The Art of Personal Evangelism–sharing Christ in a new cultural dynamic

theartof-evangelism Published in 2003, The Art of Personal Evangelism: Sharing Christ in a Changing Culture by William McRaney Jr. examines the need to change approaches to evangelism in light of a culture shaped by postmodernism. McRaney has served in various positions in state Baptist conventions related to evangelism. He is the founder of the Ministry Enhancement Group and holds a Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Structure

McRaney divides the book into three sections. The first deals with elements of personal evangelism such as God’s involvement and the personal participation of the witness. The second section deals with communicating the gospel. The third section includes aids, suggestions, and tips for evangelism. The book concludes with appendices regarding one’s testimony, objections to the gospel, and illustrations for witnessing.

What I Appreciated

I made a lot of marks and notes in this book. I appreciated the explanation of the cultural shifts in this book. McRaney did not pine for a return to modernism nor did he spend time lambasting postmodernism. He recognizes that both have good and bad and encourages Christians to pursue a biblical view of the world. However, he explains clearly how our approach to evangelism must change to communicate the gospel to those with a postmodernist worldview. The lists comparing what verses relate best to those with a modern worldview and those with a postmodern worldview are very helpful.
Though an academic treatment of personal evangelism, the book is very practical. I hope to go back and work to memorize the scriptures mentioned as useful. The bibliography cites many books that would make excellent additions to any Christian’s library, particularly those with a ministry to equip others to do evangelism.

What I Wished Had Been or Not Have Been

At times, the lists overwhelmed me causing me to have traumatic flashbacks to some of my seminary courses. Occasionally, I did not understand why certain lists fell where they did in the book or what their purpose was. Of course, that confusion could be as much the fault of the reader as of the author. Also, after thirteen years, the book is a bit dated. I would be interested to read an updated edition that considers post-postmodernism and the increasing fracturing of our society between different identities.

Conclusion

I am very glad that read this book. I would recommend it to anyone trying to figure out why the way we did evangelism in the past isn’t working and what we need to do to be more effective. Ministers will want to find ways to present these ideas to their congregations and either discover or develop methods of evangelism training that take them into account.

(Full Disclosure: I received a free from B&H Academic. I was under no obligation to write a positive review.)

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Guardrails–a book about chaos and order in discipleship

guardrails-book

Those familiar with church planting and missions probably have several books on their shelves about movements in church planting (CPM) and making disciples (DMM). However, I had not read a book that I felt capable of successfully communicating the principles of multiplication to the broader evangelical community. Alan Briggs’s Guardrails: Six Principles for a Multiplying Church may become the first to do so. Briggs is director of Frontline Church Planting and multiplying pastor at Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs.

Movements are somewhat controversial. Many assume that movements are out-of-control incubators of heresy where leaders are left ignorant of the Bible and its doctrines. I have another book about this subject on my shelf that I bought used. The previous owner filled it with the notes revealing that he approached the subject with skepticism at best and antagonism at worst. Through Guardrails, Briggs challenges those negative assumptions and shows that in reality, a movement benefits from a structure that keeps it on the right path of expanding God’s kingdom.

Briggs begins with the concept of chaordic: the idea that a movement is a combination of chaos and order. Providing order to the disciple making movements are six principles if what discipleship must be. It must be simple, holistic, adaptable, regular, reproducible, and positive. Missionaries and church planters will be familiar with many of these.What I Appreciated

What I Appreciated

Briggs focuses on principles and not methodology. Too many church planting and discipleship books focus on methods that work well only in certain contexts. Another debate common among those who make disciples is the balance between obedience based discipleship and information based discipleship. Briggs achieves balance by not emphasizing one and discounting the value of the other. Briggs sees discipleship with emphasis on both but is clear that formal discipleship that occurs in a classroom type setting must translate into practice. I also appreciated Briggs repeated statements that one must follow the Spirit in their context.

What I Wished Had Been

I wish Briggs had fleshed out the principles more, particularly by showing how they work in practice. Briggs avoided this for the sake of preventing the book becoming about methodology. However, I think he could have avoided it by giving a variety of examples from different settings showing that people apply them in diverse ways.

Conclusion

I highly recommend this book to church planters and church leaders. We are in need of Disciple Making Movement in our world today. This book provides guardrails guiding our path toward it.

(Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Tyndale Blog Network. I was under no obligation to give a positive review.)

A review of 41 Will Come by Chuck E. Tate

41willcome41 Will Come by Chuck E. Tate is an encouraging book on the importance of waiting for God’s breakthrough in life’s tough situations. Tate is the founding pastor of RockChurch in Illinois.

Tate bases his book on the premise that in the Bible, 40 days (or whatever period) of a trial is followed by the 41st day, a time of God’s intervention, blessing, and work. Tate is correct in seeing this pattern in Scripture. It is why I always take note when I see the number 40 in the Bible. Tate focuses on the story of Goliath defying the army of Israel for 40 days until, on the 41st day, David in faith faces him.

The Good

Tate is a “warm and friendly” writer, encouraging. It is obvious that he has concern for people. The writing style reminds of that of Craig Groeschel and Matt Batterson. The book is illustrated not just with Biblical stories, but also with the lives of people today. The reader passing through difficult days will likely find some encouragement in this book. (I did.) The book is very practical.

But…

Sometimes it is practical to point of passing over deeper theological truth. For example in the chapter on the Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (another 40 in the Bible), Tate emphasizes Jesus use of the Word in terms of claiming God’s promises and launching toward God’s purpose. All of that is fine and well, but a deeper theological truth is at work in that passage. Jesus was tempted as we are, but without sin. He faced what the first Adam faced and did not sin as Adam did. Because He was sinless, He was worthy to be our Savior. He still is.

However…

Tate’s purpose was not to write a systematic theology but to encourage those waiting for God to help them or to fulfill their dreams. Such people are looking for encouragement based upon God’s Word that will them get to their 41. This book fits that need, and I recommend it.

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Tyndale’s Blog Network program in exchange for a review. I was under no obligation to give a positive review.)

Understanding the Temple: A Review of The Temple and the Tabernacle

IMG_0771The Temple and the Tabernacle: A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation is an excellent resource for pastors and Bible teachers. J. Daniel Hayes, a dean of the School of Christian Studies at Ouachita Baptist University, is the author. I will not make my usual list of strengths and weaknesses simply because there were no weaknesses evident. Instead, I will share what I liked about the book and why I think it is important to read.
What I Liked
Despite having dealt with such a magisterial topic, Hayes is surprisingly brief. If you have read my other reviews, you know that I am not a fan of long books. Brevity is a sign of excellent organization and clarity of language. Hayes’ writing is a model for those who, like me, are trying to master the craft. The book is easily assessable to most readers who are familiar with the Bible beyond a cursory understanding.IMG_0772
The structure of the book follows a chronological narrative of the temple as representing God’s presence with His people. While some may object to seeing the Scripture as a story because they think it is a capitulation to post-modernism, the fact of it is clearly evident. Many themes and images serve to unite the narrative of the Bible—the temple being one. Like all of those, the consummation of the imagery is found in Jesus who is God’s presence with His people and will be for eternity. The book includes photographs and diagrams that are helpful for picturing the physical elements of the tabernacle. The final chapter with implications of the truth discussed in the book is worth the price but read the rest of it so you can see how the author got there.
Who Can Use This Book
Though accessible and readable, the book is not for everyone. Some familiarity with the Bible, particularly the connections between the Old and New Testament would be helpful. This book is an excellent reference for Bible teachers, Sunday-School teachers, and pastors.

(Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. I was under no obligation to give a positive review.)

 

 

Saturday: Between the Cross and the Empty Grave

How was that Saturday? The day before the Romans had crucified Jesus as if He were a dangerous criminal. The Jewish religious leaders had wanted Him dead. They had what they wanted when Saturday dawned. What about the disciples? Where were they on that Saturday?

It was the Sabbath. Not many would be out that day. For that, I suppose they were thankful. It meant that hiding would be easier than on a regular day. Were they afraid that day? Who did they fear more–the Romans or the Jewish leaders? What were they thinking? Did they feel shame? For certain, Peter did. What about the others? All but John had watched from a distance.Was John looking for them to tell them all that had happened? I wonder if the weather was like it is today in Northwest Florida–clouds and rain to match their feelings of dread and despair.

But Sunday was coming. The Cross was yesterday. The Empty Grave would be tomorrow.

Today we live between the Ressurection and Consummation–between a single empty grave and many empty graves. This period is our Saturday.

Some disciples face death. Many face persecution. Some face illness. Others needlessly carry the shame and guilt that Jesus has already taken away. Despite the uncertainties of our present Saturday, we face tomorrow with hope, because we look back toward a Sunday with an empty grave. A perfect Sunday is coming.

Do This In Memory

It was a couple of Sundays ago as we were leaving the church when we got the word. A friend of ours, one whom we had worked closely with in Argentina, had died suddenly of a heart attack. His name was Oscar Chapo. He was pastor of a small church in a small town in one of the poorer provinces in the country. He was not famous. He did not hold a degree from seminary. Chances are without reading his name above; you would not know him.

He had something more than all the things that he lacked. He was faithful, and he was beloved by the people and community whom he served as a pastor. He died doing what he loved: telling children about Jesus in a mission church that his church had planted. That was how I knew him. We had worked together in planting churches in northern Argentina. I would train church planters, and his church cooperated with us in training and planting churches.

Though I was the supposed expert, I learned so much from him, particularly about being a servant leader. He did lead by “lording it over others” or by intimidation. The only time I heard speak critically was of a leader at another church whose leadership style had caused church members to follow out of fear. Oscar was an encourager, not the kind that makes you feel shame for not doing something. He saw your gifts and abilities and made you feel like you could do more as long as you did so with God’s power. As a colleague said, when Oscar prayed, it was as if he could look into your heart and soul and see your greatest need and pray precisely.

As the day passed those two Sundays ago, I thanked God that He had brought my path to intersect with Oscar’s path. I wondered how God could bring someone from a small town in Georgia to meet someone from a small town in Argentina.

In the evening service at our church that night, we celebrated the Lord’s Supper. As I looked at the grape juice in the small cup in my hand, I thought about the blood of Christ. I remembered his sacrifice for my sins. I remembered that the only thing that could have brought Oscar and me together was the blood of Christ. The blood of Jesus, His gospel, stirred my wife and me to leave our home country. The Good News moved Oscar to pastor a church and to plant churches in the small villages around his small town. The blood had brought us together as brothers. Jesus’ sacrifice is what enabled Oscar to step straight from serving the Lord into eternity to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The blood is why we will see one another again someday.

Finding Jesus in the Book of Job

Recently, I completed a personal study of the Old Testament book of Job. I have read it many times, and studied it at least once, but this study, perhaps because of recent life experiences, was deeply meaningful.

In the final chapter, particularly Job 42:7-9, I see a picture of Jesus in Job. Like Jesus, Job, a righteous man suffered greatly. Like Jesus, Job’s suffering was God’s will. (That point may be controversial to some. After all, Satan was the direct cause of Job’s suffering. Still, God granted permission for it to happen. Throughout, Job saw God as sovereign over the circumstances, and in the end, God said nothing to deny Job’s view.) Like Jesus, those around Job saw him as being cursed by God. And like Jesus, in the end, the Father both vindicates and exalts Job.

God confronted the “friends” of Job and said it was they who had spoken wrong about Him. In fact, God said that he was angry with them. It was not Job who had a broken relationship with God, which had been their assumption. Rather, they were the ones with the sin. In order to be restored to their relationship with God, they needed an intermediary. In order to be right with God, had to offer sacrifice through Job, and he had to pray for them. In this priestly role, Job is a picture of Jesus.

Just as Job’s friends needed and intermediary, so do we. We must go to Jesus, the sacrifice in our place, and be converted, repenting of our sins and putting our faith in Him.