At our worst, we Christians have isolated and insulated ourselves from our culture's mainstreams. We can be inward-looking, self-absorbed, self-important, and cloistered, instead of engaging people at our modern day Mars Hills. I remember a pastor friend who had a parishioner whose child had gone to Christian schools for so long that he was barely functional in the world at large. Another pastor confided to me several summers ago that at his annual denominational meeting delegates were, in all honesty, merely "talking to themselves." And I still remember exactly where I was twenty-five years ago when one of my seminary professors remarked to me that he had never entered a movie theater.
But at our best, Christians like Neil have always been just as comfortable living, learning and sharing the Gospel in the marketplace of ideas as in the ministry of the church, in bars and board rooms as well as in basilicas, in university lecture halls as easily as in church fellowship halls. In an outward, centrifugal movement modeled after Paul at the Areopagus, believers have welcomed the opportunity to meet real people where they really live, work, and think, in order to gain a hearing for their "strange ideas" about repentance, rebirth, and the resurrection.