Saturday, April 25, 2015

Evangelism as it has become

If I had a theological or religious studies degree, I'd offer courses at local 'evening colleges' (if you're not familiar with these, they are operated in high school premises by independent community college organisations), with some theme such as 'ancient religious texts' or 'the real story of the Bible' etc.

I'd not think that there would be a big turn out, but it could be surprising.

A friend and I spent some years joining 'new age' groups that advertised in local newspapers; we went along to ask difficult questions, but also to find out what they believed, or espoused. It was very interesting, and sometimes lead to conversations with others afterwards. In the aggregate, the number of people involved in such groups would be quite large across a city like Sydney.

We decided to extend this activity to a major 'new age' festival called the Mind Body Spirit Festival where we operated a stand for several years in the late 90s. We probably spoke to hundreds of people who would not have been touched by the gospel in any other setting and distributed a ton of material that we had written. If you went to this 'festival' and came across a stand called Bereshith, that was us.

Our greatest challenge was to 're-package' the gospel in terms that would be palatable to 'new agers'; much like Paul's efforts in the Areopagus. Of course, we'd had no contact with such an approach in our various churches, where language is firmly locked into a churchy world and is unhelpful for those outside it.

Our approach was to talk about the personal universe, using motifs drawn from 'creation' (i.e. Genesis 1 starts with the personal -- God who is there and who speaks -- and not the material). It was a very effective way of engaging people who would be repelled by a typical 'two ways to live' approach and and to whom the preoccupations of conventional Christian proclamation were alien.

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