Imagine you spent countless hours studying scientific and philosophical objections to Christianity. You enrolled in the classes. You read the books. You practiced the arguments.
And you found out that no one really cared.
That’s the post-Christian world described by Sam Chan in his new book, How to Talk About Jesus (Without Being That Guy): Personal Evangelism in a Skeptical World (Zondervan). Chan is a public speaker for City Bible Forum in Australia and the award-winning author of Evangelism in a Skeptical World.
He says, “Our friends aren’t nonbelievers because [defeater beliefs] are stopping them from believing; our friends are nonbelievers because they don’t even know why they need to believe in the Christian God of the Bible.” Further, he argues, “It’s of no relevance to them. And deep down, they suspect that the gospel is a tool of oppression used by those who used to be in power. They are hermetically shut off from the good news of Jesus.”
Sounds daunting—even depressing. But Chan wants to prepare us for effective evangelism even in post-Christian times in the West. He joined me on Gospelbound to discuss the most powerful factor in determining belief, why we need to merge our universes and put ourselves in others’ debt, the secret hidden sauce of evangelism, and why we need to study counselors more than preachers.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Collin Hansen: Imagine you spent countless hours studying scientific and philosophical objections to Christianity. You enrolled in the classes, you read the books, you practiced the arguments, and you found out that no one really cared. That’s the post-Christian world described by Sam Chan in his new book, How to Talk About Jesus Without Being That Guy: Personal Evangelism in a Skeptical World, published by Zondervan.
Chan is a public speaker for City Bible Forum in Australia and the award-winning author of Evangelism in a Skeptical World. He says this: “Our friends aren’t non-believers because the defeater beliefs on that list are stopping them from believing. Our friends are non-believers because they don’t even know why they need to believe in the Christian God of the Bible.” Further, he argues, “It’s of no relevance to them. And deep down, they suspect the gospel is a tool of oppression used by those who used to be in power. They are hermetically shut off from the good news of Jesus.”
Well, it sounds daunting, even depressing. But Chan wants to prepare us for effective evangelism, even in post-Christian times across the West. And he joins me on Gospelbound to discuss the most powerful factor in determining belief, why we need to merge our universes and put ourselves in others’ debt, the secret hidden sauce of evangelism, and why we need to study counselors more than preachers. Sam, thank you for joining me on Gospelbound.
Sam Chan: Hi Collin. Thank you so much for having me
Collin Hansen: Sam, why can’t we keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them in the West for decades? Basically this: tell everybody we can that they’re sinners and need Jesus and if they repent and believe, they can be with him in heaven and avoid eternal hell. I’d still say Sam, that I prefer someone’s bold straight forward way of evangelizing over someone else’s not doing it at all.
Sam Chan: Yeah, I guess I’ve got several things to say. If evangelism was as simple as that, we could push it to its logical absurd, extreme and say, “Well, all I have to do is sky write John 3:16 in the sky.” But none of us do that because deep down we suspect evangelism is a bit more than just that. So in my book, I share the story that I’m actually old enough that I was at Billy Graham’s last crusade in Sydney in 1979. He was at a race course, and it was Billy Graham at his finest. He had the 20-minute Bible message followed by the appeal. The choir got up, they sang “Just As I Am.” And then Billy gave his famous line: “The buses will wait.” And what that means is every non-believer that night came in on a church bus. So the point I try to make is the non-believer back then was way more churched than a non-believer now.
And I think back to my Sunday school days when I was a boy. Half my class were full of nonbelievers from non-believing parents. So somehow the non-believer was churched. And the premise behind your question sometimes is, have we lost faith in the gospel? Why can’t we just do the 20-minute Bible talk the same way Billy Graham did? And the answer is the audience has changed, and the culture has changed.
Rico Tice, who’s a gifted UK evangelist, I saw him sum it up the best. He says there have been basically three ages in recent Western evangelism. The first age was the Billy Graham age, where basically he was asking our non-believing friends to believe what they already knew. They had already learned it from Sunday school. They’d already learned it from their church friends. But the second phase was what we call the defeater belief age, where our friends want to believe the gospel, but they’ve got a variety of defeated beliefs.
You know, what about other religions? The problem of science, a problem of evil. And that’s where a book like Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God was one way we aim to knock away the various defeater beliefs so they could believe what they already knew to be true. But now we’ve come to the third and most recent age of evangelism, which is where our friends are in a different universe, a different planet. They don’t know what we believe and deep down, they don’t care. They don’t know why they should believe what we believe. And that’s where a book like Tim Keller’s recent one, Making Sense of God, one where we’re having to promote belief rather than just give them the gospel. We have to even do the preemptive work on explaining why it’s even relevant, why they would even want to believe what we believe.
Collin Hansen: One of the problems, furthermore, Sam, is that non-Christians actually do think they know what we believe, but it’s completely wrong. And it leads us to the point of saying, “Wow, if that’s what I believed, that would be horrible.” So you’re even having to clear away the fact that people think they know. That’s what Charles Taylor and others talk about it being the particular challenge of the post-Christian age. It’s not that people are ignorant, it’s that they think they know and they hate it, or they think they know, they hate it, or they’re just rather indifferent towards it.
Sam Chan: That’s right. So they’re not just a blank slate. They’re a pre-written slate, and they’re misinformed, misguided about what they think we believe. I heard Timothy Keller explain it the best. He said, “We’ve had pre-Christendom. So that’s a Greco-Roman age. We’ve had Christendom. But now for the first time ever in the history of Western Christianity we’re post-Christendom and what worked in pre-Christendom and Christendom doesn’t work anymore.”
We’ve had a recent example where we often quote how the early Christians were amazing because during the pandemic, in the Roman Empire, they were the ones that cared. And somehow that really helped establish Christianity as a believable faith. But now we’ve seen in the recent pandemic where the Christians try to care, like the Samaritans purse try to set up a makeshift hospital in Central Park, New York, and they were chased away because of their conservative beliefs. So we’re not welcome in the way we were in the age of pre-Christendom.
Collin Hansen: I hadn’t really thought about it that way. To put it in Tom Holland’s perspective from Dominion, it’s also the fact that the whole instinct to respond to the pandemic is generally Christian. Meaning the fact that the whole society would shut down to be able to care for the most vulnerable parts of the population is not something that would have been remotely conceivable before Christianity. It would have been sacrifice the weakest so the rest of us can get on with things. So not only are some of the more explicitly Christian organizations being chased away, but also the whole society’s instincts in the West, even around the world, is basically Christian precisely because of that history.
So people don’t even know why they respond that way, even while they’re being hostile. They’re being hostile toward Christians, precisely because they’re formed as Christians. That’s what Tom Holland talks about that’s so incredibly confusing.
So let’s talk about one of the positive examples of your book, because the whole book is commending how we can do personal evangelism in this skeptical time. You argue that facts and evidence of data are actually the least powerful factors in determining belief. So Sam, what is the most powerful factor?
Sam Chan: Well, here’s the quick reveal. It’s community. The example I love to give and I gave him my previous book as well is this. Imagine if a UFO landed in my backyard and I’d try to tell you that there was a UFO in my backyard. No one would believe me. And even if I could convince you to check it out and you could see it and touch it, you wouldn’t believe it because you would explain away the evidence, because simply put your plausibility structures won’t allow you to believe in UFOs, and our plausibility structures basically come from our community. So what our trusted friends and family believe, maybe our personal experiences, and then right down the bottom of the rank is facts, evidence, and data. The bottom line is our community determines what we believe.
I say, as an example, right now none of you would believe that a UFO landed in my backyard, because I’m the one and only bozo in your life that believes in UFOs. But if only 50 of your friend said, “Oh, me too. A UFO landed in my backyard last night as well.” Now it becomes way more believable. And that sort of explains why the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 said Christ rose from the dead, and he appeared to not just me, but that other parcels and not just them, but 500 people who you can talk to right now. So Jesus risen from the dead is true, whether you like it or not, but it’s way more believable with 500 other people also believe in it.
So I argue in my book that we can talk about the problem of evangelism being both a downstream and upstream problem. So downstream, it’s really hard to talk about Jesus because our culture won’t allow it, but maybe we can solve the problem by going upstream as well. We’re saying, “Well, what has contributed to this?” And part of it is most of our non-believing friends don’t have any Christians in their network of friends, and if they do, it’s just one. It’s us. We’re the one bozo trying to tell them about Jesus. But if suddenly they had 5, 10, 15 other friends who also believed it, suddenly there’ll be thinking, Hey, this is way more believable than what I first thought.
Collin Hansen: It’s like, we planned this Sam. You segued right into my next question. What does it mean to merge our universes?
Sam Chan: Yeah. So typically as Christians, we have two universes of friends. We have one universe of Christian friends, one universe of non-Christian friends. When our Christian friends go off to the movies, we go with them. When our non-Christian friends have a barbecue, we go with them and we keep the two universes separate. But I say, what we can do is preemptively proactively try to merge the universes. So when our Christians go off to the movies, we invite our non-Christian friends along. Where we have a barbecue for our non-Christian friends, we invite some of our Christian friends along and gradually bit by bit, try to merge our universes.
And I joke it’s like … Well, my wife and I, we try to set up our non-believing friends with our believing friends. And it’s what used to happen to me when I was single. I’d go to a dinner party and I would turn up and think, Ah, no, it’s happened again. How do I, how did I not see this coming? There’s a married couple. There’s another married couple. Oh and there’s a single girl all by herself. And here I am, the one and only single guy. And look, they’ve sat us next to each other. They’re trying to set us up.
So my wife and I, we do the same now with our non-Christian friends, not romantically, but socially. We sort of think, Hey, that Christian couple would really get on well with that non Christian couple were there. Let’s have a barbecue and just introduce them to each other. And we found a good ratio is for every one set of non-believing friends, try to have two or three believing friends so that it’s roughly 60 percent Christian and 40 percent non-Christian. And that way the Christians shaped the plausibility structures of the non-Christians.
Collin Hansen: Oh, that’s very practical. I love that. And I’ve seen it time and time again with people who have come to Christ in my own community. Now, Sam, I hear a lot these days about Christians building robust communities of resistance against the tide of secularism. And I’m pretty sympathetic to a lot of these arguments because of what I’ve seen of the assimilation of Christians into the broader culture and ultimately the deconstruction and loss of their faith. Isn’t there a possibility, a danger, that if we merge our universes for evangelism, that we’ll actually become assimilated to the world?
Sam Chan: Yeah. There’s always a danger. And part of my solution then is that’s why you need roughly two-thirds Christians and one-third non-Christians. That way the Christians shape the plausibility and practices of the non-Christians. It’s actually incredible. I actually saw this in practice once where I went to a dinner party where someone invited exactly that ratio, two-thirds Christians, one-third non-Christians. We had an open Bible discussion and we simply paired the Christians with the non-Christians and we let the non-Christians ask questions out loud and try to answer them. A non-Christian would give an answer that was obviously non-biblical, non-Christian. But as I heard the discussion in the room, you could hear in the dialectic how the Christian answers, bit by bit shaped the non-Christian answers.
Collin Hansen: I’m just thinking about how this worked. Recently I’m in a church where people are coming from a lot of different backgrounds, lots of different stages, and we’re all thrown together in these weekly groups. And we had a really interesting conversation about the Heidelberg Catechism and about how the Lord works all the evils that he sends to us for his glory. So we opened up the Bible to say, what does that mean? Is that true biblically speaking? And I know there would be a number of people in this group, even as members of our church who have never thought about this concept before and would actually be pretty horrified by that concept. Yet the plausibility within the group of people opening their Bibles, people who knew their Bibles in many cases and saying, “Well, here’s Paul caught up into the third heaven.” Or “Here’s the story of Saul and what happened over here.” Or David or Job or any number of examples.
All of a sudden it just felt like, “Well, this is a complicated and inconvenient truth in some ways.” And then people started talking about the hopefulness of it, the goodness of God for this and all of a sudden what could seem so implausible in the beginning suddenly becomes sort of second hand. Of course, you believe that. These people are normal and sensible. They believe it as well. Is that basically what you’re getting at also?
Sam Chan: It is amazing. I saw this one where it was a bunch of non-Christians reading the Bible for the first time. And we were doing Genesis chapters one to nine in one go, of all things to read. These were professional, highly qualified non-Christians, doctors, specialists, doctors. We were doing Noah’s flood and how the animals are going to fit in the ark. And someone asked the question about … One non-Christian asked, “Well, what about the dinosaurs?” And simply another non-Christian answered and said, “Well, the story doesn’t say anything about dinosaurs. It’s irrelevant.” That was it, explained away just like that. And here was the other one where it said, “When, when God saw how wicked humankind had become, he was grieved and realized he had to wipe them out.”
Now that sounds horrible. But in the context of the story and the context of the group, everyone thought, You know what? God is grieved, and that sort of makes sense. Even when Abel and Cain had the argument and Cain kills Abel one non-Christian says, “Can that really happen? A brother killed a brother?” And another non-Christian who was Chinese said, “Of course, that can happen. That’s what happened in the cultural revolution in China, didn’t it?”
It was amazing. Even the non-Christians start adopting the plausibility structures of the Christians and to help critique the non-Christians answers. I saw it in front of it. It was amazing.
Collin Hansen: Yeah. And now that I think about it, in most of the cases that I can think of my Christian friends who have just been assimilated and deconstructed their faith, in almost every case, they were the only Christians in that group. They were surrounded by a bunch of people who did not support that. There was not a lot of help for them. And that makes it just simple group dynamics, and I think that’s a helpful guideline to use.
Now, continuing on this theme, you have another great practical way to enact personal evangelism and to build friends. You talk a lot just about how hard it is to make friends today. So explain how we make friends by putting ourselves in others’ debt.
Sam Chan: Ah, yes. So the starting point of this apparently right now in the West is a loneliness epidemic. So 60 to 80 percent of people in the West, the UK, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand say they’re lonely. And what does that exactly mean? Well, apparently we need a tribe of 150 people. That’s called Dunbar’s famous number. But we also need an inner circle of about 30 friends, but also a tight inner circle of five trusted friends. And they’re the friends you call on for a favor, like someone to look after your kids, because you got to go to the hospital or someone you can borrow a car from-
Collin Hansen: Take you to the airport.
Sam Chan: Yeah. That’s right. The airport ride, exactly. Or to move house.
Collin Hansen: Yeah. Exactly.
Sam Chan: And I remember thinking, Hey, I’m helping all my friends move houses, when I was living in Chicago. Who’s going to help me move house when it’s my time?
Collin Hansen: That’s right.
Sam Chan: But apparently in the West, this is why you and I will rather take the 20-minute drive to the shops to buy milk and eggs rather than knock on our neighbor’s door for milk and eggs, because we just don’t want to put ourselves in their social debt. But my wife and I have worked out, we can build a lot of social capital then by asking for favors. It’s a little bit counter-intuitive. You think you can build social capital and you can by offering favors, by offering lifts, by offering dinners and desserts. But you can actually gain even more by asking for favor and putting yourself in that person’s debt, because now they can call on you for a favor. So you are really going out on a limb and saying, “Hey, you are a trusted friend. I’m making myself vulnerable, and I’ll make you one of my inner five circle of friends.”
Collin Hansen: Yeah. That’s interesting. I’m thinking about somebody I know pretty well. After that person had a child, the people next door brought some food by, but this friend of mine was offended by it. Person’s not a Christian. We think the people who brought the food were Christians. She was pretty offended by it because there was a feeling of, “Okay, what’s the agenda here?” Like somebody’s trying to do something here. But if it had maybe been the other way, if maybe that person instead of offering to help had actually asked for help, it would have changed the relational dynamic in ways that I hadn’t really understood until you explained that.
That’s part of why I liked the book. It’s full of this counterintuitive, but very practical ways to build the bridges that are necessary in evangelism. So here’s another one: the secret hidden sauce of evangelism. Not trying to give away the whole book, but talk to us a little bit about hospitality.
Sam Chan: So I say we’re always thinking with evangelism,.”Well, how do I tell my friends about Jesus? It’s too global. It’s too big. It’s too complicated.” And I say, it’s like doing the dishes. It’s like seeing that big pile of dirty dishes in the sink. I freak out and I say to my wife, “I can’t do it. It’s too big. It’s too global. It’s too complex.” My wife says, “Break it down into bite size, concrete, achievable steps here. Here, begin with a fork. Now do a cup.” And bit by bit suddenly the dishes are done. And I say, evangelism, the same. It’s too big. It’s too global. Well just break it down to concrete, bite size, achievable steps.
It’s really what I call coffee, dinner, or a meal gospel. So don’t think, “How can I tell my friends about Jesus?” Just begin with, “Say, let’s do coffee.” Because coffee is a safe invitation. It’s 10 or 20 minutes of time. It’s a public space. And you’re only going to talk about the weather, the weekend and the sport, just small talk. But you earn enough trust then to invite them for a meal, lunch, dinner. Now this is a bigger invitation, one or two hours of time, but you’re moving them into a private space. And now the conversation will move to private matters, value and worldview type conversations. And if you can prove yourself to be a safe, empathetic, vulnerable listener, bit by bit gospel opportunities will arise.
I think this is a game changer for all of us, because up until now, we thought small talk with something to be feared, but small talk actually gives you the social currency to move onto the next few layers of conversation. And I think the other thing we didn’t understand was it’s so hard to talk about Jesus because we’re in public space. No one wants to talk about Jesus in public space. Not even Christians want to come out to each other in public space. But in private space, we can talk about these, what are called the sacred conversations. So basically it’s hospitality in disguise, and these days we’re looking for creative ways to do hospitality.
So let’s say it can’t be coffee. Let’s say it can’t be lunch. Well, it could be simply going around to someone’s hot desk and say, “Hey, I’m doing a coffee run. Coffee’s on me.” And as you give them the coffee, then you say, “Well, how’s your weekend. How about that weather? How about the sports,” and bit by bit earn the social currency to be able to earn conversations in the sacred level.
Collin Hansen: You also talk a lot about learning to be a good listener in evangelism. I’ve heard that from other people as well. It remains counterintuitive, I think, to people that to be effective. But I think it’s about building that capital with people. If you’re willing to listen to them at a time when everybody seems to just be shouting at each other and talking past each other, it invites them to be able to safely come back to you and to ask you questions. And I think related to this, Sam, you argue that evangelists should learn from counselors and not from preachers. Okay. I think a lot of people might be confused by that. What do you mean?
Sam Chan: Well, I am employed by City Bible Forum to be an event-based public speaker. So if anyone’s got anything invested in a 20-minute monologue in the form of a biblical evangelistic sermon, it’s me. But in the book I argue … The funny thing is, if we went to seminary and we were taught evangelism, usually it was by a preacher, a homiletician. So we all got taught to evangelize like a preacher would in a 20-minute monologue in a form of a Bible sermon that we could preach at an event, maybe a church based event. But I’m saying now that we’re more and more post-Christendom, evangelism is shifting less and less from event-style evangelism to more conversational evangelism.
The art in key conversation is the art of dialogue and asking questions. That’s when I realized … I remember there was one time in my life I was trying to make the decision whether to stay in full-time medicine or go into some sort of full-time vocational Christian ministry. And I line up all these Christian friends who I trusted and I said, “Hey, I need to talk to you for advice.” Then every time I booked one of these sessions with them, they would monologue at me for the next hour. And I would walk out thinking that was unhelpful. I don’t know why. I wanted their advice, but it was unhelpful.
Then I went to a person who was trained as a chaplain. And I said to him, “I could stay in full time medicine.” He looked at me and said, “You could couldn’t you.” And just with that one question and realized, I didn’t want to. And I realized, “Wow, he unlocked me with the power of a question.” I thought, that’s exactly what counselors do. They never tell you directly what you should do, but they help you find it and they sort of guide you along the way through questions.
I’ve a friend who’s trained as a counselor. He said there’s three sorts of listening. There’s one where you listen, but you’re just waiting for your turn to talk, so that’s not really listening. There’s one way you’re listening, but waiting for your turn to tell them why they’re wrong. Again, that’s not really listening. He said a third type is real listening where you listen to understand and empathize. He said the art to this as a counselor is every time the other person stops talking, you just get a cup and you just put to your mouth and you take a drink, and that’s your signal to say, “Buddy. I’m not doing any talking. You have to keep on talking.”
I remember when I was seeing a counselor, she would do that to me. I would think, I so know what you’re doing, but I couldn’t help but keep on talking. A little voice in my head would say, “Stop talking. She knows you’re crazy. You’re giving her way too much information.” But it would work. It would unlock you.
I remember I used to do lunchtime Bible talks at a ski camp for teenagers, most of whom weren’t Christians, but they’d been sent there, like a winter camp by their parents. And one of our counselors was really a counselor, a therapist. She was sitting in the chairlift with the high school campers, and she would just ask them counselor type questions like, “What are you looking for? Why is this important to you? Where do you see yourself in five years time? What if you don’t find this? What will you do?” So I call it even the power of the second question or the nudge question that nudges them into the next layer of conversation.
Collin Hansen: The great interviewer and biographer and journalist Robert Caro also uses the same technique in his interviews. So it’s a counseling thing, it’s a journalistic thing. It can be an evangelistic thing as well. It’s a great, great, great tip. Sam, explain the progression from, “I can live it,” to “I can believe it,” to “It must be true.”
Sam Chan: In the book I talk about how evangelism typically used to go in this progression; this is true, so believe it, so live it. Typically someone went to a Billy Graham crusade as a nonbeliever, they heard the truth, they got asked to believe it. Then they came down the front and they got plugged into a local church. So they started living the Christian faith. But I argue even though ontologically and logically, that should be and ought to be the sequence, in practice, because we’re so post-Christian and people aren’t coming on a church bus anymore, it seems to be people journey into the faith by discovering that, “Hey, this is livable. I can live it. So maybe it’s believable. Hey, if I can believe it, then it also must be true.”
So I argue a big powerful force in evangelism is not just to merge our universes. So now they’re in a community of believers, but if we can get our non-Christian friends doing things with us, maybe even just signing up to be on a missions roster where they help build houses for orphan communities or something. So in doing, they think, Hey, this is believable. Maybe also must be true.
Collin Hansen: Sam, 20 years ago when I was in college I was involved in Cru. And one of the things that Cru would do is we’d go on these beach vacation summer locales. Then we would spend our Saturdays doing beach evangelism, random initiative evangelism. It was a great, great, wonderful formative experience for me. In the last 20 years, I’ve heard more from campus ministries about a pretty big change. Now they to do trips with non-Christians, even sort of the same kinds of beach trips that I used to go on, sort of summer things, but non-Christians are invited. I kept hearing these stories about how people came to faith on these trips. I was so confused. I thought the whole point was we go there and we’re evangelizing everybody that we randomly meet. Why would you as a non-Christian want to go on that kind of trip?
The trip isn’t quite like that though it is in many ways. It hasn’t really changed, but just getting people around other Christians so that they can live it seems to then lead to them believing it, which then seems to lead to them believing that it’s true. It sounds like that’s what you have in mind then.
Sam Chan: Yeah, that’s right. And I also talk about how … The flip side is sometimes, you know how if someone makes a very unwise choice in life. In the book, I say, let’s say they decide they’re going to go on a donut-only diet. And then we don’t say, “Well, that’s wrong.” We actually say, “How’s that working out for you?” And meaning if it’s not working, it must not be true. But the flip side then, if this is working, it also must be true. So I argue that one of our most powerful apologetics as Christians is wisdom. Because the Bible there are at least three categories of knowledge. We have saving knowledge, what you must do to be saved. We also have ethical knowledge, what is good and what is wrong. But there’s a third category of knowledge in the Bible, which is wisdom, what is wise and what is unwise. So not just what is true, not just what is good, but what is wise.
I think this is way under-explored as a Christian apologetic, but our non-Christian friends say, “Hey, hang on. You have a way of life that works. There’s a wisdom in what you do.” Which funny enough is exactly how Joseph lived in Egypt, Daniel and his three friends in Babylon, Queen Esther in Persia. People sense, “Hey, these, these people of God, they have a wisdom about them that just shines. Maybe what they have is also true.”
Collin Hansen: Lyman Stone on Gospelbound talked about how Christians need to be much more open and even boastful in a tasteful way about how we live. Meaning looking back on the pandemic saying, “Oh, okay. So while you were lonely without any help, without anybody to talk to, without anybody who could help you out in practical ways, I had my church and I had all kinds of people who are not my family members biologically, but they were willing to help. And I had a community that was supportive.” Again, not to be a jerk about it, but because it’s part of that benefit that you can’t take for granted anymore. So if people can then see how they can live it, they can see the benefit then of the belief that allows that community to develop, and then to see that that’s true as well.
My guest has been Sam Chan. His new book you can check out. We’ve been talking about How to Talk About Jesus Without Being That Guy: Personal Evangelism in a Skeptical World, published by Zondervan.
Sam, one last question for you. What is the last great book you’ve read?
Sam Chan: Ah, this is bizarre. So I’ve just finished it this morning and I don’t know if that fits what you guys do at Gospelbound. It’s by Lori Gottlieb. She’s a therapist with The Atlantic and she’s just got a book called Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. It’s totally not a Christian book, thoroughly secular, but again, I’m doing it to plunder from the Egyptians if I may and again learn from these therapists. What is the art of conversation and what are some useful categories that we can use as well for wise living?
Plus also it’s good in and of itself. Not everything has to be utilitarian and plundered. So it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Also often looking at how to communicate the way the normal world communicates. And we had this conversation last time we were together. How as Christians have gone through seminaries, we’ve learned to go propositional, propositional, propositional, propositional, and finally, there’s a little concrete story of application at the end. Whereas the rest of all seems to go story, story, story. Let’s abstract a bit of proposition. Let’s go back to story, story, story, abstract a bit of proposition. That’s exactly what her book does.
Collin Hansen: Yeah. Sam, last time we talked about your book Evangelism in a Skeptical World for The Gospel Coalition Podcast, you unlocked for me a lot of different perspectives. You helped to explain what we do intuitively through The Gospel Coalition. Because for online publishing within this environment, you can’t just line up your propositions because people don’t … They won’t click on it. You can probably get away with it in church. You can get away with it in church in part because people are not just there to hear your propositions. They’re there because of the community. They’re there because of their commitment to one another. They’re there because perhaps the relational capital that you’ve built with them or they’re there because God calls them to be there.
But you can’t necessarily deduce from that backward that necessarily the way that you’ve been preaching or communicating to them is effective just because people are there and just because people smile and nod going along with it. The internet on the other hand, like evangelism is ruthless. It’s ruthless. And so if you don’t know how to adapt that way, by using effective ways to grab people’s attention, not to manipulate them, but to involve them in a story, then people just don’t read.
And so that’s a bonus for anybody there wanted to go check out Sam’s previous award-winning book, Evangelism in a Skeptical World, I’d encourage you to do that. My guest again on Gospelbound has been Sam Chan.
Sam, thank you for joining me.
Sam Chan: Thanks so much for having me, Collin.