Updated 1pm (AEDT)
Sydney, Australia

The iconic Australian-authored Christian Gospel summary Two Ways To Live, that gives non-believers a succinct explanation of God’s desire for a relationship with them through the sacrifice of Jesus’s death and resurrection, has had a makeover.

Since its publication in the early 1980s, the brief “catechism” has reached a global audience, with about 4.2 to 4.3 million tracts distributed in English-speaking nations and another half a million elsewhere. It’s about to have its third edition published following a considered 18 month revision and redesign process.

Tony Payne and Phillip Jensen

'Two Ways to Live' authors Tony Payne and Phillip Jensen. PICTURE: Supplied.

Authors Phillip Jensen, the former Anglican Dean of Sydney who now leads Two Ways Ministries, and Tony Payne, chair of publisher Matthias Media, originally wrote the booklet as an outline for Christians to learn, so they could grasp the nature of the Gospel for themselves.

“Not only for their own benefit and the foundations of their own faith, but so that when they were discussing and wanting to share their faith with others, they had a clear sense in their head what the main Gospel message was,” Payne said.

“Asking a Christian person to explain in a nutshell what they believe, often results in a number of different concepts, but in terms of being able to explain clearly and concisely what the real nub of it is, our experience has always been we often need to clarify that.”

Several changes to modernise and update the text and graphics have been made, but the simple message of the Gospel remains the same, while the booklet assumes nothing about what the hearer knows about Christianity or the Bible.

Two Ways To Live conjures up different things for different people, but essentially, the heart of it has always been an outline, or summary of the New Testament (the Gospel) that then gets used in a whole bunch of different ways - in different resources and books and courses, and frameworks,” Payne said.

He believed Two Ways To Live had always given the resurrection its proper place and the new edition made that emphasis even stronger.

He recently wrote about what he felt was the most important change to the booklet: “Probably the most significant change is the shifting of the offer of forgiveness of sins from Box 4 (the atonement) to Box 5 (the resurrection). I think this is a genius move (and I wasn’t the one to think of it!), because it reinforces and strengthens the logic of the gospel.”

He said they had also gave a stronger focus on how people respond to God as Creator.

“We have added in some concepts about how it is we really should respond to God in honour, thanksgiving, because he is God the Creator.”

In an interview with Sight ahead of the new release, Payne described how Two Ways To Live seemed to fill a void at the time of its initial release.

“There was a gap there...in the 1980s, Australia was rapidly secularising. Biblical illiteracy was just widespread - it was the norm. If you came in and started trying to explain the Christian message using the jargon of the Bible and assuming the person you were talking to knew all about these concepts, you just couldn’t do that - you still can’t, even more so perhaps,” Payne said.

Two Ways to Live cover

In 1995, that message was fleshed out and published in the form of an evangelistic, give-away tract, complete with stylised simple graphics, which was revised in 2003.

“The outline itself, at the centre of it, that was originally written in the early 80s," Payne said. "The aim of this [2021] 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". Examples include the use of the words ‘ruler’ instead of ‘Lord’ and ‘rely’ instead of ‘faith’, and phrases such as ‘rejection of God’ instead of ‘sin’.

Two Ways To Live is a modern catechism or creed that’s really useful, especially for being able to share and articulate your faith with others when that opportunity arises. The overall aim is to summarise in the shortest, most memorable form possible, the key elements and logic of the New Testament gospel, along with any conceptual background needed to understand those key elements,” Payne said.

The latest changes include new graphics, and updated text “that further sharpens theological accuracy and that takes into account changing levels of general Biblical literacy, shifting world views, and cultural assumptions”.

The authors also have moved to the 2011 NIV translations for Bible passages, instead of the 1984 NIV.

Payne said the booklet’s simple drawings were an important part of the message. 

“The drawings nicely and simply represent the ideas. It’s something for people to take away with them and often helps to reinforce and gives them something to carry the message with them.”

They also helped explain the Gospel message to young kids.

“They have been an unexpectedly powerful and useful part of the whole thing,” he said.

Since its initial publication, Two Ways to Live has been translated into over 20 languages, including French, Spanish and Chinese, and has a version for children - Who will be king? - an evangelism training course, an evangelisitic Bible study, an evangelisitic course, a give-away of Luke’s Gospel, and an evangelisitic website.

The new version of Two Ways to Live will be released globally, along with a new website, on 1st November.