I suppose that in apologetics and evangelism it is possible to place too much stress on ‘beginning where people are’, and in addressing felt needs. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to ignore the questions and concerns that are expressed by those to whom we would commend Christ.
With that thought in mind, it is interesting to look at the results of a small survey of people without any religious affiliation. The survey was carried out as part of Coventry Diocese’s ‘Beyond the Fringe’ research project back in 2003.
Respondents were found to have six ‘big questions’:-
- Destiny – what happens after we die? Where, if anywhere, are we going?
- Purpose – What is the point of life? What values should I live by? Whose life and values might I take as an example to inspire me?
- The universe – How did it start? Is it designed? Is it planned? Is it controlled in any way?
- God – does he/it exist? If so, what is he/it like? What, if any, viable relationship could there be between God and human beings?
- Spiritual realm – Is there a spiritual realm? What form does it take? Does it have any relevance to me and to my life?
- Suffering – Why is there so much in the world? What national and international issues particularly concern me? What can be done about them?
Questions about the Christian faith focused on:-
- Jesus – Who is/was he? What relevance does he have to the modern world?
- The Bible – What is it? How reliable is it? How relevant is it?
- Heaven and hell – How real, relevant and meangingful are they?
- The Church – What opinions of it do people have? What impact has it had on their lives?
One of the most encouraging things about all this to be reminded that people do tend to have ‘big questions’. Less encouraging was the fact that the respondents tended to have little sense that the Church of the Christian message had much to offer by way of relevant answers.
See Evangelism in a Spiritual Age, 16-18.