I first met Will Spokes in June of 2013 as I was doing a display for Christianity Explored (CE) at his denomination’s annual meeting. He stopped at our table and told me about being introduced to CE, and about his interest in using it at the church he now serves as Minister of Outreach. This caught my attention, because it is the church at which my wife and I met and were married over thirty years ago, the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.
Later I contacted Will via telephone. He told me that he sees a real benefit in CE in the way it fits into the process a person takes on the way to faith. He is seeking to build around CE as the centerpiece of the evangelistic process at Tenth, developing initiatives that give people multiple exposures to the Christian faith, providing different doorways for people to be introduced to Christ.
I asked Will to write about the strengths he sees in CE as an evangelistic tool to help the local church.
I first became aware of Christianity Explored in the fall of 2012. Usually I am a bit skeptical of pre-packaged courses introducing Christianity. They often tend to prey on the emotions and speak primarily to issues or felt-needs. Christianity Explored is nothing of the sort. When I think of Christianity Explored three words come to mind: scriptural, clear, and adaptable.
Perhaps the greatest strength of Christianity Explored is the copious and focused use of scripture. On the one hand Christianity Explored offers a self-guided tour through the Gospel of Mark. Each participant has the opportunity to read through the whole Gospel of Mark on their own, answer reflection questions, and discuss their findings with others. On the other hand, Christianity Explored asks 7 basic and crucial questions raised by specific passages in Mark’s Gospel. These 7 questions and corresponding passages provide the content of each class session during the 7-week course. It is a wonderfully organized, balanced use of scripture to tell the gospel story and expose people the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Not only does Christianity Explored put scripture front and center, it does so in a very clear, intelligible way. From the passage selections, to the study guide questions, to the DVD presentations, Christianity Explored is the clearest most substantive introduction to Christianity for a post-Christian society one can find. It successfully avoids Christian lingo and does an excellent job explaining and illustrating what Christianity is all about for the ordinary, every day person.
Lastly, Christianity Explored is highly adaptable. As a tool for communicating the gospel message, it recognizes not every context is the same. In fact for some churches or contexts, the full-blown course may be too much to begin with. This has been our experience where I serve as the Minister of Outreach at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA. We are building up to offering a 7-week course to which participants commit ahead of time. Currently we don’t have a church culture that overlaps regularly and substantively enough with people outside the Christian faith and for which a regular 7-week course like Christianity Explored would make sense. However, Christianity Explored is highly adaptable for many different ministry contexts. Here at Tenth we are offering a monthly opportunity to explore Christianity by addressing the questions featured in the course. To do so we are using the DVD presentation and the corresponding passage to introduce people to the Gospel message and facilitate discussion. We are combining this adapted use of Christianity Explored with another monthly opportunity to consider various questions and objections to the Christian Faith. Taken together we are able to create two overlapping but distinct opportunities for believers and skeptics to consider the claims of Christianity. One is responding to objections to the faith. The other is a positive commendation of the faith. Both, I believe, are important for our day and time.
Will Spokes is Minister of Outreach at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Center City Philadelphia, PA.