The Heart of Evangelism

How can I summarize my thoughts about a book on evangelism with 38 chapters? Let me start by saying that The Heart of Evangelism is an excellent resource for those who want to disciple others or develop personally in the area of evangelism. This books comes from a Reformed perspective, is practical, broken into short, easy to read chapters, and built solidly upon numerous passages of Scripture. There are so many books on the same subject I was happy to read something that is different from the typical fare. How is it unique? Here are a few of the things that sets it apart from most other books on evangelism: He discourages dependence on programs and pre-packaged approaches to evangelism and instead pushes us to depend on God, commit ourselves to prayer, live lives of integrity, love and hospitality. This is essential to our evangelistic work and more important than memorizing diagnostic questions.

He reminds us that God is more interested in the salvation of the world than we are, something that gets lost in much of our evangelism, and that God uses a great variety of means in bringing people to Jesus.

The third section ( chapters 20-26) focuses on the barriers we face when communicating the gospel. This is a helpful section that uncovers the barriers we have in ourselves (false guilt, lack of confidence, etc.) and the barriers that exist in our culture (certain aspects of modernity and postmodernity).

The prophets and Apostles are humanized, shown not to be superheroes, but fallen men who sought to faithfully serve Christ. These are men with whom we can identify.

He takes aim at the pride and self-righteousness that is common in us and hurts our evangelistic work.

The gospel is shown to be more full and complex than the simple "You're a sinner, Jesus died for your forgiveness, repent and believe" paradigm. This is something I have blogged on before, and it is nice to see someone lay it out in a book on evangelism in such a helpful way. (Also see Hal Poe's book, The Gospel and It's Meaning.)

He explains that evangelism is often a slow process; one that requires patience on the part of the evangelist.

He lays out 7 principles to help us effectively communicate the gospel. Great stuff here.

1. Show respect. 2. Build bridges. 3. Learn what others believe. 4. Speak the language of the people. 5. Utilize reasoned persuasion. 6. Clarify the good news. 7. Challenge the heart and mind.

This really is a good book that lays a foundation for the discipline of evangelism that will not fail. It does not provide easy answers or a program to follow, but it does give Christians a better perspective and method for engaging our neighbors with the gospel.

Jerram Barrs is Professor of Christian Studies and Contemporary Culture and Resident Scholar of the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO.