Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Where the Cool Kids Are

Like many people of my generation (I'm barely a millennial), I have a complicated relationship with street evangelism. We can all easily conjure an image in our minds of the aggressive street preacher screaming at everyone or the poorly done puppet show just trying to draw a crowd. 

With this in mind, I was invited by a friend from church to go help him with a book table down in the city. They have a small table where they give away paper back books that are short biographies of lives transformed by the gospel or books like Josh McDowell's "More Than a Carpenter." The thing that got me intrigued with this was how they were doing it. Other street witnessing I've heard about here happens in pedestrian zones in the city during the day. But those areas are usually only occupied by tourists. This was in an area where a lot of people were going out to clubs and bars in the area. We definitely saw a fair amount of intoxicated people, but there were plenty of people that were just curious what we were doing. We explained what some of the books were about and tried to recommend some of them. We answered questions and started discussions with anyone that was interested in talking.

In the midst of all this talking two guys came up to us. In the beginning, one guy was clearly trying to play "stump the theist giving away books."  I'm not a big fan of arguing about stuff, at least not like I used to be when I was in college. I tried to just have a conversation with him instead. We kept talking, asking each other questions and discussing various arguments for God or why people would believe. I talked about the things that had convinced me, and also areas where I've struggled with doubt. I talked about the fine tuning argument for God. It talks about how many different parts of our physical universe generally but also our solar system in particular are perfectly tuned for human life. We talked for a long time, almost two hours actually. It was a really good conversation, one that I don't think is had enough both in America and here in Austria.

Part of me was pretty surprised that it was possible. I came into this evening pretty skeptical that people would be open to having this sort of conversation late on a Friday night. To be honest, there were plenty of people that either wanted their free book or didn't care at all. My friend who invited me had a bunch of smaller conversations with a variety of people. I was, however, really surprised at the openness that many people displayed to ask questions or take a book. That isn't the same as what I've seen from people on the street in this country up to this point.

Dialogue like this is also important for me in terms of taking many things that I've only every studied in detail in English and translating them into German. There is a whole set of "Christian" vocabulary that we had to learn in the church when we arrived. Learning to pray in German took a lot of time and listening to how others pray before we were able to do it. Sharing your faith is the same way. I think often times we as non-native speakers have an advantage where we have to use simpler words, because we don't know all the terminology. But it is still a muscle like any others that needs to be trained a bit. Every Christian should be able to quickly give their testimony, and this was a chance to learn how to talk about these things.

This was a good experience, and I'd be interested to do it again, but I'm still convinced that relationship is the most effective way to share about Christ. The gospel is best communicated in lives transformed by grace.