The Becoming a Contagious Christian course is an updated version of a previous course based on the book Becoming a Contagious Christian by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg. The core of the course are six DVD sessions with Mark Mittelberg and Lee Strobel speaking to an studio audience interspersed with dramas and vox pops. I feared the dramas would be too cringey, but they are well done (though I’m still not convinced how they would go down with a British audience). This material is supplemented by a participant’s workbook as well as an extensive leader’s guide, a CD with further resources and the original book. The CD includes sample text for six sermons that can be delivered alongside the course with a view to creating a ‘contagious campaign’ in your church.
It’s great material, especially for people who are nervous about evangelism. It covers much that you would expect in personal evangelism training – motivation, building relationships, beginning a gospel conversation, presenting the gospel.
The real added value is its recognition that people have different styles of evangelism. There’s a 36-question questionnaire that enables people to identify their personal style. You might quibble with the six categories, but the idea that people do evangelism in different ways is important. Too often people are made to feel guilty about not doing evangelism in the way that others do. It would be worth working through this session alone with a missional community. It may mean some people start to recognize the role they can play while others learn to esteem the role of others even when this does not look like what they do. Ironically the course does not really follow through this insight with something of a one-size-fits-all approach in the rest of the material.
The session on sharing your story is very helpful. The gospel presentation taught in session five, though, is somewhat too individual-centred for my liking. The centrality of the people of God in the story of salvation is neglected and the presentation is fairly man-centred rather than God-centred. It’s focus is getting to heaven rather than the renewal of all things or the glory of God. That said, all gospel frameworks are reductionistic. They are at best a training tool.
There is much that is helpful in this material. But some of it is not appropriate to the deeply secular culture of Europe. In our context the chance to run through a gospel framework is a rare opportunity. Even if people were interested (which they’re not), they lack the background knowledge to make sense of an abbreviated gospel framework. Nor would you get away with ‘turning’ a conversation, as suggested, by moving from a discussion of ‘physical fitness’ to raising the issue of ‘spiritual fitness’. Sharing the gospel is inevitably fragmentary with interest and understanding growing over an extended period. That said, I could see us using the second session on evangelism styles.