No, I am not doctrinally dyslexic, and yes, we do need to get people lost…before they can be saved that is. It was a common method among 19th century evangelists to do “preliminary legal work” with the listeners before they presented the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. This basically meant that they had to prove to people in a religious society that they were legally under judgment before they would recognize their true need for salvation.
Jesus did the same thing as He preached not only the letter of the law, but the heart of the law. The biggest crowd on the receiving end of this aspect of His message was the religious Pharisees who were the supposed keepers of the law. Jesus backed them into a corner where the only way out was repentance. However, Jesus did not have to be as intense with the reprobates of society: tax gatherers, prostitutes, drunkards, etc. Different standard? No. The reason was that they often knew that they were lost, and Jesus was a welcomed guest with the gospel of grace.
Jesus and the early American evangelists had one thing to help them that we do not often have today, and that thing is an acceptance of moral absolutes. The basis of these absolutes was the Word of God, which was even accepted by the worst among the lost. However, on the mission field and in post-Christian societies we have to rebuild the idea of absolutes before we can even begin to get to the salvation message. Otherwise it would be like rushing into a room, throwing a life preserver to a group of people and saying, “hold on to this for your life.” We would be perceived as idiots, but the value of that life preserver would become priceless if they saw a tsunami approaching through the window. Life boats on the Titanic were not valued that much either until the ship was going down.
Telling someone that their ship is going down is not fun, and it definitely will not make you popular. People like their ships, and they will defend their ships. Like Jesus with the Pharisees we have to even attack their ships, and some people will attack back.
There are many shortcuts for getting people into the “church”, but there is no shortcut to getting people into heaven. You have to get them lost to get them saved, no exceptions. I salute all my friends who are very creative in getting people in a post-modern culture quite lost and then getting them very saved. It is not easy when there are no accepted absolutes.