The key to evangelizing our postmodern generation is forming relationships and faithfully proclaiming the gospel. We can not wait for people to come to us; we must take the gospel out to them.
The course called Christianity Explored began when Chris Hobbs, former curate at All Souls Church in London, England, brought Michael Bennett's Christianity Explained course to England in 1990. With the help of All Souls and several other churches and organizations, the material was rewritten and expanded into a ten-week course aimed at people who want to investigate Christianity or who want just to brush up on the basics. We present Mark's Gospel, warning people clearly and lovingly about sin, judgment, wrath, and hell, so that the wonder of God's grace can be understood.
We developed this course out of our desire to present the gospel clearly and faithfully, but within a relaxed and relational context. We believe that a sense of community is vital to its success.
Although we refuse to compromise on "difficult" truths such as sin and repentance in Mark's teaching, we believe it is vital that each guest feels welcome right from the beginning of each evening. We ask our leaders to arrive at least half an hour before guests arrive so that they can commit the evening to prayer and then welcome those who are at their tables. Within the groups themselves, it is vital that guests are listened to and able to voice their opinions-heretical or not! Our motto is that "silence means agreement" and everyone is encouraged to speak, whether as part of group discussion or one-to-one at the end of the evening. We have found that people need to belong before they are asked to believe and that establishing trust over coffee and a meal is a necessary foundation for our witness.
We are confident in the power of Scripture to transform lives. At the beginning of the course each guest is given a Bible and then the talks and group discussions take people step-by-step through Mark's Gospel. We focus on Christ: who he is, why he came, and what he demands of those who want to follow him. We let Mark's Gospel tell the gospel-the good news that although we are more wicked than we ever realized, we are also more loved than we ever dreamed.
2 Corinthians 4 reminds us of the need to "set forth the truth plainly." This means teaching that humanity's biggest problem is that God is angry at our sin and that sin can be paid for in only one of two places: in hell or at the cross. It is only when we understand this that we can see the wonder of God's grace, discover our true identity, and be assured of eternal salvation. If we love others and trust the Holy Spirit, then we will tell people the truth and trust God to open their blind eyes. We remind our leaders that while their role is to preach the gospel faithfully (see 2 Cor. 4:5), the results must be left up to God (see 2 Cor. 4:6).
The Christian life is far from easy, so participants are asked to count the cost of being a disciple (see Luke 14:25-34) before they make a commitment. If they choose to do so, then they are encouraged to attend our follow-up course, Discipleship Explored, and to become part of a church fellowship. We aim to make disciples and not just converts-and becoming part of the church family is integral to this process for the way in which it supports and encourages new believers.
Christianity Explored works on two levels: one involves our sharing the gospel with unbelievers and the other involves our equipping believers for works of service. We want to train leaders to share Mark's Gospel so that they are then equipped to evangelize in all areas of their lives (see Eph. 4:11-12). As one of our group leaders has commented: "Christianity Explored does not guarantee success, but it faithfully and lovingly warns people of God's rightful anger at their sin and points them to the only person who can rescue them-Jesus Christ."