Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tailoring Our Message

I'm continuing to read Conrad Gempf's delightful book MEALTIME HABITS OF THE MESSIAH. He's very simple in his presentation of familiar stories, but something about the way he presents his argument is so penatrating that it leaves me pondering things all day long.

In today's reading, Conrad talked about how Jesus healed people in various ways -- sometimes of the same malady. He healed some people with a word, others with a touch, others with mud had made from his own saliva. He rarely healed the same way twice.

We tend to want a more standardized approach. Tell me how to heal blindness, and I'll do the same thing every time. Jesus preferred to tailor his healings to suit the person.

Likewise, we want a standardized approach to evangelism. Give me a script for how to deal with a non-Christian, and I will follow that script in every conversation I have. The Bible has a decidedly different approach.

Mars Hill -- in Athens -- was obsessed with rhetoric and clever ideas. So, that's how the Apostle Paul approached them with the gospel. Ephesus, on the other hand, was obsessed with magic and power. So, the Apostle Paul delivered the gospel to them in the midst of a flurry of signs and wonders.

In other words, the message of the gospel was delivered in different ways depending on the audience. No pre-packaged, ready-made, one-size-fits-all script to follow. It required listening to and learning from the people with whom you wanted to communicate.

That has implications, doesn't it?

If we are going to present the gospel to our society, what are its obsessions? If Athens' were rhetoric and clever ideas and Ephesus' were magic and power, what are contemporary America's? And how do we use those as bridges to present the gospel?