Interactive Gospel
- Background -
by Paul Hazelden


This might be obvious, but I'm going to say it anyway:

The Interactive Gospel is intended to be read and used by people who are not already Christians.

Because of this, I try to avoid as much standard Christian jargon as possible, and (especially in the earlier parts) I try not to give obvious and explicit quotes from the Bible.

As a possible exception to this rule, I follow the traditional practice and use capital letters for God - partly to avoid offending people for whom this expresses a proper amount of respect, partly to make it clearer in a few places who (or Who) I am speaking about, and partly from pure habit.

The Bible

People believe in the authority of the Bible because they have come to believe in Jesus. It doesn't work the other way round!

The Bible is important in evangelism for three reasons:

The Bible is important because it is true, and the truth always has its own authority. Quoting chapter and verse does not make it any more true!

The Bible is important because it is the word of God, and God's word is powerful. God acts in a supernatural way through His word. But, again, His word is powerful whether or not we quote chapter and verse, whether or not people understand we are quoting anything at all.

The Bible is also important in evangelism because at some point the person you are talking with will probably need to be assured that the incredible things you are telling them are what Christians have believed for centuries. In particular, they need to be confident you are not making it up as you go along, and you are not trying to ensnare them in some strange cult. For this reason, they need to understand that the key truths you are asking them to believe are clearly found in the Bible. It demonstrates to them you are working within a social and theological context they can trust.

(The sub-text here is that mainstream churches may be boring and irrelevant, but at least they do not go in for brainwashing, tearing families apart, or mass suicides. Every cloud has a silver lining!)

Christian Jargon

As Christians, we get into the habit of using special words which (if we are lucky!) are completely meaningless to anyone who is not a member of our particular group. If we are unlucky, they think they understand the words we use, and end up completely confused.

One piece of jargon I try to avoid is the word 'Christian' - apart from on this page, which is written for Christians! This word has many meanings and associations, and for many people today these meanings are either wrong or unhelpful.

'Christian' is often taken to mean 'good' or 'loving' - as in the criticism, 'that was not a very Christian thing to do!' If people understand the word this way, then when I call myself a Christian, they will think I am claiming to be a good person.

'Christian' is also used to mean someone who goes to church. While many (perhaps most!) of the people who go to church are Christians, I really want to get the message across that going to church is not what being a Christian is all about.

'Christian' is also used to mean a member of one of the standard christian groups. While (theologically speaking) being a Christian is a state or condition, this is not the truth I want to emphasise in the Interactive Gospel. If you think of it as a state, like the state of being married or having a degree in engineering, it becomes dependent on the entry qualification.

In this context, I think it is safer to talk about 'following Jesus' - a verb, not a noun; an action, not a state. I want the readers to understand it as an activity which you start and continue to do. The doctrinal details can be sorted out once they are interested in such things. You don't need a fully accurate and complete understanding of what happens when you are saved in order to be saved, thank goodness!




Copyright © 1999-2000 Paul Hazelden was last updated 2 July 2014
Page content last modified: 30 August 2000
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