TITLE: The Sacrament of Evangelism
AUTHOR: Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Press, New Edition, (288 pages).
For many people, evangelism is like seeing a fog and letting fear get the better of us by retreating back to our comfort zone. This book is a great fog removal. The main message in this book is that evangelism is neither a series of do's and don'ts, nor pushing a Christian agenda on an unsuspecting non-believer. It is essentially a ministry of presence with people. It is manifesting the presence of God in one's work, be it social concerns, daily interactions with people, or outright sharing of the gospel in words. Evangelism is both kingdom words and kingdom works. It is building relationships. It is obedience to God in spite of the challenges. It is being fruitful, and let our fruits shine the way for Jesus. "Sacrament" is a place where God is present.
The authors have structured the book in four parts. Part One deals with the preliminaries by sweeping away any notion of evangelism being only something for the trained, the capable, the experienced, and confident. Such a thinking isolates evangelism into those who know and those who do not know. Worse, it is too self-focused, self-conscious, and self-seeking that any evangelistic efforts miss out on the power of the Holy Spirit. Evangelism is also not a "later" event, but an always "now" activity. Evangelism begins not out there, but very much in prayer. Through prayer, one becomes more conscious of knowing the target audience, knowing the appropriate method, and building a culture of evangelism. The Great Commission is both words and works. Part Two strengthens the need to abide in Christ to do Christ's work. Through discovering how much God loves us, we are then able to respond by sharing of God's love. Through the Spirit's presence, we are empowered to be present with people, knowing that God is present in every evangelistic situation. Through the cultivating of character, one grows four habits of the heart, namely, virtue, temperance, justice, and wisdom. As a practitioner of the sacrament of evangelism, one will learn to not merely experiencing God but also reflecting God's character to people around. One needs to manifest love through good works, cultivate awareness of God through presence in care, and to share the gospel through words. Part Three introduces additional points of connection with a focus on spiritual longing. Using Evelyn Underhill's references to three basic human longings wandering as a pilgrim, human longing for love, and a spiritual desire for holiness, one soon realizes that all of these longings can only be fulfilled in God. The evangelist needs to acknowledge that he himself needs God. Part Four presents the most practical side of the book. The authors remind readers of the nature of humanity, and the challenging world at large. Several evangelism methods are introduced for initiating communications. The book contains follow up suggestions and concludes with a chapter on "reproducing reproducers."
By calling evangelism as a "sacrament," the authors have managed to argue the case that evangelism is being present with people, by manifesting God's love in our works and words, practical, pastoral, and seeing Christ bring new life to people beginning with ourselves. I like the way the authors challenge readers to adopt the "now" instead of "later" mindset, to see evangelism more as presence rather than presenting a perfect message. It weaves together strands of personal holiness, spirituality, human longing, evangelism tips, and many more. Most of all, I appreciate the way the authors instill a "can do" mentality. This book emboldens the timid, encourages the weary, humbles the proud, and lifts up the fog of fear. We are all called to obey God in taking the gospel to the world. Such efforts if focused on ourselves will hardly make a dent on the world. If focused on God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and initiated by wise minds, willing hearts and available hands, the sacrament of evangelism will usher in Gods' presence powerfully.
Rating: 5 stars of 5.
This book is provided to me free by Moody Publishers without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.