Summary: To reach the world you need to speak to it on its terms, in its language and with integrity
In the early 1940s a young graduate of Wheaton College went to a small Baptist church in a Chicago suburb. His name was Billy Graham. Although he felt his gifts were more in the area of evangelism, he agreed to give it a go. Within several months, the church was growing, and so was his popularity. A popular Christian radio broadcast heard in several states called “Songs in the Night” approached the rookie pastor about becoming their weekly speaker. Sensing the hand of God in this invitation, he agreed.
The program attracted an increased number of listeners and since the station over which the program was aired was a secular one, Billy knew there were seekers and atheists listening. He engaged the wide spectrum of listeners by making sure that they referenced the culture. Let me quote from his autobiography, Just As I Am:
“I built my radio talks around the events of the day. Keeping up with current events through newspapers and radio news programs, I began each message with a reference to something people would have been hearing and talking about that very day. Then I moved into a biblical message, showing that God and the Scriptures are relevant to every problem. . . .” The popularity of this broadcast flowed from this unique approach to sharing God’s word used by Billy Graham.
From “Songs in the Night” to the “Hour of Decision” radio broadcast to the stadium crusades all over the world, Billy Graham has consistently followed the formula that he established back in 1943. Start with the common denominator of cultural happenings and establish a point of identity with your audience.
Yet even before Billy Graham, in the 1870’s the Salvationists in England used Brass Bands to promote their preaching of God’s Word. “At Salisbury, England, [in]1878, four members … were enlisted to assist the fledgling Salvation Army, in its outdoor meetings, by playing brass instruments. … Brass bands were a popular medium in England and it was only natural that Salvation Army brass bands would become established.” In Leighton Buzzard, England the band was formed in 1889 to mixed reviews from the local press. Yet referencing the popular culture wasn’t new with William Booth for we saw in Acts 17 that this is exactly what the Apostle Paul did as he preached in Athens.
My hope is that as we leave here and go through this next week of our Spiritual Adventure that we will be more willing and better able to connect with our world for the sake of Jesus.
Connect with a Purpose:
Did you notice the purpose for our connection? It is for the sake of Jesus. It’s not for the sake of Kenton. It’s not for the sake of the denomination. It’s not even for our own sakes. We seek to connect with the unbelievers, the non-churched; those who live next door to us because Jesus would have us do that.
Herb Miller writes a newsletter called The Parish Paper and in this months issue he reports on a 25 year study that says congregations are healthy and effective when they ask three questions. Who is our neighbor today? USA Today reports that 29.4 million Americans identify themselves as having no religion. That’s 14% of the US. In 1990 it was 9%. Who are we (the congregation) at the faith level? In other words do we really believe the Great Commandment—You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). And do we believe in Jesus’ Great Commission—Go, make disciples of all nations…(Matthew 28:19) ? The third question is How can we connect our faith with our neighbors in our community? The answer to many of the myths and issues in any local congregation, Miller says, is how well a congregation carries out these “Great Callings”; Christ’s “command” and “commission” in our life as individuals and congregations?
It may seem simplistic but if we don’t connect with our world in a way they understand we won’t be able to love them or make disciples. That’s what Paul meant when he said ;
“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. (1 Cor 9:20-22).