In whose presence do I walk? In whose hall do I enter? He is the one who burns with all-consuming fire. He knows all and sees all, including every detail of my life that shames me. Each is well-lit, easily seen by His eyes. Yet, He lavishes me with grace. He pours love over me. He died and rose so that I might live and walk here in His presence. Here I stand–trembling boldly in His presence.
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.
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.
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.)
There are days that I struggle with being down. One may look at me and my situation and say, “Well, you have a right to be.” However, there are many who have much more right than I do. There are those who have experienced horrific trauma. There are brothers and sisters in Christ who face real persecution and threats of violence, because they follow Jesus. There are others who because chemical imbalances in their body need medical intervention to help them with their depression.
None of those situations describe me. God has blessed me beyond what I deserve. So, what right do I have to feel depressed? I can ask with the Psalmist, “Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”
That question is a repeated refrain in Psalms 42 and 43. The Psalmist answers his own question: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Apart from circumstances such as those I mentioned above, feeling down can be a sign of a misplaced hope. We hope for change in circumstances, for change in someone else, for someone to notice, for help to come, or any number of things. But God asks us—commands us—to hope in Him.
The first step out of a downcast spirit is toward God. Psalm 42 begins with the Psalmist expressing his absolute desperation to restore nearness with God. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”
Being downcast is a sign that we desperately need to draw close to God. When I struggle with being down, it is warning light that I need to renew my thirst for God. It is sign that I have misplaced hope. Every disciple’s first urge of each day should be to drink deeply in God’s presence. It is there that we move our hope back to Him. It is there that we look beyond a nearsighted view of our circumstances toward the long view of an eternity that is in God’s hands. Even those experiencing trauma, persecution, and clinical depression have hope when they begin there.
If that is where their hope begins, can the rest of us believe that we can start someplace else? Let us look up from our circumstances, look away from misplaced sources of hope, and toward our hope found in God alone through His Son, Jesus Christ. Let us help others find eternal hope in Him as well.