Evangelism in a Post-Christian Culture

By Micah Colbert. Reposted from Rooted Thinking.

Times Have Changed

I doubt that many of us need to be convinced that we are living in a post-Christian culture. When the waves of postmodernism crashed on the shores of our culture in the late 20th century, Biblical concepts that were accepted by society at large began to erode away. Judeo-Christian beliefs have been replaced with expressive individualism, the sexual revolution, and religious skepticism. Christians often find themselves feeling overwhelmed by the never-ending onslaught and dominance of anti-Christian philosophies. How can we reach people for Christ in such a brazenly godless society?

Needless to say, we can’t rely on “hit and run” gospel presentations for effective disciple-making ministry. Times have changed. We need to consider a different approach for engaging unbelievers with the good news of Jesus.

In my previous blog article, we looked at how to address peoples’ life stories with the hope of the gospel. This method of evangelism is an effective introduction to the good news of Christ, but it needs to be supplemented by further gospel conversations and deeper exposure to the truth. In other words, it needs to be followed up with evangelistic Bible studies.

Evangelistic Bible Studies

Definition: An evangelistic Bible study is a sequential, systematic approach to presenting the truths of the gospel through inductive studies of God’s Word.

Evangelistic Bible studies are designed to methodically present the redemptive truths of Scripture to people with little or no Christian background. They typically blend inductive Bible study questions with clear explanations so that readers can see and understand Biblical truth for themselves. Evangelistic studies help unbelievers explore essential redemptive truths about God the Creator, man the sinner, Jesus the Savior, and the need for repentance and faith.

Reasons for Evangelistic Bible Studies

1. God uses His Word to bring new life to spiritually dead sinners.

Carefully consider the following Scriptures:

Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Pet 1:23)

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom 10:17)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12)

The most powerful evangelistic tool we have at our disposal is not our illustrations, arguments, or persuasive abilities. It’s God’s Word. God’s Word is so powerful that it cuts right through the lies of worldly wisdom. It pierces through the most callous hearts, softens hard-hearted rebels, and saves the most unlikely sinners. Indeed, nothing can accomplish what God’s Word can do in the hearts of sinful men.

“But what if my unbelieving friend doesn’t believe that the Bible is the Word of God?” some might ask. Even if they don’t believe, encourage them to read it anyway. There is a divine, self-authenticating power about the Bible that can break through the skeptics most challenging questions and lead them to faith in Christ.

2. People need to be confronted with a higher authority than themselves.

The average person views their feelings as authoritative. If they feel that something is true, then it must be true. In contrast, Christians believe that the Bible is our final authority for faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16). Sadly, we often forget the authority of the Scriptures in our gospel conversations with unbelievers. Instead of opening the Bible so that people can be directly confronted with the truth of God’s Word, we tend to rely on our apologetical arguments or personal experiences when communicating gospel truth. As a result, people often dismiss the gospel as something that “works” for us but it not authoritative for them.

3. People don’t have a Biblical framework for understanding the key truths of the gospel.

We cannot assume that people today understand what we mean when we talk about God, sin, Christ, repentance, or faith. We must not only to teach the truth, but also expose error so that people don’t fall prey to the dangers of syncretism. Tearing down the strongholds of false ideologies and replacing them with truth takes time.

4. Peoples’ worldview and hopes don’t change overnight.

Repentance refers to a change of mind, heart, and worldview. Seldom does this change occur the first time a person hears the gospel. Generally speaking, this change takes a lot of time and repeated exposure to the truths of God’s Word. Evangelistic studies enable us to gradually teach redemptive truths so that people can come to a place where they can intelligently repent and believe.

5. Good news deserves a thorough explanation.

If we indeed believe that the gospel is the best news ever given, then we will gladly sacrifice whatever time is necessary in order to help others know, understand, and respond to the gospel.

Resources for Evangelistic Bible Studies

There are several solid resources that you could use to lead an evangelistic Bible study with an unbeliever. Christianity Explored and The Story of Hope are two that I would recommend. I’ve written an evangelistic Bible study handbook called “Discovering Hope: Exploring the Good News of Jesus Christ.” This resource is unique in that it covers the redemptive arch of God’s Word through eight inductive Bible study lessons. I’d be happy to email you a PDF copy of the book for free. Just email me at colberts@odbm.org and ask for a copy of “Discovering Hope.”

Micah is the discipleship and outreach pastor at Community of Grace Church in Buffalo, NY. He is also the author of two outreach books: Good News for All Nations and Discovering Hope. Micah enjoys reading, coffee, hearty conversations, and time spent with his wife and four children.

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There are 2 Comments

Bert Perry's picture

Now of course as soon as I say this, people will recount the stories of people who were in fact won effectively to Christ through cold calling/"hit and run" evangelism in the past, or for that matter even today, but I wonder if things have changed that much.  I seem to remember back in the 1980s where someone told me that they had statistics that indicated that the average convert had at least seven interactions before making a decision for Christ.

So we need to be persuaded, I think, and Micah's article is very welcome.  We might quibble over whether it's evangelistic Bible studies, or evangelistic coffee breaks at work, or what other method, but we really need to consider the reality that these things take time.  I might joke, being an amateur baker, that the "bread of life" is in effect a sourdough that needs a lot more time, but churches have been trying to act as though it's Wonder Bread, "juiced" with a ton of heat and sugar to eliminate the time and expense of letting it rise.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Josh S's picture

A couple years back, we restructured our church's outreach philosophy. We encouraged each member to prayerfully seek to win one person to Christ before their death. A simple goal, but something few of us have actually done. We also gave our people time slots during Sunday School and/or Prayer Meeting to do evangelistic/discipleship Bible studies. I cannot tell you how much God has used it has transformed our church culture. We're also seen God give us fruit in the form of eternal souls. This method allows us to build trust, work through issues, address the heart, and transition easily from evangelism to discipleship. 

But - it takes time and requires patience. We need to be willing to actually invest in particular unbelievers over the longhaul. 

Josh Stilwell, associate pastor,  Alathea Baptist Church, Des Moines, Iowa.

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