"Somebody recently encouraged me to do something called The Essential Jesus Project. It's basically just taking a couple of weeks, reading the story of Jesus in the gospel of Luke and talking about it with a friend. Would you be interested in doing that?"
Many people who are not interested in religion or even in the church are very intrigued by Jesus. That makes sense because of his tremendous influence on history and culture, not to mention the billions of people who claim that he has inspired and transformed their lives for the better. The Essential Jesus Project is an opportunity and an invitation to learn about Jesus from one of the most favorite and ancient original sources: the Gospel According to Luke. This project is for all sorts of people. You may be skeptical about Christianity and religion in general, but curious to know what Jesus himself taught. You may have grown up with some sort of Christian background, but have not read the story of Jesus for yourself. Whatever your beliefs and background, reading the Gospel of Jesus (as Luke tells it) is an opportunity to get back to the real Jesus, the essential Jesus, and to discover something new about yourself, about your world and maybe even about God.
The idea is to encourage people to interact with the story of Jesus together. You can use the simple introduction at the top of the page to invite a friend to read The Essential Jesus with you. The booklet is just 80 pages, but it contains the entire text of Luke along with a short introduction and conclusion, which situates the reading in the story of the whole bible. You could split the reading into four 20-page sections and it would take just one month. Read the material and then meet for coffee, lunch, or whatever suits you to discuss what you've read. As you read mark the margins with either an exclamation point or a question mark. The exclamation point will remind you this was a story or saying that surprised you, the question mark will signal things you didn't understand. Underline powerful phrases and jot down your questions, then when you meet together you'll have something to start the conversation and discuss together.
It's easy to get copies of The Essential Jesus. You can get a paperback copy or a digital download here.