Recommended books on evangelism

March 3, 2012

Tomorrow in Vinebranch we begin our two-part sermon series on evangelism. I’ve read several books to get ready for these sermons. I can heartily recommend a couple. The first is Reimagining Evangelism by Rick Richardson. He handles contemporary misconceptions about evangelism well, and gives us a new way of thinking about how to do it: It’s about inviting friends to join us on a spiritual journey. None of us, after all, has already arrived.

He also nicely emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has already prepared people to hear and receive the gospel; our job is to follow his lead. This emphasis takes the pressure off, doesn’t it?

When I was in high school, I desperately wanted to be an effective witness, but I was often uncomfortable with the ways in which I saw it done. I had a friend—Heavy Metal Mark—who was really into hair metal. (This was the ’80s, after all.) He loved bands like Mötley Crüe and their nearest “Christian” equivalent, Stryper. He had long hair and even wore spandex occasionally. You get the picture.

He occasionally went to the mall with a group from my church to hand out gospel tracts and attempt to engage strangers in conversation about Christianity. One day, he invited me to come along. I even considered it. Doing something to be a witness is often better than doing nothing. Plus it might assuage my guilty conscience—since I mostly did nothing.

One of my sisters caught wind of what I was thinking and said, “If I saw Heavy Metal Mark approaching me with a gospel tract at the mall, I would want to run in the other direction!” I got her point and relented. I’m not saying that Heavy Metal Mark’s aggressive form of evangelism couldn’t be effective in some situations, but it wasn’t for me. And that’s O.K.

Maybe witnessing isn’t something we approach as if it were a root canal. Maybe it shouldn’t fill us with dread. Maybe it can be more organic… more natural. Something to fit our unique personalities and gifts. This is mostly what Richardson’s book is about.

Another good book is Can We Talk: Sharing Your Faith in a Pre-Christian World. I was confused about the subtitle, but I think the author, a professor at Asbury Seminary named Robert Tuttle, is being optimistic.

Tuttle made it his mission to identify some universal convictions that the good news of Jesus Christ addresses. For example, one thing that most people in the world share, regardless of culture, is a conviction that they have failed to measure up; they’ve let other people down. He demonstrates through case studies how we can connect this conviction, along with other universals, to the “remedy” provided by the gospel. It’s a very practical book.

I get no “promotional consideration” for recommending these books, although I can be bought. Publishers, please contact my agent. 😉

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