Thursday, March 27, 2008

How People Become Christians

New link today from Evangelism UK to an interesting piece of research. It's based on a detailed questionnaire to 380-odd people who became Christians. An outline of the research can be found here, and Dave Bennett, the researcher, reaches this conclusion:

The most effective way of reaching people is through relationships, particularly through friendship. Training the individual in evangelism must start much further back than how to use gospel outlines or answer common asked questions. We need to start with matters such as relational skills, the art of conversation and the ability to listen.

Reminds me of a story of a well known evangelical church who were about to have a mission, then discovered that none of their members had any non-Christian friends to invite as they were all too involved in the church, so they cancelled it.

Unfortunately there is a theology of not listening, based on passages like the one in Isaiah about God's word going forth and achieving God's purposes. Somehow if you 'preach the gospel', whether people are interested or not, that's the only important thing, and the gospel itself works like magic to save people. That seems to be a very push-button caricature of what actually happens in the Bible, as real people encounter other real people and the gospel is constantly reworked on the basis of listening to people and their culture. Pauls speech in Athens is a prime example.

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