Becoming a Contagious Christian
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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.
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
* 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."
Mark Mittelberg, Lee Strobel, and Bill Hybels, Becoming a
Contagious Christian Participant's Guide.
Additional readings (not a lot).
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.
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
Week 1. Organizational;
"Why Become a
Includes an 11-minute video introduction by
Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek
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
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
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