A Response to Last Week's Feature Article, 'Why Can't They Hear Us?'

Dr Jeff Couzins, Pastor, Merseyside District of Churches

I want to commend BUC News for the special feature, 'Why Can't They Hear Us?' by Dr Duncan Bayliss.

Dr Duncan has captured the essence of secular life in his article. I believe it goes a long way to helping us understand the lack of hope in society and why people are not listening to the message of the everlasting gospel. Instead, secular-minded people are ingrained in evolutionary ways of thinking about the world. As Colossians 2:8 tells us, "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." It captures the deceitful nature of secularism and evolutionary thinking.

Secularism states that there is no need for God in public life, and we should rely on our innate knowledge and experience. Jeremiah 17:9 identifies this way of thinking: "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?"

It tells us that our minds unknowingly deceive us into thinking everything is okay when everything is not. The Bible also reveals that things are compounded by spiritual blindness (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). 1 Corinthians 2:14 parallels this when it says, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

The everlasting gospel is a spiritual message, so is it any surprise that a secular person thinks that it is foolish?

Some people don't get it when we try to explain things to them in a clear and logical biblical presentation or Bible study. The Apostle Paul found similar challenges when he was sharing the gospel message. He discovered that he had to adapt how he presented the message without changing its meaning. We read about that in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. The Apostle Paul's method of adapting the gospel message to His audience is often referred to as critical contextualisation. Dr Duncan touched upon this in his article.

Dr Duncan is correct when he calls for pre-evangelism, and his summation in the article is very appropriate for twenty-first-century Europe. I loved it when he said, "We should not assume that secular people have a basic Christian worldview or understand what Christianity is about, but we should start from the basics when discussing our faith so that they have a better opportunity to respond to Jesus' offer of eternal life."

Jesus gave us a few indicators regarding approaching people who do not yet believe. One of the ways Jesus gave us is to understand people's struggles. We find this instance in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23), where the different ground types are typical of people's challenges in life. Good ground indicates a person is receptive to the gospel. However, if most of our outreach efforts are dedicated to finding people who are good ground, then we face logistical and methodological challenges.

Logistical challenges exist because we are looking for an ever-decreasing number of people currently receptive to the gospel message via our methods. A methodological challenge is that most people in the UK and Europe need to be amenable to the methods we love, such as different types of door-to-door evangelism and evangelistic preaching or prophecy seminars.

Sharing the gospel in the UK has always been challenging, and in 1910, E J Fitzgerald, BUC President, saw that public evangelism was losing its potency (Dunton, BUC Messenger, 1992, 9). Public evangelism, once the driving force of Adventism in the UK, eventually petered out and faded away following the successful Vandeman mission in the early 1950s (Anthony, BUC Messenger, 1992, 27). This fading away coincided with the launching of TV entertainment channels in 1955 in the UK, the identification of postmodernity by social scientists in the late 1950s, and the 1960s youth cultural revolution in the Western world (such as flower power, along with mods and rockers).

Public evangelism was revived when the Caribbean membership migrated to the UK, which brought over vibrant evangelists from the Caribbean, USA, and Africa. These evangelistic efforts were successful in attracting like-minded people. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said if we bring White preachers to evangelise the British public.

It is not just the similarity principle, or 'they are like us', anymore because of the effects of secularism. We see this evidenced by the loss of our second and third-generation children of expatriates who migrated to the UK. Secularism is reaching into the hearts of our homes. We cannot, under normal circumstances, restrict the effects of secularism because it's all around us. Yet, we have hope.

In 1 Corinthians 14:3, we read that whoever "prophesises speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men." This is significant when we think about worldview-changing messages. This is because worldview researchers have found that we have three worldview modalities, which are cognitive (our thinking – edification), affective (our feelings – comfort), and evaluative (value/principle – exhortation). We all usually have all three modalities but are dominant in one area. We see a similar trio in John 16:8-9. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin because of a lack of belief (cognitive – edification), righteousness because Jesus goes to the Father (right relationship – comfort), and judgment (evaluation – exhortation).

There is consistency throughout scripture, so if our messages and ministries edify, comfort, and exhort in credible and relevant ways, then our messaging would be more effective in reaching the secular person because they also have a cognitive, affective, and evaluative nature – albeit distorted by sin.

A better way to share our faith is by using methods that secular people are receptive to. And not only that. If we can reach secular-minded people with the everlasting gospel, we should be able to retain our youth and young adults using a similar approach.

Today, the BUC Reflecting Hope approach aims to tackle the secularism challenge by using outreach methods founded upon biblical principles and supported by relevant research findings.