Evangelism in a Skeptical World by Sam Chan
In Women’s Ministry at my church, we are currently planning our evangelistic women’s Christmas event. After reading Evangelism in a Skeptical World by Sam Chan, thoughts of how can we connect with our culture and share Jesus are forefront in my mind. So, we know that we need to be authentic, we need to be building relationships and not relying on ‘events’, yet bringing a non-Christian friend to a Church event could be an important step in helping them meet more Christians and hear and meet Jesus. If that is the case, then how do we go about planning a talk or event like this?
Most of us are aware that a key way of ruining authenticity is by co-vertly delivering the ‘evanglistic talk’. Titled, ‘bait and switch’ by Chan, it is inviting non-Christians into our churches for a particular reason, for example building a Gingerbread House, and then “surprise- you get a Bible talk instead.” (Chan, p.187). We want to avoid this, by being open and honest about the fact there will be a talk; yet we want the talk to be relevant to the culture while sharing Jesus.
As Chan says, “Many Christians are comfortable using a Bible passage to tell the story of Jesus. But often we’re in situations where we can’t just make the jump to Jesus from the current conversation. We want to naturally and smoothly move from an extrabiblical topic to the story of Jesus.” (pp.187-188). In Chapters 8 and 9, Chan addresses this very thing through encouraging us to think carefully about how we give evangelistic topical talks and how we give evangelistic expository talks.
In these two chapters, Chan unpacks and suggests ways of practically engaging the culture through thinking about your audience and your context.
For a Topical Evangelistic Talk, Chan suggests four steps in preparing your talk.
Step 1: Move from the Topic to a Big Idea; “For the sake of clear communication, all talks should have a single, coherent, unified “big idea.” (Chan, p.195) This may be Christmas, or Pleasure or Success for example.
Step 2: Outline a Bird’s-Eye View of the Talk. In this step, working out an overarching structure or outline of the talk is a great way to go. It may be the usual introduction, body, bridge, conclusion. Chan then suggests how to break these sections up into manageable writing pieces.
Step 3: Explore the Logical Sequence of Ideas in the Body of the Talk. In this step, Chan encourages us to create a connection with the audience (resonance), point out a deficiency in their worldview (dissonance), and then link to the Gospel as the fulfillment of this lack.
Step 4: Flesh Out the Body of the Talk. Now that you have the structure of your talk and the logical sequence of ideas, Chan suggests you ‘flesh out’ the ideas and play with how you can communicate it.
For an Evangelistic Expository Talk, Chan suggests structurally, we stay with the Introduction, Body, Bridge and Conclusion. This is similar to the topical message. The main difference however it that in an expository message, you are trying to combine the world of the biblical text with the world of the hearer. While topical talks should eventually “communicate a biblical truth…the main difference between so-called topical and so-called expository preaching is the proportion and sequencing of the elements.” (Chan, p.214). For a Christian audience, a shorter introduction allows for a Bible passage to be more fully unpacked; for a non-Christian audience, a longer introduction may work better in creating the relational connection between the speaker and their audience.
In an Expository Evangelistic Talk, Chan suggests you look at four ‘big ideas’.
1. The Exegetical Big Idea- essentially answering the question, “what is the biblical author saying?” (Chan, p.216)
2. The Theological Big Idea- where we answer, “What timeless truth is the biblical author saying?” (Chan, p.217)
3. The Homiletical Big Idea- which answers the question, “What is the talk saying?” (Chan, p.217)
4. Bumper Sticker Big Idea- here, you answer the question, “What do I want the audience to remember?” (Chan, p.218)
As you can see from these points, Chan becomes extremely practical in the second half of his book, writing in an almost text-book like manner. He carefully unpacks his thoughts on how to approach evangelistic talks, and provides clear models and examples on how to do this well. Chan also provides suggestions on Biblical passages to use at different events; topics that could be helpful and ways you may think through the how of connecting with your audience who live in the context of a skeptical world.
Evangelism in a Skeptical World by Sam Chan is a book I would recommend for anyone seeking to think more deeply about the way they share Jesus with the world around them. It is full of strong theological foundation, gives practical suggestions and examples and encourages us all to step out in building relationships where we can authentically share Jesus with a world deeply in need of Him.
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).