Pete Williamson spent some time with our Region sharing what he and his team are learning about evangelism. Pete is a team leader for GFM at Harvard University. He shared stories and learnings from ministry among graduate students. He began by affirming what everyone who’s been in GFM for 10 minutes knows – undergraduate student evangelism is just in another world from our context. We’re positioned right at that cusp of life when students are barely no longer adolescents, but definitely contending in a fully adult life context. Theirs is a world of intense life pressures (more at stake academically, much more complex family situations involving in many cases marriage and young children, increased demands from extended family). On top of all that, much steeper financial burdens.
If the Gospel they first placed their faith in as an adolescent doesn’t have the staying power that increased academic and socio-economic pressures require, that’s when small gospel shows its true colors. They either go radio-silence with their faith or give it up altogether. The small gospel (as Pete calls it) is what you’re left with when you keep trying to push your way through post-adolescence without fully adult faith. The Big Gospel is what happens when ones faith “keeps up” with life’s unrelenting demands. Here’s how Pete outlined it. I encourage you to sit with the You-Tube video for a few minutes to hear him out (fast forward to about half way).
True – confident in the fact that the Gospel is not true because we sincerely believe it to be true. True, because it is and true as it contends in a pluralistic culture. Real – as opposed to artificial, synthetic, or irrelevant. Good – in that the Gospel leads us to affirm and demonstrate the goodness of God and the way of living Jesus leads us to. Beautiful – in the sense that Christianity is aesthetically attractive. Christian community these days can have an image problem because of many glaring failures amidst certain of it’s highly visible representatives (see the discussion below). Yet, Christian community in it’s most authentic and humble expression should be unique, attractive and beautiful even to outsiders who have seen enough repulsive counterexamples. Lastly, Healthy – Christianity should help make people well. It should address our sicknesses and weaknesses be they physical, emotional, mental, social or moral.
A conversation I got to facilitate focused on current challenges to evangelistic mission in the University. We identified two in particular. I got to lead the one on difficulties doing evangelism given the brokenness and failures in the church. Here’s the description:
Evangelism and the Broken Church. The church has had many stories of moral failure come to light, its deeply divided, and is tainted by racism. When we interact with unbelievers and former believers, how do we respond to those who say, “I want nothing to do with the church?” How does the current public image of the church affect your view of evangelism?
We did a backwards SWOT analysis! We talked first of all about the threat posed by broken and misguided church leadership. Next we wondered, “Does this moment of public failure actually point to an opportunity for the Gospel?” Finally we tried to suggest some ways forward and recommend a few resources. You can download and read the table discussion notes. Great book and website recommendations down at the bottom of the PDF.
Thanks so much for your partnership and prayers!