gameplay" will be described, and then the outline given last week will be filled in with the objectives and goals of the Text-Driven Soul-Winner and how to evaluate moves and methods in each phase. The Text-Driven Soul-Winner must be strategic in each phase of the "chess game" of evangelism.


The Gameplay: Book Moves, Offense, and Defense

The moves made in chess are divided into three categories: book moves, offensive moves, and defensive moves. In chess, book moves are moves made during the opening, which are basic moves a chess player would learn from a chess book. Offensive moves, then, are moves that a chess player makes that either attack his opponent's pieces or set up tactics that can be used later. Then, defensive moves are moves that a chess player makes either to actively defend his pieces or preemptively defend his pieces.


"Moves" in evangelism can be divided similarly. Book moves are the basic openings used in an evangelism encounter. An offensive move, then, is when the soul-winner says anything that would either remind the evangelized of his sinfulness and the availability of salvation, answer an objection of the evangelized, or set up for doing either of those later in the conversation. Then, a defensive move is when the soul-winner says anything that defends either the veracity of the gospel specifically, the foundational truths the gospel is built on, or the truths of Scripture generically. A collection of "moves" is then a "method." The Text-Driven Soul Winner will use all three of these types of "moves" and will combine "moves" to use strategic "methods." He will say certain things and use certain methods that will offensively move the evangelized closer to deciding on receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. He will also say certain things and use certain methods that will defensively prevent the evangelized from attacking the foundation of the gospel.



Next week, moves and methods will be suggested, but knowing how to evaluate opening moves and methods is important. Commonly called "knocks" or "transition questions," the moves and methods used in the opening should succeed at achieving the presented objectives. The "moves" in the opening are primarily book moves as these "moves" are setting up the rest of the "chess game" of evangelism.


As defined last week, the opening phase is the entrance into a gospel conversation. This phase gives a simple primary objective: start talking about the gospel. When the soul-winner approaches someone to have a gospel conversation with, his goal must be to enter into a gospel conversation, not merely have a conversation with an unsaved person. A good opening in chess starts the game and entices an opponent to want to play the game. Similarly, with this objective in mind, good opening moves and methods in evangelism should lead to the soul-winner being able to share the gospel and the evangelized responding and discussing the gospel. In contrast, bad opening moves and methods shut down a conversation and fail to lead to the gospel being shared.


After the primary objective, the secondary objective is to discover the evangelized experience with Christianity and why he's not a Christian. The opening should discover if the evangelized has ever heard the gospel. If the evangelized has heard the gospel before, then the soul-winner wants to learn why the evangelized rejected the gospel before. The soul-winner also wants to discover if the evangelized claims to be a former Christian. Knowing the evangelized experience with Christianity and the gospel will help set up a good middlegame. A good opening in chess reveals what kind of opponent a chess player is playing. Good opening moves and evangelism methods should reveal what kind of "player" the evangelized is. Bad moves and methods leave the evangelized unknown.


The soul-winner’s last objective in the opening is to set up a good middlegame that proclaims the gospel and answers objections. A good opening in chess sets up the middlegame. Likewise, good opening moves and evangelism methods should create the foundation for a good middlegame. Bad moves and methods don't set up the middlegame.



As defined last week, the middlegame is where the gospel conversation happens. The moves and methods made in the middlegame are both offensive and defensive. The middlegame will also be conversational, so the concept of moves and methods shouldn't be thought of as rigid systems but as overarching guidance.

The primary objective of the middlegame is to make clear the necessity of salvation and the availability of salvation. The soul-winner during the middlegame must always pull the conversation back to the reality that the evangelized is a sinner and that Christ has made an atonement for the evangelized sins. In chess, good moves and methods used in the middlegame will own "the center," which is the four middle spaces of the chess board. In evangelism, good offensive moves and methods will own "the center," which is the necessity and availability of salvation. If a move or method distracts from "the center" and attempts to convince the evangelized of something different, it is a bad move or method. The soul-winner may be right about the issue, but if it distracts from the necessity and availability of salvation, it's a bad move or method.


The secondary objective, then, is to defeat the objections of the evangelized. The soul-winner must address the objections made by the evangelized strategically and wisely. In the middlegame of chess, a chess player makes moves based on what his opponent does, sometimes taking the piece, sometimes moving to avoid losing a piece, or trading pieces. In the middlegame of evangelism, the soul-winner does similarly. The evangelized will bring up a variety of different types of objections to the gospel. Some of those objections will be intellectual, emotional, volitional, among other possible types of objections. The soul-winner will either answer the objection directly, strategically avoid the objection, or "trade pieces" and let the objection stand in order to make an offensive move to accomplish another objective. These three options will be unpacked more next week, but the moves or methods used to answer these objections should seek more than just to be right but rather to remove the excuses the evangelized has for rejecting the gospel. Bad moves and methods, in this objective, are when objections are allowed to derail the conversation from the primary objective, when objections are avoided not strategically, or when objections are allowed to solidify in the evangelized.


The last objective is to protect the foundational truths of the gospel. The soul-winner must defend the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, as well as His divinity, perfection, and virgin birth. In chess, a chess player will protect pieces so that his opponent cannot win important pieces. The soul-winner must do the same. There are certain objections to the gospel that the evangelized will bring up that must be fiercely defended because, without these truths, there is no gospel. Good moves and methods in this objective solidify the absolute necessities of the gospel and prevent doubt about these foundational truths to be created in the evangelized.



As defined in last week's article, the endgame starts after the soul-winner asks the question, "Do you want to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior," and the response from the evangelized is "Yes." The endgame primarily uses offensive moves, as these are the last moves to lead someone to receive Christ as Savior and confess Him as Lord.


The first objective in the endgame is to lead the evangelized to have a complete understanding of their need for and to have a desire for Jesus as Savior. In chess, this could be called “Mate in 3.” In the last few moves of the game, a chess player moves in such a way as to "corner" the king in a place where checkmate can occur. In evangelism, the purpose of discussing Jesus as Savior is to ensure that the evangelized, who has claimed he wants to be saved, understands that Jesus is not the Savior of sin generically but is the Savior of his sin specifically. Good moves and evangelism methods will lead, but not coerce, the evangelized to confirm that he believes he must be saved from his sins and that he desires Jesus to save him.


The second objective, equally important as the first, is to lead the evangelized to understand he is submitting to the Lordship of Christ to receive the forgiveness of sins. This objective could be called “Mate in 2.” The soul-winner must explain, as Dr. Gray Allison has said, that “for Jesus to be the evangelized Savior, Jesus first must be his Lord.” The soul-winner must explain that Jesus will have all authority over the evangelized for the rest of his life. Jesus will convict, discipline, and change those who submit to His Lordship. Good moves and methods will lead, but not coerce, the evangelized to submit to the complete Lordship of Christ with no reservations.


The last objective is dependent upon the first two objectives. If the evangelized knows his needs for Jesus as Savior, desires Jesus to be his Savior, and is willing to submit completely to the Lordship of Christ, then the soul-winner should lead the evangelized to confess Jesus as Lord, repent of his sins, and place his faith and belief in the gospel. This objective is checkmate. Good moves and methods lead the evangelized to all three aspects. Confessing Jesus as Lord, repenting of sins, and faith and belief in the gospel are all necessary components of receiving Jesus as Savior and submitting to Jesus as Lord.



The objectives given in each phase are the standard to evaluate every move and method. Asking "Does this accomplish this objective?" will determine if a move or method should be used. Next week, moves and evangelism methods will be suggested and evaluated, and each will be evaluated based on these objectives. Some moves and methods won't be evaluated in next week's article, but the standard for any evangelistic method a soul-winner may learn should be evaluated according to these objectives.

Article written by Klayton Carson

The "What is the Bible" series is also on the Text-Driven Podcast. You can listen to the Text-Driven Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or at


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