(NYT On Religion) Evangelists Adapt to a New Era, Preaching the Gospel to Skeptics

Mr. Ellis, 39, welcomed the dozen men and women seated before him. “This is a space,” he said, “for people who consider themselves non-Christian and are coming in from the outside.”

His weekly sessions, called the WS Café in a reference to the neighborhood, are at a new frontier of evangelism, one that seeks converts among a fervent and growing number of atheists in this country. The sessions started in September as a push by Redeemer Presbyterian’s prominent pastor, the Rev. Tim Keller, to preach the gospel to skeptics.

Such efforts proceed amid a rare moment in both Christian and American history. At the origin of Christianity, its apostles sought to convert adherents of other faiths, whether Judaism or Roman paganism. Missionaries of the last few centuries journeyed to China or Africa or the Americas to encounter the followers of other faiths, whether Buddhist or Yoruba or Aztec. In every case, the Christian evangelist seeking converts was at least dealing with listeners who embraced the concept of a divine being involved in the world.

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