Sunday, April 27, 2014

We Need a Culture of Evangelism

“Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus. (9Marks: Building Healthy Churches). By J. Mack Stiles. Crossway. pp. 128. 2014. (List Price $14.99 Paperback | $9.99 Kindle)

Programs, programs. Mack Stiles says in Evangelism that "God can use programs. I know people who have come to faith at evangelistic events. For the record, I often promote and speak at evangelistic programs. But I don’t think programs are the most effective, or even the primary, way we should do evangelism." AMEN!

But if not programs, then what? Stiles wants to see churches develop a culture where evangelism is fostered through mutual encouragement and support, where people are "committed to sharing the gospel as part of an ongoing way of life, not by the occasional evangelistic raid event."

It's much easier to describe a culture of evangelism (which Stiles does) than it is to create one, and, truth be told, one cannot discount the central role of the Holy Spirit in this process. I was slightly disappointed because I wanted to see a step by step process for developing a culture of evangelism in my church, but when it came down to it, such a process would ultimately look like yet another program. As someone who wants to see such a culture take root in my church, I had to consider my own heart as I looked over the list of things Stiles encourages his readers to do on a personal level. He calls on his readers to view evangelism as a spiritual discipline, to pray, and to model evangelism to other believers in the church.

I would only caveat my review with two things that may affect whether your curiosity reaches that tipping point where you check out the book for yourself or settle for reading a review like this one. First, at it's size, the book does not offer as much instruction on how to engage in sharing your faith as other, larger books on evangelism do (Stiles's own Speaking of Jesus, for example).

Second, there was one (seriously, just one) example that I thought could give the wrong impression to readers. A woman had asked him what the church was going to do to reach an immigrant group that had recently moved to the city. His response was spot on: "It’s really not the best thing for ‘the church’ to set up programs for Vietnamese outreach, but rather for you to think how you can reach out..." However, his response didn't offer any reassurance that she could count on the church to band with her and support her in her efforts to witness, and I'm afraid that church leaders who try to emulate this example may "break a bruised reed" and discourage members who desire to evangelize, but who still need some guidance and support from the church.

These are minor concerns, and I believe that if pastors and church leaders follow Stiles's guidance on how to promote that culture of evangelism, they will do the necessary follow-up and offer assistance to equip the member for evangelism.

Disclosure of material connection: I requested and received a review copy from Crossway in order to provide this review.

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