Becoming a Contagious Christian
Syllabus

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Ever wanted to share your faith, but not sell your Lord and Savior like a used car? This course is for you.

Based upon a proven course developed by the famed Willow Creek Community Church, Becoming a Contagious Christian capitalizes on the ways in which friends, acquaintances, and family members talk most naturally.

 

 

 

Through readings, videos, music, and discussion, participants will learn:

* how to discuss Christianity in a way that suits their unique personality and gifts.

* strategies for evangelical outreach built on kindness, respect, and friendship, with no strings attached.

* how to talk about God in a "post-Christian" society where even a basic grasp of Christianity cannot be assumed. Charles Colson puts it well: "To evangelize today we must address the human condition at its point of felt need—conscience, guilt, dealing with others, finding a purpose for staying alive. Talking about the abundant life or life everlasting or Bible promises often just won’t do it."


Texts

Mark Mittelberg, Lee Strobel, and Bill Hybels, Becoming a Contagious Christian Participant's Guide.
Additional readings (not a lot).

True confessions:  A few weeks ago I took a "spiritual gifts inventory."  I scored high on teaching (no surprise, since by trade I'm a college professor) and administration (big surprise, since I can't even "administer" my home office).  As for evangelism, I scored last.  Dead last.  Any deader and I wouldn't have scored anything at all.

So why on earth am I teaching this course?

The superficial answer, though true as far as it goes, is that somebody had to do it.  I attend a church that is warm, friendly, and welcoming--to one another.  If you'd like to join us, fine.  If you don't, well, we're not likely to come looking for you.  Evangelism is not only my weak point, it's the weak point of my church as well.

Viewed from one standpoint, then, my credentials are poor.  But evangelism has two sides.  There's the person doing the outreach, and then there's the other person, variously known as the "unchurched," "the lost," etc.  Well, I know all about that other person.  Basically he's me.  I'm the shepherd's missing sheep, the widow's lost coin, the prodigal son who blew his inheritance on riotous living.  (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, click here.)

Viewed from another standpoint, therefore--and one can only trust it's God's standpoint--my credentials are impeccable.  Though I've been a Christian for better than two decades, I've felt alienated from my faith for so long that I identify strongly with the "unchurched," which puts me in a good position to talk frankly about how to reach them.

Incidentally, here are some other words for the "unchurched" and the "lost":  friends, neighbors, business associates, family members, brothers and sisters.

Although the bedrock of the course is the Willow Creek Resources curriculum, I have not hesitated to augment that curriculum where it seemed appropriate.  The best way to teach, I've learned over the years, is to make the material your own.


Schedule

The essays linked to this page are intended to supplement, not duplicate, the regular course material. For those taking the course, it would be pointless. For those not taking  the course, it would be an infringement of intellectual property. 

Week 1.  Organizational; "Why Become a Contagious Christian?"

Includes an 11-minute video introduction by Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church

Week 2.  The Bridge of Popular Culture

Think "mainstream" films and music are uniformly satanic?  Think again.  A surprising number reflect spiritual values, offer clues to the spiritual needs of non-Christians, and provide common ground for spiritual discussions.  Includes film clips, a music CD, and lyric sheet to underscore the point.

Week 3.  Being Yourself

Hey, it's a tough job, but someone has to be you.  And being yourself is the best way to reach others.  This session emphasizes finding an evangelism style that suits your personality.  Not among the options:  slicking down your hair, wearing a flashy suit, and haranguing people on television.

Week 4.  Building Relationships

Most people can talk about sports.  But "How 'bout that Jesus?" rarely suffices to start a meaningful spiritual conversation.  This session offers a variety of strategies on how to do that, all of them predicated on kindness, respect, and unconditional friendship.  Several well-acted video vignettes demonstrate how to translate the strategies into action.

Week 5.  What's Your Story?

You can quote the "Four Spiritual Laws" until you're blue in the face, but people are more impressed by Christianity's practical impact.  One of the best ways to deepen a relationship, lay the groundwork for genuine dialogue, and demonstrate the value of Christ in one's life is by telling the story of your own life before and after conversion, including your continuing struggles. Again, video vignettes dramatize the approach.

Week 6.  Difficult Conversations

Let's face it.  While Becoming a Contagious Christian does an excellent job of lowering the barriers to relational evangelism, these still have the potential to be highly-charged conversations.  This session, based on an outstanding book by the same title, is devoted to understanding how "difficult conversations" are really three interwoven conversations, characterized by indirection, unexamined assumptions, and defensiveness.  In it, we'll explore how to avoid making spiritual conversations difficult, how to understand their dynamics, and how to restore them to a healthy basis.

Week 7.  What's His Story?

At some point you're going to have to explain the Gospel, occasionally to someone who knows nothing about it, usually to someone who has heard it in garbled form.  "His story" is Christ's story--why he came, what he taught, why he died and was resurrected.  As usual, video vignettes model the process.  But we'll also clarify the difference between what you or your denomination happens to believe and what C. S. Lewis termed "mere Christianity":  the basic beliefs shared by all Christians.  And we'll move beyond the classic "sin and salvation" model to embrace two other Biblical models:  "liberation from bondage" and "return from exile."

Week 8.  Crossing the Line

On average, it requires five separate contacts with the Gospel message before a person makes a decision for Christ.  You're just a link in a chain, and it may be your fate never to be that wonderful fifth contact.  But it sure helps to know what to do if you are.  This session equips you to do that.

Week 9.  Objection! (Part I)

This is the first of two sessions devoted to questions and objections commonly raised by people exposed to the Gospel message.  They include such perennial favorites as "Isn't the Bible a pack of myths?," "Why would God send a good person to Hell?," and "Why doesn't God strike Geraldo Rivera dead?"  Logically these issues crop up long before a seeker "crosses the line," but for some reason the Contagious Christian curriculum addresses them at the end.  This session focuses on the clash between faith and scientific reason.

Week 10. Objection! (Part II)

The last session looks mainly at Christianity in relation to other faith systems.  It also offers some exposure to the psychology of religion, which can be useful in understanding how people approach spiritual issues.  Finally, it acknowledges that many so-called "unchurched" people are not innocent of exposure to the church.  On the contrary, they often grew up in a church, even devoted years of their lives to it.  And it sucked.  Christians let them down, gossiped about them, judged them harshly, played the Pharisee.  The dirty secret of Christianity--as with any religion--is that it can hurt as well as heal.  While many churchgoers find the environment warm and supportive, others find it cold and rejecting.  "Religious abuse," writes Pastor Ken Wright, who published a book by that title, "affects millions of church members and church leaders in every denomination.  It can be blatant, but it can also be extremely subtle and unintentional."  This session takes seriously one of the most common--if unexpressed--objections of all:  If I give my life to Christ and join a church, am I going to regret it?


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RadicalCivility.org 2005