Friday, July 19, 2013

Evangelism in a Post-Modern Culture: Acts 17

While in Malaysia recently, I was able to sit in on a lecture my husband was giving to a class.  I learned many things that I would like to share over the new few weeks.  First of all, grasping the religious background or knowledge that the audience to whom you are trying to witness is very important. 

In examining Peter's sermon in Acts 2 and then Paul's sermon in Acts 17, we see the starting point for each sermon was entirely different.  In Acts 2, Peter begins by quoting the prophet, Joel, and says that "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Acts 2:21).  He then moves right into telling them about Jesus, whom they knew.

In Acts 17, Paul had to adapt the start of his sermon because he was speaking to a group of people who were worshipping many different gods.  In fact, it is estimated that there may have been about 20,000 different gods.  There was one altar that had the inscription "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD" (Acts 17:23) and that is where he starts--God, the Creator, the Lord of heaven and earth.

Sharon Beougher
We must adapt our evangelism to the prior knowledge that the people to whom we are trying to witness have.  They may have grown up in church or they may have never stepped into a church.  I used to assume that talking about Billy Graham would be a good point of identification and possible bridge to the gospel, but we are living in a culture where many do not even know his name as one of the greatest evangelists ever. 

Lord, give us wisdom to know where people are spiritually in our sphere of influence and give us the wisdom to know how to share the gospel with them.