“Pre-evangelism” – Preparing people for the Gospel

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” – 2 Corinthians 10:5

Mars Hill

I have almost finished a song with a difference. It’s the first serious song I’ve written for probably several years that does not mention God, Jesus, sin or any other directly religious language. Yet I have written it with the need for people to come to Christ in mind. What’s going on here?

A concept I recently heard spoken about (I think by John Piper) is that of “pre-evangelism”. This is basically the idea that there are certain truths that are helpful to prepare people to hear the Good News of Jesus, even if they themselves are not the Gospel. A good illustration of this is in the life of Paul. At one point, he is able to say to the Philippian jailer “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” and see him come to faith. However, as he stood before the philosophers at Athens he did not mention Jesus’ name at all. Why? Because he saw that those at Athens were at a level of understanding so distant from the truth, that to tell them of Jesus would have sounded like nonsense to them. So instead, he starts to tell them of the personal God who created all things, who “even some of your poets” have spoken of (Check out Acts 17:22-34). If this type of thinking interests you, try checking out the work of Francis Schaeffer.

Many people around us may have an even more distant understanding than those listening to Paul in Athens. Some may not even believe that there exists truth, or goodness, let alone a creator and sustainer God who can be known personally through the work of Jesus. So how do we respond to this? I think it is important for us to recognise that whilst some people around us are ready to respond to art and music that directly explains the gospel (and praise God for how many people’s lives have been radically changed by this sort of creativity – so KEEP MAKING IT!), but that for others we need to adopt a different approach.

The song I spoke of at the beginning is about my wish for someone who would go beyond their fears, their self-interest and simply seek out the truth, “to see infinity and not to turn away”. The song talks of what it would cost such a person, and closes by asking whether such a person ever existed. I know the answer is yes. The listeners may not. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, the song could trigger a glimmer of hope in their heart, which might lead them to search – and perhaps a prodigal might return from the pigsty back to the arms of their Father….

– Stephen

Are Some Thoughts Still Taboo?

In our Christ-centred creativity most often we focus on the good things, joy, and the good times. In this post our friend and brother in Christ, Joe Ogborn gives his thoughts on creativity that gives an honest reflection of where we are at.

Lost and Confused Signpost

In the last week I have been looking to write a song based (loosely) on Psalm 42. If you’ve got a Bible to hand, it’s worth giving it a read. It is hard to overlook the raw honesty present in the Psalm. While maintaining a steadfast hope in God, the Psalmist calls out to God ‘Why have you forgotten me?’

This got me thinking. Do we, as artists in whatever field, ever feel that there are certain feelings we cannot express in our art for fear that it will bring disrepute to Jesus’ reputation? Are we reticent to express doubt, frustration and maybe even disappointment?

Perhaps we as artists can play a vital role in serving the body of Christ in this area. How many of us have turned up to a meeting and sang songs that express our deep love for God when in truth we are struggling to even believe in Him? I know I have. Sometimes we can put on a fake smile and when everyone else seems to be hearing from God, it can seem to us like God has closed up Heaven’s phone lines. I don’t wish to encourage doubt as some fashionable new accessory for the culturally savvy Christian, but perhaps being blunt and honest in our art may reach out to those who perhaps feel like the Victorious Christian Life, that they are meant to be living, has passed them by.

Or what about the woman who has had a third miscarriage after feeling sure that she had a word from God reassuring her that this time it was going to be a boy? Are there songs/poems/pictures out there that deal with the raw anger and disappointment that she feels?

So rather than rambling any longer, here’s my challenge: the Christian life is not pretty all the time and doesn’t come gift wrapped with a nice bow on top, but we have a God who identifies with our pain and weakness in Jesus. Was it not Jesus who cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ If Jesus shouted that at a darkened sky, perhaps we may be bold enough to put pen to paper and invite others to share our joy and our sadness, our highs and our lows while following Jesus.

– Joe Ogborn