Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary
A Critical Review of Concentric Circles of Concern
Submitted to Mr. Mark Traeger
In Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements for the Course
Robert C. Stilwell, Jr.
Feb. 7, 2010
Oscar Thompson, the original author of Concentric Circles of Concern, was a pastor for twenty years before teaching personal evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also served as the president of the Oscar Thompson Evangelical Association. After being diagnosed with cancer, Thompson served as pastoral consultant of the Cancer Counseling and Research Foundation, as well as pastoral consultant and board member of the Trinity Valley Hospice Association, while ministering to those facing terminal illness. Upon his death in 1980, his wife, Carolyn, compiled the manuscript of the first edition of Concentric Circles. Thompson’s outstanding work in the area of evangelism continues to be recognized in the W. Oscar Thompson, Jr. Memorial Award in Evangelism, which is presented to an exceptional student in the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Claude King revised and updated Thompson’s original work by adding further discussion on seven stages of evangelism which Thompson taught in the original edition, as well as sections on personalizing each chapter and small group study activities. King, a discipleship training leader, has developed and written several curriculum resources for lay discipleship, co-authored Experiencing God, and serves as a consultant in the Office of Prayer and Spiritual Awakening for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Content Summary
In this revised edition of W. Oscar Thompson's classic book on evangelism, Thompson demonstrates the importance of using personal relationships to share the gospel of Christ, as well as the necessity of repairing and building personal relationships with others within one’s circle of influence. The over-arching theme of this work is the critical role of relationships, with God, self, and others, in bringing the gospel of Christ to the world and discipling new believers. Thompson stresses that right relationships are not only a blessing to the personal evangelist and discipler, i.e. the reader, but also to those within their circle of influence. He is so convinced of the significance of relationships in evangelizing and discipling that he goes so far as to state that, apart from proper nouns, the term ‘relationship’ is “the most important word in the English language,”even more important than ‘love’ (p. 8). In response to the claim of the superiority of the word ‘love,’ Thompson argues that relationship is the track upon which love rolls; love moves through a relationship, but what satisfies the deepest longing of human beings is relationship with others (p. 8). Therefore, he asserts, sharing the love of the gospel of Christ is dependent upon relationships as well. Based on this theme of creating, repairing, and maintaining right relationships, Thompson develops a seven stage approach to personal evangelism and discipling founded on a model which resembles the waves in a pool of water when struck by a raindrop, with each successive wave encircling the last; thus, Concentric Circles. Thompson places one’s self at the center of this model, followed by family, relatives, friends, neighbors and associates, acquaintances, and finally, strangers, which he labels as “Person X” (p. 20). He supports this model biblically by relating the story of Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well, who, after meeting Jesus, went into town an told others of Christ. Therefore, a ripple-effect of evangelism swept throughout the community because of one single testimony (pp. 18-19). King adds to this model by surrounding it with seven stages for making disciples: 1) Get right with God, self, and others; 2)...
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