Christian Philosophy Lite: Make gospel plain, attractive
By Raymond SmithDay by day, the world around us is changing - much of it for the worse. The area of religious belief is no exception. While the world population is increasing, the church in Europe and America is in decline. Religious pollster George Barna has a lot to say about the state of that church today: (go to barna.org) Less than 5 percent of Christians in a typical church are personally involved in evangelism. A typical church spends less than 2 percent of its budget on local evangelism although 85 percent of churches have evangelism in their mission statement.
What has worked in the past may not work well today. Our young people are dancing to a different tune. The gospel itself is quite simple, and for some, that simplicity is attractive. Others are put off by something so simple and want a detailed argument. Others, who perhaps came out of a worldly or dysfunctional family have a built-up resistance and question the kind of God we serve.
Experience seems to indicate that most conversions are experienced outside the church by lay persons. This probably indicates that evangelism is best done one-on-one in an atmosphere of seriousness and trust. A friend of mine recently participated as a leader in a Catholic ACTS retreat. This was a time for renewal, introspection, instruction, evangelization and fellowship. The occasion was the Stevenson prison in Cuero where the men were ready to get serious. What a great way to do evangelization - in a small group where trust, confidentially and honesty exist. While evangelization can be effective from the pulpit, there's no substitute for the warm personal touch. Both The Walk to Emmaus and ACTS retreats are open to members of all faiths. I have been on both and heartily recommend them.
It is important that we have the whole plan of salvation well thought out in our mind and present it in a way that is attractive. The best evangelism is by way of personal testimony rather than a four-step outline. Serving in the community is an opportunity to spread the gospel.
One who does personal evangelism should be aware of the problems and arguments the unbeliever may put forth. It is helpful, as Jesus did, to ask questions of the prospect to see what he believes. The most effective evangelism is "friendship evangelism," in which the witness befriends the prospect before broadsiding him with the gospel.
To strike conviction in the heart of the prospect, one must have a conviction of his own. Also, one must expect occasional failure; we are not perfect - we just need to do the best we can.
Marcus Bach, former professor of the School of Religion at the State University of Iowa. writes, "My research has proved that no other religion has as complete a revelation of God as has Christianity. No other faith offers men what we find in Jesus Christ - the Way, the Truth and the Life."
If we have found this treasure, shouldn't we want to share it?
Raymond F. Smith is president of Strong Families of Victoria.