What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem?"

Tertullian's famous question has remained relevant through the years as the church has grappled with how to respond to the pagan academy. As someone who has spent most of his life in "Athens" (most recently near Yale University), I now find myself in a sort of "Jerusalem." Four years ago, I moved to a "Jerusalem," a culturally Christian environment (across the street from Wheaton College).

That journey has afforded me the opportunity to compare the experience of communicating the gospel in two distinct contexts.

You might assume living in a place with few fellow Christians would be difficult, and in some ways it is. But it also has a sharpening effect. Being forced to rely upon God in a hostile envi-ronment, to trust him for answers to the most troubling intellectual assaults, either buoys you up or sinks you. In a more religious context you may be less likely to sink, but complacency is sometimes just as great a danger.

A secular atmosphere presents challenges not only to living out your faith but also to sharing the gospel. Reading Acts shows that different contexts require different approaches. Paul aimed to become "all things for all people," and Jesus himself employed different approaches to reach different people.

Secular people do not stay away from church because our services or programs do not match their tastes. It's not because they find a church's childcare subpar, or the parking inconvenient, or the music unappealing. It's because they don't think Christianity is true. Many of them think Christianity is nonsense.

When I worked in one secular context, a Christian organization would regularly send material touting the benefits of their newest programs. I remember thinking that ...

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Winter
Winter 2012: The Outreach Issue  | Posted
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