How do we convey the gospel effectively when people hold such views? Well, as Downs reminds us from Scripture and history, we need to take the time to sow. We need to value sowing. And the best place to start is right where you live, with the people you see around you every day.
What are the sower's tools? Downs suggests some excellent "implements" we need to learn to use skillfully. One is to simply ask questions - questions that are non-threatening, communicate humility, and encourage dialogue.
Another is to begin by finding areas of agreement rather than our areas of difference. In Acts 17 the Apostle Paul models this technique when relating to Athen's skeptical philosophers.
A third tool is your very life, lived before others, warts and all. We need to be there for the other person's agenda, not merely our own. We need to admit our mistakes and demonstrate our own need of a Savior. And we need to be there for people when they are ready to make a decision.
When farming, you employ different tools to prepare and plant the soil than you later use to harvest the mature crop. This principle holds in the spiritual dimension as well. The most effective sowing materials avoid "Christianese" terms and are less direct in their approach than "harvesting" tools. Several classic books meet this criteria: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, The Journey and Between Heaven and Hell by Peter Kreeft, and More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell. Perhaps God could use you to produce good sowing materials related to your specific discipline?
In addition, our secular society is producing many excellent sowing tools! Dr. Walter Bradley has used Woody Allen's 1989 film, Crimes and Misdemeanors, at his "Friday Night at the Movies" events to talk with students about moral decision making. The film implicitly asks, can there be any moral structure to our universe if it is not grounded in God's existence and character? Many of today's books (i.e. John Grisham's, The Testament) and films offer excellent opportunities to find common ground and ask good questions.
I have barely scratched the surface regarding the art of sowing found in Tim Down's book. Let me encourage you to check out his web site and get the book for yourself - http://www.sowing.net
May each of us become better equipped to be used by God to sow generously as we interact with those around us.
Scripture: Acts 17: 27-28 -- "that [all people] should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'for we also are His offspring.'"
Action Point: Pray about an opportunity to sow into someone's life today. Connect with them and demonstrate your concern for them.