Evangelism Book Idea
Recently I had a conversation with an editor who rejected my book proposal. It was not as depressing as it could have been. But, the bottom line is that books on Evangelism just aren’t the biggest sellers out there. So, I’m scrapping my book idea on Evangelism.
For those who may be disappointed by this – even if it is only a few of you – I wanted to let you know that I will be writing on the topic, just not for the purpose of a book. I plan to continue writing and try to get articles published. Recently, I published some of what I had written for the book proposal on the Deep Church blog (I am a guest author there now, blogging about once a month) and the article got picked up by Doable Evangelism as well. If you are not a regular reader of those blogs, I encourage you to check them out and join the conversation.
If you are interested in this topic, I’d love to hear from you. Please comment here after reading the chapter summary I worked up for my book proposal and vote on which topic you would like to hear more about next.
Chapter Summaries – Part 1: Evangelism Misconceptions
Chapter 1: I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
This first chapter introduces the reader to the author’s conversion experience and some common misconceptions about conversion. It addresses some of the concerns about whether conversion is a one time mental assent to a set of beliefs, or a complex set of decisions to follow Christ over time. Conversion is often viewed as an in-out proposition and the gospel of the Kingdom is overlooked. The idea that the gospel is all about life after death is broached here, as well as the notion of losing your salvation. This chapter also serves as an introduction to the rest of the book.
Chapter 2: Holy Huddle
This chapter will address the misconception, “I have to know all the answers and be living a perfect Christian life before I can tell others the Good News.” Within 5 years of becoming a Christian, many Christians have focused their lives more on conformity to a particular Christian community than conformity to Christ, and have isolated themselves from those who do not know Christ. Feeling safe in the comfort of their Christian community, they start to believe that they don’t know enough to adequately share their faith, and that they haven’t reached a certain level of maturity required to be able to share their faith with others. They fill their lives with the busy-ness of serving their faith community and are ever learning, but never perceiving the need to get out of the holy huddle and work to bring the Kingdom of God to those who are far from God. We need to learn to live a balanced life that includes living our lives in front of those who are far from Christ so they can see the reality of God at work in us, even when we feel we have not yet arrived at perfect conformity to the image of Christ. It is in the midst of the process of allowing Christ to transform us that others will see Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Chapter 3: Four Laws
This chapter will address the misconception, “You have to follow a formula to be saved.” Much of modern evangelism in the 20th century was structured around presenting the “gospel in a nutshell” to strangers on the street, asking leading questions about whether that person thinks they will go to heaven when they die and then presenting a formula to answer that question for them; as if the gospel is only about what happens when we die! The gospel is a far more robust message than can be communicated in a few moments using a small tract. The Gospels – the New Testament stories telling the Good News of Jesus offer a variety of examples of how Jesus called people to a life of faith and following Him. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find the use of “gospel tracts.” This modern invention may have done more damage than we can even begin to discern today. We need to focus our energies on more holistic representations of the Good News offered in the context of relationship with the expectation of God meeting people uniquely, not according to some formula of our design.
Chapter 4: Bible Thumpers
This chapter deals with the misconception, “People are convinced of the truth only through exposure to the Bible.” This has become a strong and powerful misconception in America where Christians on the average own four Bibles. Some people seem to think that if they talk enough Scripture to their friends who are not yet saved, that the power of the Bible will somehow save them, as if the written word has some magical power. Most who hold this view may not be aware of their error in thinking this way, saying they know it’s the power of the Holy Spirit that makes the Scripture come alive, but this seriously discounts any efforts to be a witness unless the Bible is specifically proclaimed and quoted (in the particular translation they deem is best) and they tend to use the Bible as a weapon to defend their faith and convince others that what they believe is right and unless something is written specifically in the Bible, it must be wrong. Where does this leave Christians in other cultures who do not have access to the Bible? Is there no hope for them to be saved? We need to come to a fuller understanding of Jesus as the LIving Word and Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life so we do not give power to a source that cannot deliver what we expect. We need to expect Jesus to reveal Himself all around us and not limit His revelation to the world as being confined to the canonization of scripture.
Chapter 5: Pray the Prayer
This chapter exposes the misconception, “People are generally converted in the same manner.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the question, “Would you like to invite Jesus into your heart to be your personal Lord and Savior?” I heard a story of an evangelical Christian visiting a monastery and asking one of the monks if Jesus was his personal Lord and Savior, to which he responded, “No, I like to share him.” Just as we should not boil the gospel down to a simple four point formula and expect people to encounter Christ, we should not present the opportunity to make a decision to follow Christ the same way for every person in very circumstance. We need to learn to engage people uniquely and look to see how God is at work in drawing them to himself. We need to seek to see people with eyes of the Spirit so we can lead them to Christ according to their personal point of connection with him.
Chapter 6: The Invitation
This chapter addresses the misconception, “I have to invite my friends to church to hear the gospel preached by a professional before they can be saved.” Many Christians have an unrealistic expectation of the role of the church or clergy in Christian witness. The church is a powerful witness as it engages in practices of outreach, proclamation, hospitality, formation, initiation, and discipleship that lead persons into a process of conversion to a life of holiness. (Bryan Stone, Evangelism after Christendom, pg. 258) But many only invite people to hear the proclamation part and do not invite people into the life of the church. Sometimes this is because the church mostly offers proclamation and has set up, perhaps unknowingly, that proclamation is the most important part of Christian witness and you may as well leave it to the professionals to do this part anyway. The use of the “invitation” at the end of most sermon or message portions of church gatherings reinforces this notion that the proclamation portion of Christian witness is most important with the expectation that because the message was proclaimed so professionally, people will naturally respond. We need to enlarge our thinking about the role of the church in Christian witness as well as the role of the members to create a culture where the invitation is not merely to attend an evangelistic event or weekend church gathering, but is an invitation to be formed socially by the Holy Spirit into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus through incorporation into his body.
Chapter 7: Lay Witnessing
This chapter exposes the misconception, “I have to have the gift of evangelism, special training, or the call to be a missionary to share the gospel.” Over the years I have taken a number of spiritual gifts tests and had conversations with people identifying their particular gifts. I am amazed at how many people view spiritual gifting as a static, one time, that’s the way I am, kind of thing. Jesus gives to all of us THE gift of the Holy Spirit and calls all of us to follow him and to go make disciples. Far too many American Christians take personality tests, and spiritual gifts tests and pigeon hole themselves into one role or another to the exclusion of being fully formed into the image of Christ. Certainly, we may have strengths and weaknesses, passions and callings, but none of us are excluded from the reality of being witnesses. We need to raise awareness of the universal call of Christ followers to be witnesses. Evangelism is not a practice done in isolation of the rest of our lives, but rather is essentially embodied in all that we do.
Chapter 8: Turn or Burn
This chapter deals with the misconception, “The fear of hell is what motivates people to believe in Jesus.” Hell, fire, and brimstone preaching may not be as common today as during the great revivals of the past, but this thinking still pervades many people’s thinking. When asked why we need to share the gospel message with others, many Christians will reply with some sort of “fear of hell” response. Is the Good News only about life after death and escaping hell? I believe a focus on the afterlife has left many Christians ill equipped to live this life here and now. We need to rediscover Jesus’ gospel of the Kingdom and invite people to join the Kingdom here and now, bringing heaven to earth instead of waiting for some future rapture and re-creation of heaven and earth. The new creation has already begun, we need to wake up to the Kingdom now bringing the reality of God’s reign into our everyday living. (N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, 206) But we must also not forget the reality of life after death to the point where we only focus on social issues to the neglect of inviting others into the Kingdom here and now.
Chapter 9: Missionary Dating
This chapter deals with a sad misconception, “I can only witness to strangers because I can’t be too close friends with unbelievers.” Many Christians reject people who are not followers of Christ with the excuse that since bad company corrupts good morals, they can’t be good friends with anyone who does not live the same Christian lifestyle they do. When we keep our distance from people who do not live like we do, we miss the opportunity to love them as Christ loves them. I was raised with the notion that I should only date Christians. While this notion is good in many respects, it fails in some respects as well. In this chapter I will tell the story of how my husband came to Christ through my witness, as well as a friend of my daughter who I feared was becoming “bad company” for her.
Chapter 10: Spin Doctor
This chapter deals with the misconception and dangerous practice, “I have to make my life look better than it really is to attract others to Christ.” Christianity has gotten a bad rap lately because too many people present a face to the world that they have it all together and are living a wonderfully upright and moral life, when in reality they are struggling with sin behind closed doors. Some do this out of fear of judgment by other Christ followers, but others, to be a good witness. They think if others see their weakness, they will not want to follow Christ. We have seen that this kind of hypocrisy has done more damage to our Christian witness than many other misconceptions. We must learn to live authentic lives of faith, following Christ in humility, trusting others will be attracted to Christ in us, not our own false self-righteousness.
Chapter 11: Get ‘em While they’re Young
This chapter will address conversion statistics that say a majority of Chirstian’s make a decision of faith before a certain age leading to a misconception that “the best time for someone to make a decision to follow Christ is while they are young.” I will research these statistics, discuss how these statistics have influenced how churches have done outreach and targeted kids, and why this may not be an appropriate approach to evangelism. My suspicion is that the statistics are skewed by the number of people who are raised in Christian homes and choose to make a decision to follow Christ at a young age. While we may be counting these decisions (which is not necessarily what we should be counting anyway) we are not counting the number of those early decisions that are later reversed in young adulthood. I will also do research to discover the process for first generation follower’s of Christ choosing to follow Christ and report on how this impacts evangelism in an ever increasingly post-Christian culture.