In many of the neighbourhoods, towns and cities our churches are based in there is an increasing amount of skepticism toward the Gospel. While there continue to be healthy, growing churches in these areas, there is an acknowledgement that the tide of assumed familiarity with the church, the Bible and the Gospel message is receding broadly in these areas.
Two Advance UK churches, Grace London and Gateway Church (Poole), are rethinking their approach to evangelism. Each having sensed that courses and material which require a degree of curiosity from participants are ill-suited to people who are either apathetic or even hostile toward the church.
Richard Stamp, Gateway, notes that “You need to assume and address skepticism in the room when you preach”.
Richard continues, “Evangelistically speaking, the UK is hard ground. You have to convince people of the mere possibility of God before you can start engaging with them about his character and work. Our course is positioned way before people would be ready to engage with a course like Alpha.”
Jeremy Moses, Grace London, shares a similar perspective, “For us, it started with a conviction that most Londoners are not starting with a desire to explore the Christian faith, so we need to begin by engaging with the questions that they’re asking.”
Gateway Church tackles key objections to faith, including sessions on: Is it even possible that God exists? If so, why Suffering, Is God angry with you?, Why the need for Jesus? The course is six weeks long, finishing with an “unvarnished” presentation of the Gospel, where participants are asked to consider the message for a week and return with a personal response.
Grace London, now into its 7th cycle of their Salt Course, have identified what Jeremy describes as “six universal desires”, including: Meaning, Satisfaction, Morality, Hope, Truth and Peace. While there is a response moment in the final session, Jeremy explains “We aren’t building toward a single, intense response moment. Instead, we’re trying to spark spiritual hunger in our guests and help them begin a longer-term journey towards Christ.”.
Both Jeremy and Richard have found participants willing to continue meeting following the initial 6 weeks and have launched follow up segments which incidentally both focus on the person of Christ using stories and parables from the Bible.
During COVID-19 lockdown Grace and Gateway have both run their courses online, finding people willing to participate and engage on these thought provoking topics. “Running the course online has its benefits. We have reached people way out of our geographical area and many are more comfortable Zooming in than they might be visiting an unfamiliar venue in person”, says Richard.
Both Richard and Jeremy are quick to say that they are carefully charting a course through unfamiliar waters, tweaking content and approach through every cycle, and both are eager to connect with the wider movement to develop these programmes further. To that that end, if you are interested in joining the conversation, please leave your details here and Jeremy Moses will be in touch in due course.