Last week in this blog we talked a little bit about Paul and how he shared Jesus boldly and without hindrance. But he also did so in a way that enabled him to connect to different people with varying backgrounds. I believe part of what made Paul one of the greatest and most effective evangelists of all time was his ability to understand culture.
We see in the book of Acts that Paul traveled from city to city to share Jesus as broadly as he could and to establish as many churches as possible. In each city or region, he would get a sense of the culture and then share in a way that fit that culture. One great example is found in Acts 17 when he visited Athens.
In Athens he discovered a culture that was spiritually pluralistic. In other words, some worshiped one god, some another, some none at all. As he wandered through the city, he saw many different temples and idols. He even came upon an altar inscribed "To an Unknown God." Apparently, they wanted to be sure they had covered all their bases. Athens was also a city know for it's endless discussion and debates about every imaginable social, philosophical or political idea. In many ways, the culture was similar to what we see today.
What we see taking place in Acts 17 stands is stark contrast to what the apostles experienced in Acts 2. In Acts 2, Peter and the others were sharing primarily with Jews who had come together in Jerusalem for the celebration of Pentecost. These were people who believed in God, who knew scripture, who spoke the language of faith. They simply did not know the Jesus was the long awaited Messiah they had been promised.
In terms of the spiritual climate of the culture in which we live, there has been a dramatic change in recent years. We are quickly going from an Acts 2 to an Acts 17 culture. When I was young, most people (even those not active in church) believed in God, knew the Bible, and spoke the language of faith. That is increasingly untrue in our culture. We are quickly becoming a culture of the "unknown god."
So, like Paul, as we try to share our faith, we must adapt our approach. We can no longer assume that everyone even believes there is a God, that the Bible is authoritative, or that they will understand our church language. This is not to imply that we can't share faith. It simply requires a different approach. Faith sharing today often requires a sharing of our own experience in a way that is honest and vulnerable. We can no longer assume that people are starting with a spiritual foundation. And It takes speaking a language that people can understand.
The gospel never changes. But the methodologies by which we share the gospel must change as our culture changes. I believe the world needs Jesus now perhaps more than ever. Let's do all we can to share the unchanging hope of Christ in an ever changing world.