How is this done?  Personally, I think we need to go from a church-maintenance mindset (how can we get more people like us?) to a church-planting mindset (how can I show people they need this?).   Tim Keller, after almost bashing canned presentations, says we need to come up with a new presentation – one with process.  He likes what the Alpha program has for process if not doctrine.  To me this is an interesting challenge – come up with a presentation of the gospel that can attractively grab people’s attention and show the worth of the Gospel.  Frankly, there are a lot of good presentations out there.  But I think they assume one thing too often – that people have a fairly positive view of Christianity and its implications.  A secondary thing might be that people aren’t asking, “how can I be saved?”  As much as “how can I trust this?” Tim Keller refers to “defeaters” at this point – those common beliefs present in the culture which automatically make the Gospel not make sense.  Evolution is a one of these.  I think some greater defeaters though involve how people think about religion – is it a way for everybody to just all get along?   We need common sense (story-telling?) ways of showing that these “defeaters” don’t work or don’t match truth.  One of the important ways of thinking about this is found in presuppositional apologetics of which Francis Schaeffer was very adept – forcing people to look at the logic of their position.  For instance, only the Gospel has all the keys to help people get along even in conflict.  But can you illustrate that in a clear way as compared to say Hinduism or Islam? We need to do some hard work at revitalizing our illustrations to work past people’s assumptions – much like Leslie Newbiggin’s illustration of the blind men with the elephant.  This is one area I intend to do some work on over the next year.

This goes to the second part of how to get this done.   We will never know what to illustrate and how effective those illustrations might be if we do not spend time with unbelieving people.  Jim Peterson lays out a good strategy for getting to know people, inviting them into a Bible study, and how to use the Bible as its own authority.  He even gives you a bible study of the book of John to use.  He also shows that we need to build bridges to get the Gospel across.  The interesting difference is that we should be building bridges for the Gospel not just to make us look like “nice people.”  Too often I think that’s the bridge we build.  Talking about the goals people have and the difficulties attending those goals will often bring up opportunities to show the beauty of the Gospel.  Jim talks about the mini-decisions unbelievers need to make in order to accept the Gospel – in other words the process they go through, especially when not operating under any authority but themselves.  Another book which is helpful here is The Church Unleashed by Frank Tillapaugh.  The hardest part in my opinion looking at my current context is getting people to realize the necessity of “breathing” the Gospel and slow down long enough on the out-of-control freight train of their own agenda to notice and talk to people. This can only be effectively dealt with as we as pastors challenge people to see beyond their current lives and see the joy of serving and loving the unlovely.  They will only see this as we model it and as we give ourselves to prayer that they might see it.  Until we do that, we will not be effective with this generation.