Saturday when I went out to collect our mail, I found two shopping bags at our front door. One was a gift bag from Baptist Mega-Church on the Freeway. Inside the gift bag were two books: How To Find God (the New Living Translation of the New Testament) and Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper. Also included were a coupon for a free (with purchase of large drink) Chik-Fil-A sandwich, an invitation to Baptist Mega-Church's Spanish language services, a schedule of their Holy Week events and two peppermints!
The other shopping bag was a request for donations to Baptist Mega-Church's Food Pantry. A list of requested food items was attached. All I need to do to contribute is fill the grocery bag with food and leave it on my front porch next Saturday for pick-up.
Pretty clever, eh? Leave some gifts and ask for donations. Actually, there are a number of non-Christians among our neighbors. Most of them are Hindus, but there are also a few Muslim families. Perhaps the efforts of Baptist Mega-Church will prove fruitful in the long run. Gotta love the Baptists: they aren't reluctant to evangelize.
I skimmed through Fifty Reasons and don't think that it would be very helpful to someone who had no background with Christianity because it seems to assume familiarity with the Bible and basic Christian theology. How To Find God, on the other hand, prefaces the New Testament text with some basic Christian concepts and a "How to Study the Bible" introductory chapter. The NLT text is a modern paraphrase. Its layout seemed "gimmicky" to me, though--lots of little text boxes and asides. I wonder if that type of layout, which looks more like a contemporary magazine than a book, is more inviting to someone totally unfamiliar with the Bible?
Although it is impossible for me to put myself in the place of a non-Christian and evaluate what kind of books on the subject would be appealing, I did start to wonder what books I would include in a gift bag like this if I were organizing this evangelism/service project. I'm thinking that Calvin's Institutes and the Book of Confessions aren't very seeker-friendly! For an introduction to the Bible, you can't beat The Bible From Scratch (OT and NT volumes) by Donald Griggs, but those books are meant to be read in a group setting, not on your own Christianity for Dummies, seems to be for, well, dummies, and not appropriate my well (or over!) educated neighbors. Maybe I would include C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity or Robin Griffith-Jones' wonderful analysis of the gospels, The Four Witnesses. If I were including a New Testament I would choose Eugene Peterson's The Message paraphrase. It doesn't have chapters and verses and reads more like a regular book.
What would you put in the bag?
Since their Food Pantry serves a lot of needy people in our neighborhood, we'll be leaving a full grocery sack on the doorstep for them to pick up next Saturday. I hope they get a lot of donations.