Recently I had the privilege to share the gospel in various contexts. It gave me the opportunity to revisit how we do evangelism. More and more I am convinced we must start with questions and not the answers. Indeed, Jesus may be the answer but in our conversations with those outside the faith, we should be starting with the questions they grapple with. I think there are at least four things people struggle with.
First, there is the crying need for community. Loneliness is endemic in modern society. People are looking for genuine community. I believe the gospel must make clear that to follow Christ is also an invitation to be a part of a community where one experiences genuine love and care. Many who have come to Christ through programmes like Alpha share that the main thing that caught their attention was the care of their hosts and other followers they met in the Alpha meetings.
Second, is the need to find meaning in our daily work. For most people, work takes up the largest component of their lives. The world of work is in turmoil. On one hand are those who are unemployed. On the other are those who are walking dead because of the demand of their jobs. The Bible has clear teaching about work and vocation. As human beings we are tasked with caring for God’s world on His behalf and for that he needs all sorts of people doing different things. To follow Christ is also an invitation to discover one’s vocation. Indeed a key duty of the church is to help people discover and carry out their callings and to help them if they are between jobs. And one “job” we all have is to share the reality of God with others through word and deed. This brings us to the third issue that all human beings struggle with whether they realise it or not — the search for God.
Third, there is the human desire to connect with the divine. There are those who may postulate that the idea of God is merely a projection of human desires. Yet it is an idea that stubbornly refuses to go away. The progress of science and the ability to explain many things that were once inexplicable has not eliminated the idea of “god”. Indeed, it is now known that little children have an idea of “god” very young in life independent of what is taught or not taught to them by their families. We are all looking for God whether we realise it or not. The good news of the gospel is that God has come to look for us in the person of Jesus. He desires to have a relationship with us.
Finally there is the question of death. This is the one universal experience that we all have to face. Deep down we know we were created to live. Yet we all have to die. How do we find meaning in death? Is there a way to defeat this seemingly undefeatable enemy? When we follow Christ we follow someone who has conquered death and promises a life beyond the grave, a new heaven and a new earth where our deepest needs will be more than met:
- Our need for community;
- Our need to co-labour with God in meaningful labour;
- Our need for communion with the divine who we now know as our loving Father.
At some point we also need to share that the Christian faith is not just a collection of ideas and propositional truths. It has a historical base — the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When and where necessary, we can share the evidence for the resurrection, that we believe that the gospel is true because Christ gave a unique sign for a unique claim. He died and rose again. I suspect that for many, our starting point would not be the rational one — proving the resurrection through history and logic. For many I think we need to start with the questions they are struggling with — the need for love, the need to find meaning in their daily work, their quest for the divine, and the question of death.
The demands of the gospel remain the same: repent and place your faith in Christ, the God who came to us in the historical person of Jesus Christ. Christ is the answer. But in our conversations with those we are trying to reach for Christ, we should begin with their questions.
*Stock image courtesy of Pansa, FreeDigitalPhotos.net