Growing up in a small town in Malaysia, Christynn Sim called herself a Christian – despite not understanding what Jesus had done for her. It wasn’t until someone used Two Ways to Live to explain the gospel that things fell into place.
“I knew that I knew Jesus, but I didn’t know why I called him God,” Miss Sim says. “When I was younger my life was studying. I wanted to get a scholarship to study overseas. I put academic studies [as a priority]. My life was study, take a nap, then study.
“I went to church once a year but didn’t know who Jesus was. I didn’t understand why people sing and dance happily because I didn’t understand what they were teaching.”
Her attempts to read the Bible for herself were met with frustration, as the only Bible she had was a King James Version, which was difficult to understand. In late high school, a friend challenged her about why she called herself a Chrisitan.
“That’s where Two Ways to Live came in,” Miss Sim recalls. “She asked me if I wanted to read the Bible… I finally understood. A lot of Chinese believe that we are born good and innocent and pure. The second box of Two Ways to Live [about rebellion] was helpful – it changed my mindset. That’s when I finally understood why Jesus had to die for us. It’s not me who accepts Christ, but Christ who accepts me.”
Fresh look for a timeless message
Since 1978, people have used the popular gospel outline Two Ways to Live to explain the good news of Jesus to friends, family, colleagues, students, parishioners and strangers on the street. It is almost impossible to determine the number of people impacted by the presentation, put together by the Rev Dr Tony Payne and the Rev Phillip Jensen, but publisher Matthias Media has sold more than 2.5 million copies since 1998.
Last month a major update was launched – refreshing the text, Bible verses and design without changing the core message of the gospel.
Dr Payne says, “The aim of this revision has been to sharpen and improve the summary wherever possible – while resisting the urge to add more and more good ideas in – since the overall goal is to have a simple, memorable summary, not a complete systematic theology.
“The language used seeks to employ as little Christian jargon as possible. That is, it aims to convey the ideas in everyday contemporary language that a 21st century Western person could easily comprehend [for example, ‘ruler’ instead of ‘Lord’, ‘rejection of God’ instead of ‘sin’ and ‘rely’ instead of ‘faith’].”
Updating the English version of the tract is just the beginning. Two Ways to Live has been translated into more than 20 languages, but there is also a version for children (Who Will Be King?), an evangelism training course, an evangelistic Bible study, an evangelistic course, a giveaway of Luke’s gospel and an evangelistic website. The rollout of other languages is already underway, with the updated tract in Chinese and Spanish set to print in early 2022.
A message to pass on
Since coming to Christ at 17, Miss Sim has studied abroad and has just finished a degree in accounting and commerce at the University of Auckland. She serves in her church follow-up team and frequently does walk-up evangelism at her university campus, where she regularly uses Two Ways to Live.
She doesn’t always sketch the six boxes in her conversations, but she knows she can if she ever needs to. “If that person is interested in hearing everything [about the gospel], I’ll pull out pen and paper,” she says.
Although striking up conversations with strangers isn’t in Miss Sim’s comfort zone, she perseveres for the sake of others. She hopes to see more people come to understand what Jesus has done for them, just as she did.
“I’ve been finding [Two Ways to Live] helpful in terms of sharing the gospel, so I won’t forget things like the resurrection or [asking for] responses as well,” she says. “I’ve found it helpful in terms of not using jargon and explaining [the gospel] to people. If I don’t have the framework in mind, I could just have a social chat.”