Several years ago, a non-Christian friend of mine asked me, “Why do you believe in God?” I answered, “I believe in God because of what the Bible says”. He responded, “So you believe all that stuff about Jesus because of an ancient book?” “Yes I do.” “Well man, if that is all the evidence you have -an ancient book, written by men who weren’t nearly as smart as we are- then go for it…but it isn’t enough to convince me.”
I learned a lot in that conversation with my friend Bill. I learned that what worked 30-40 years ago, no longer works now. In a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, American society is become more secular. The number of people self-identifying as “nones” (those without religious affiliation) has risen dramatically. In 2007 “nones” made up 16% of the population; today they make up 23%, nearly one-forth of the population. What does this mean for the church? It means walking people through the Bible will not be as effective today, as it was then.
Holding a conversation with a “none” and saying “John 3:16 is why you should believe that Jesus is divine” is outdated. If the church is going to be effective in reaching this growing section of society, it needs pre-Bible work. So what is pre-Bible work? One word: apologetics. The church must equip itself with basic, easy-to-understand evidences, which lay the groundwork for conversion. Without these tools, as the number of “nones” grows, the more ineffective the “John 3:16 tactic” becomes.
It means more of our children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors, and co-workers will be lost because “John 3:16” won’t be enough (in their minds) to convince them about the truth of the gospel message. However, the future is bright! We live in a golden age of apologetics. More books, teaching materials, podcasts, blogs, twitter pages, etc., exist now then ever before! My encouragement is for all of us to access these materials and add them to our knowledge base! If Christians do that, the church can adapt to the changing societal landscape and better meet people where they are so the gospel can change who they are.