The speaker at our camp was Randy Newman. He works for Campus Crusade for Christ in USA and is the author of Questioning Evangelism. (After hearing him speak I am interested to read his book, but as I haven’t read it myself yet I won’t recommend it or not just yet.)
He spoke on Acts 17:16-34, the passage where Paul is in Athens and speaks to the people there.
I really enjoyed the points Randy discussed. Two points in particular struck me and I thought I’d share them with you and the thoughts I had about them.
Firstly; are you distressed about the idolatry around you?
In Acts 17: it states that “while Paul was . . . in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” Idols in our culture are harder to see. We can’t walk down the street and see the temples dedicated to other gods.
Or can we? You can’t drive anywhere without running into a shopping centre where the idol of materialism and greed is worshipped.
There are bill boards everywhere with scantly clad men and women that glorify the idols of pleasure, self gratification, lust.
I see my friends only doing things that they want and spend their time on making themselves happy and I know that they are worshipping the idols of selfishness and pleasure.
So idols are around us all the time and I know that I am tempted to follow after them as well.
There are times when I am overwhelmed by sadness when I see people striving after things that are ultimately unfulfilling and that lead us away from God. But so often I am self-righteous in my anger. I think things like “Well, it’s obvious that they’re not Christian.” Or “If they would only copy me than they would not sin so much.” (ahem); self righteousness is a sin and an idol in itself
We should not let ourselves be desensitised to the idols around us. We need to be distressed when confronted by idols – not just mildly bother or a bit saddened. We should also be distressed by the idols in our own life. We should use that distress as a reminder and an urgent call to tell people about the saving knowledge of Christ.
Secondly; Are you able to relate to the people that you are trying to reach?
Paul does not start out by insulting the Athenians, instead he acknowledges that the men were religious people (v22) and then uses the Greeks own poets (popular culture) to back up his ideas (v 28).
Randy said that it is important to know the culture that surrounds the person you want to evangelise. Instead of quoting the poets of Greece, quote the poets of today – i.e. the songs and movies of popular culture. (many pop songs speak about a longing for fulfilment and a feeling like there should be more to life – we can use that as a starting point to point people to the giver and maker of life to the full) And to do that you need to know the songs and movies. Randy reminded us not to be emersed in the culture but to be aware of it.
This is where it gets tricky. How do you be aware of the culture without being emersed in it? I get easily distressed by violence, bad language and immorality. So I don’t watch the TV shows/movies, listen to the music or read the magazines that most girls my age do. Because of that I often find myself unable to have conversations with non-Christians. There are very few common interests that we share, our conversations are stilting and generally one of us has a blank look on our face. I think it is important for my spiritual growth that I don’t let myself become desensitise by sin in the world. But I am sick of spending my life feeling like a goody-goody who is spoiling other people’s fun. (Of course there are times when it is important to take a stand against sin and have nothing to do with it)
It is a hard balance to find, and something I have thought about before. It would be so much easier and almost a relief to just divorce myself from the world and disappear away with only other like minded Christians, but if I do that how do I reach out to non-Christians and tell them the gospel which they need so badly?
I guess it is that balance of being in the world but not of the world. Does anyone have any practical thoughts on how to do that?