Episode 2.6–Things Change

Jim Henderson, Todd Hunter, and Craig Spinks wrote a book called The Outsider Interviews which chronicles four “talk show” style interviews they held in four different cities with two insiders (Christians) and two outsiders (non-Christians).  In chapter three Todd Hunter talks about how things have changed in our culture and how the evangelism the church has been employing simply don’t work today.  I’d like to share some excerpts from that chapter.

“I’ve never had anybody say they want to save me and felt like they truly loved me.”  This sentiment captures some of what has changed over the past few decades.  That’s because answers and decisions as the first instincts of seekers have given way to relationship and acceptance.  That’s what Klarisa and the other outsiders were asking for in Kansas City–relationship.
All models and methods of evangelism spring forth from an era, a social condition.  When Billy Graham was at the height of his success, there was, in comparison to today, a low level of resentment between insiders and outsiders. […]
Picture and hear Billy giving an invitation:
“You may have gone to church when you were young…you may have been baptized…you may have been confirmed…but tonight you know you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ…and so I’m going to ask you to come…to make a decision…”
I’m not criticizing Billy Graham. […]  In fact, I am such a fan of Billy Graham that good friends of mine have often teased me that if I ever got fired from my job, I’d probably end up as the curator of the Graham Museum.  But did you catch that last word?  Museum. […]
He is so respected today that people have forgotten Billy Graham was a controversial risk taker as a young evangelist.  
Graham, reflecting on his early years, said, “We used every modern means to catch the attention of the unconverted.”
A number of years ago I was told by a professor of evangelism that the average person who came down to the field in a stadium to receive Christ had experienced four positive contacts with Christians or the church.  About fifteen years later, another professor said that the number had grown to sixteen positive contacts before a person responded.  Today, research from David Kinnaman shows that mass evangelism can often cause more negativity than positive reaction.
How do we explain this?  Simple, things change.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to join the conversation about how Christians can better understand and listen to our culture as we try to live out the gospel in a way that actually is good news to those who see and hear it.  Fortunately for us, though culture changes, our God does not and His invitation into relationship still is good news!

Henderson, Jim; Todd Hunter and Craig Spinks:  The Outsider Interviews: A New Generation Speaks Out on Christianity.  Grand Rapids, MI.  Baker Books, 2010.