Biblical Apologetics, Barn Dances and Black Wednesdays

Biblical Apologetics, Barn Dances and Black Wednesdays

Apparently some people call the third day of a mission week- black wednesday. I can relate to feeling tired and it was a struggle to get up and get going today.

The CU continued to be out distributing flyers – something you don’t need to be out doing all the time – our students focussed on the lecture change overs. OUt again was the big perspex board – this with the question “CAN YOU TRUST THE BIBLE?” lots of interesting post it notes were stuck on and our intrepid students were engaging in good conversations.

The Lunch bars are growing in numbers, and again people stayed through from the first lunch bar to the second. So I am convinced the Australian system is a good one to export. Its one of my prayers for UCCF that closer ties with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students will mean the UK benefits from the great things God is doing from his church around the world. Double lunch bars are a good example of such opportunities.


This can be quite a dry seminar to present. Lots of historical data – manuscript evidence etc. My mind doesn’t work like that, so I tried a different tack. I explored some basic questions which non-Christians I have met seem to connect with. I answered the following questions:

What is the Bible?
How was the Bible written?
What is the story of the Bible?
What difference does the Bible really make to life?
Why Trust the Bible?
How can I read the Bible?

I actually spent the longest time on What is the Story of the Bible and used the outline I developed in DESTINY to present it. I made this bit interactive by asking people “If you had one tweet – how would you summarise the story of the Bible?” We had some interesting replies, but I think it confirmed to a lot of guests that they had never read the Bible so they didn’t know. For the question: ” What difference does the Bible make to life” I interviewed an excellent undergraduate student called Adam – who is studying history and ancient civilisations. He did a great job – and brought insights from his course into his testimony. I did present some internal and external evidences for the trustworthiness of the Bible and opened it up to questions. The answers involved a short exposition of John 21.


Normally I would do this as a “evidence for the resurrection” kind of talk. But after Sydney I decided to take a different tack. There were quite a few internationals present and I had just talked to a student who had lost his mother and brother in the previous year. So I took a more pastoral apologetic line. I talked about the pain of grief and bereavement, I talked about my own mother’s death last year and the questions that it had raised in my mind when we prayed for her to be healed and she wasn’t. I then did an exposition of John 11 – Jesus’ raising of Lazarus. I pressed home the parts about Mary and Martha’s frustration that Jesus hadn’t turned up when they called to him, and the realities of a relationship with God. For full details see my book LIFESWAP. I talked about Jesus as the resurrection and the life and especially ” anyone who believes in me will live even though they die.” I then took questions and then did a shorter piece on the evidence for the resurrection – which included talking about the nature of the evidence we can actually provide, and what “prove beyond reasonable doubt” might actually mean. I then did an interactive session on the evidence for the resurrection making it into a court case giving people an opportunity to suggest different theories.

Love Actually?

There was a good turn out at both lunch bars. When I say good, I mean that there were more people that came through the lunch bars than would normally come to Christian Union. I think we had around 80 people through the two lunch bars – with many staying through both. considering Reading CU only normally gets 40 people along – this is a CU punching above its weight.

The evening talk was sandwiched between two other events, A Nigerian night – which was a great evening of food, fashion and faith from Nigeria. There was an excellent presentation from some Nigerian students and some fantastic food. Then my talk Jesus and Love Actually – which we explore love, romance and identity by expounding John 4 and the movie. Then the CU ran a barn dance.

To Barn dance or not to Barn dance?

A lot of students came out for the barn dance. In fact more people than have come out to any single event so far. I am in two minds about barn dances. In one sense it was great to see the CU having a good time, it offers an “alternative” to the huge Tuesday night club culture, which was just kicking off as the barn dance finished at 10pm. But the other side of me was wondering if it pigeon holes Christians into the kind of people that like barn dances – not necessarily a main stream cultural phenomenon (unlike ceilidhs in Scotland which seem to be a bit more mainstream). The beauty of the lunch bars is that everyone needs to eat, and Christians being open to westle with the big questions is a great thing to be known for. Does the Barn dance lock us into a bit of a cultural ghetto? What do you think?

Sent from my iPad (thanks for the spellling corrections friends )


6 thoughts on “Biblical Apologetics, Barn Dances and Black Wednesdays

  1. Ben Carswell says:

    Krish – Arrived on this post from your FB update. Before I’d read it, the answer in my head was “NO!” I think you’re right, they put us into a cultural ghetto. I think in Scotland (where I studied), the ceilidh is an important cultural activity that Christians should utilise, but I don’t think they’re the easiest opportunities in mission weeks either.

    To me, the Barn Dance smacks at Christians wanting to do something that vaguely feels acceptable, but to be honest is a bit cringeworthy. Thankfully, we’ve not resorted to Morris Dances yet.

    I think the implicity question behind running Barn Dances is “What can we do that we feel comfortable with that might also attract unbelieving friends?”

    Really appreciating the thinking (out loud) that you’re doing about our missiology. I’ve learned stuff from watching you take questions in the past, so share this for your ideas bank. 2 days ago, I was with John Lennox in Auckland, where he did back to back talks for us. They were well received, but he took ALL his questions at once (and specified 4 or 5 of them), took notes on what they were & then sought to answer them. It meant the Q&A time wasn’t hijacked by 1 person, but also meant he was able to group them together & answer with a bit of thought. Good idea. (Though I’m also liking your interactive talks w/ Q&A interspersed too).

    Keep thinking (& talking!).

    1. krishkandiah says:

      Good idea about collecting up all the questions first – thanks for sharing it.
      I am not answering all the questions myself as I am trying to train up some younger evangelists.
      We are using a combination of students and CU guests. There are pros and cons.
      The main Pros are hopefully raising up more evangelists, hearing from a peer, different voices etc.

  2. Mo says:

    Hi Krish,

    These are v interesting and helpful observations. To be honest, I’m not even sure about the ceilidh and talk event in Scotland. I think events which are “Something we’d do normally with a talk tacked on” are a bit tricky to speak at and I’ve never found a way to change gears at those events without the gears crunching a lot. Have you any tips there?

    Loved your outline for Life After Death – the pastoral point is so often the place of connection in our hopeless culture of atheism.

    Do you find if you break the talk for questions and then do a second bit that:

    – people do ask questions?
    – people leave?
    – people concentrate less well in the second bit?

    This is all v helpful stuff – please keep posting!

  3. Richard says:

    I think that barn dances will attract a certain type of crowd. To be honest, if I wanted to go out dancing (and I don’t) a barn dance isn’t what I would do, and a CU is not where I would go to any form of dancing. But I do think we need to be careful not to think that all we can offer as events are main stream cultural phenomenons as all Christians are different and we need to also make sure we don’t say to Christians the only way to appear relevant is to track popular culture.

  4. Gareth says:

    Two of the CUs I work with have some kind of barn dance type event at their mission each year (including this one!). Although I agree that a barn dance isn’t the coolest evening in the world (and I think the CU are pretty clear on this too!), I’ve noticed three things:

    * some students genuinely like barn dances. OK, they may not be the coolest people in the world, but Jesus came for uncool people too… I reckon it’s OK as long as it isn’t the only event I guess, so that you aren’t only appealing to the kind of people who like barn dances.

    * friends of CU members actually come to barn dances. Maybe they participate “ironically” or whatever, but they come, and we’re all about evangelism in the context of relationships.

    * international students in particular LOVE a barn dance.

    As for the gear-change that Mo mentioned, I feel the same – especially when people haven’t told their friends that there’ll be a tallk. I think the most you can probably do is an extended welcome/invitation to the rest of what’s going on. I’ve really enjoyed the talk-followed-by-event setup we’ve had this week – it forces people to be bold in inviting their friends to an actual talk, rather than just an event, and it gets rid of the whole gear-change issue.

  5. Dave says:

    Reading isn’t the only CU doing it. A few weeks ago we had one here (Southampton Uni CU), as a publicity event in the run up to our events week.

    I can’t speak personally for how it went as I wasn’t there but I’ve only heard very positive things about it since.

    I think the point you make about how it might pigeon hole Christians is a very interesting one. I have a screen shot from when Facebook used to recommend pages on the home screen that reads, “Country Music, many people who liked the Bible liked this.”

    But of all the things Christians do and don’t do, will a barn dance define how others perceive us? I don’t know.

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