Evangelism in a Skeptical World by Sam Chan
Have you ever found yourself sharing the good news of Jesus with a friend, when you’ve paused for a moment and thought - this seems completely unrealistic? Sam Chan addresses this exact thing in his new book “Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus More Believable”. He writes, “We have programmed plausibility structures that lead us to judge whether a story is believable or unbelievable.” (p.41). These ‘plausibility’ structures are formed, according to Chan, through community, experience and facts, evidence and data.
How do plausibility structures then affect our evangelism? Chan says, “People will find a story more believable if more people in their community, their trusted friends and family, also believe the story” (p.43). So, he then outlines how we can develop relationships that foster community- mixing of Christian and non-Christian friends, going to a range of events, telling people our story about the difference Jesus makes. He also encourages us to invite our non-Christian friends into our Christian spaces - church, Christian gatherings, dinner parties; so that relationships with the larger church body can be fostered.
Our skeptical world though, is also a post-modern world. Gone are the days when you can have your ‘truth’ and we can agree to disagree with someone’s ideas. Nowadays, the postmodern world says tolerance of all ideas is the highest moral standard. As Chan puts it, “The only thing we should not tolerate as postmodern people is intolerance.” (p.112). Postmodernist culture also says that all religions are valid and essentially the same, however they vary based on where you were born and your religious culture (Chan, 2018). These two factors then come into stark contrast with the Bible and Christianity. As Christians, we follow Jesus who claimed to be the ONLY way, the ONLY truth, the ONLY life (John 14:6). This truth claim confronts postmodern ideas, where there is no absolute truth, but rather everyone’s own subjective truth.
As we share Jesus then, it becomes increasingly important that we authentically live out Jesus: “While the gospel is something we speak, words that communicate God’s truth, there is also a sense in which we ourselves are a component of how the message is communicated. … Our message is embodied. It doesn’t come in a vacuum. It comes in the context of shared lives and trusted friendships.” (Chan, p.116). Opening our homes through hospitality is an important way of showing this authenticity, which as Chan argues is one of the few spaces people are more likely comfortable enough to talk about issues of belief and religion. He says, “most people are uncomfortable sharing private matters of values and worldviews… in public places. But in the private spaces of our homes, around food, our friends are more likely to talk about matters related to religion, especially if we show them it is safe to do so.” (Chan, p.117).
I was chatting with a friend today and we agreed that any book that helps us think more about the process of evangelism and encourages us to share Jesus with greater confidence and greater thought is a good thing! Sam Chan’s book is full of practical advice, with strong theological thought as its foundation. Chan has clearly thought on a very philosophical, analytical and theological level about how we are to share the good news of Jesus and he readily shares his study with us. “Evanglism in a Skeptical World” is a book I would recommend for anyone seeking to deepen their understanding of evangelism and become better equipped to authentically live out their lives in light of our gospel mandate to share the good news with the world around us.
Meet Emily Cobb
Emily lives with her husband David and three young children on the North Coast of NSW. She loves to write and reflect on who God is at her blog www.PursuitsofGod.com and aims to encourage other women to think theologically. In her spare time, she loves to explore her local area with her family and a picnic, pick up a creative project, or enjoy a nice cup of tea while reading a book. Emily is the author of Made for More (Matthias Media).