A friend of mine recently had an interesting conversation with a co-worker. Something was said about Billy Graham, and the co-worker asked who that was. My friend was stunned. When asked to repeat his comment, the co-worker said he had never heard of Billy Graham.
It seems incredible that someone in the United States would have no idea of who Billy Graham is. Even if the individual is not a person of faith most of us would assume that everyone in the United States has heard of Billy Graham. Those kinds of assumptions is one of the problems of the church today. We assume people know much more about God, Christianity, the Bible, and church than they actually do know. The fact is that many unchurched people know very little about any of those things, and, even worse, much of what they do know is error.
When Jay Leno hosted the Tonight show he would occasionally do a "man-in-the-street" interview to see what people knew about various topics. It was really amazing to see the lack of knowledge people had about even the simplest of topics. Years ago our nation outlawed literacy tests for voting on the grounds that they were used to discriminate and keep some people from voting, but after hearing some of the responses from the persons Leno interviewed I'm not sure some of these folks should be allowed to vote! They are certainly not voting based on any factual information about the candidates, their positions on issues, or on their past records. Unfortunately, as misinformed as most of these people were about politics, they were usually even less informed when asked questions of a religious nature.
We now have a generation (or two) that has had very little, if any, exposure to Christian teaching. Many of them have been influenced by university professors who denounced Christian values and beliefs. Others didn't want their lifestyles impacted by any kind of restrictions so they accepted the postmodern view that whatever choices one made for themselves was proper. Still others had questions about God and Christianity, but sought answers to their questions from some of the New Atheist writers that are so popular today and never compared what they had to say with what Christian apologists say about those same questions.
Any time you try to share your faith with these individuals you can expect some of the same responses. "The church is full of hypocrites." "With all the evil there is in the world there cannot be a God." "The Bible is just a book of myths written by men." "If you want to believe that Jesus Christ is the way you came to know God that's fine, but there are many roads to God." "All religions are the same." There are others, but these seem to be some of the most common reasons people give for rejecting biblical Christianity. So, how will you respond to them?
The church must do a better job of not only teaching people what they should believe, but why they should believe it. We need to help Christians be able to defend their faith when challenged by unbelievers. I can remember as a young Christian being told that people might argue your doctrine, but they couldn't argue your experience. That's no longer true today. They may applaud your experience and be genuinely glad that your experiences have been so meaningful to you, but in our pluralistic society your experience is just that: your experience. In a postmodern world you have no right to state that your religious experience is better than anyone else's. We must be able to show them why their beliefs are logically inconsistent and be able to present the teachings of Scripture in a way that will speak to their minds and their hearts. At that point, we can trust God to begin to water the seed we've planted.
The church needs to find new ways to do evangelism. The old models that were successful years ago depended on people having at least some knowledge about biblical teaching. That time no longer exists. We must patiently and lovingly develop relationships with people and earn the right to respond to their questions and concerns about the Christian faith. Jesus met people where they were. We can do no less today.