Rick Richardson is an ordained priest with the Anglican Mission in America. He runs the evangelism and leadership program at Wheaton College Graduate School and is associate national director for evangelism with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. In this small book, Rick presented the great truth regarding evangelism that the Evangelists are not Gospel-sellers. Instead, we should learn to be a good guide to lead people into the spiritual community and finally the salvation in Christ.
In this book, Rich first challenged the common perception for gospel-sharing as Gospel-selling. It’s a poor conception but it is widely accepted by even Christians. Evangelism is simplified to selling an idea and an invitation to make a decision. I believe this is one of the roots of shallow Christianity in both western and eastern society. This concept of evangelism changed the ministry of Christianity to event-focused and poor Christians had been pushed to sell, pushed to host events, and thus push others to make harsh decisions. I cannot agree more with Rick on his illustration of modern Evangelism. It is true. It’s not only happening in United States, but also in China and many other countries, pushed by various kinds of mission organizations and churches.
Rick tries to correct this view from several aspects in this book. He emphasizes the central role of Holy Spirit in our ministry and our call is to observe and follow the Spirit, not to run ahead of or behalf of the Holy Spirit. He also calls the reader to notice the importance of the spiritual community, and also he shares his story telling and gospel sharing skills in the later chapters. Even in his sharing of conversation skills, he emphasizes the importance of building trust, relationship, and community more than the importance to push for decision.
The subtitle of the little book written by Randy Newman is Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did. “The Way Jesus Did” here is referring to the usage of questioning to trigger deeper rational thinking of the seekers. The author divides the book into three sections: Why asking questions, What Questions are people Asking, When aren’t questions and answers enough. However, though the title of the book suggests that it’s a book regarding evangelism through questioning, the content of the book is more focused on the second section which is using questioning skill to deal with questions raised by seekers. Instead of viewing it as a book about evangelism, I’d rather to say it’s a book of Apologetics.
Though the focus of the book sounds shifting, it’s still a good book on evangelism conversation skills. It’s very beneficial for the author to invest some chapters on the Biblical background of questioning in conversations. He not only showed us how Jesus did evangelism and conversation in New Testament, but also guided us through the conversation skills discussed and demonstrated in Wisdom books. These steps can help us to realize the value of using questions. However, I have to say it again that the subtitle of “the way Jesus did” is too big and not fit because Jesus also did other more important things like training disciples, healing and exorcism.
In this book, the author Dr. McKnight started with criticizing that American Evangelicals replaced the definition of “Gospel” with “Soterian” and are actively preaching the message of making a converting decision. This criticism is absolutely true. Dr. McKnight is definitely true. Evangelicalism emerged in the middle of last century from the previous generations of fundamentalism. It is said that the decision-based Christianity started from Charles Finney and D.L. Moody and later used by many evangelists and missionaries around the nation and later around the world. Majority of members in my home church back in Shanghai came to faith through this decision-based evangelism.
In this small book, Dr. McKnight suggested that the Gospel that Jesus preached does not include the salvation only. Instead, he suggests that the gospel is primarily framed by Israel’s Story and the saving story of Jesus as the completion of the Story of Israel. And secondly the gospel centers on the lordship of Jesus, not just the Jesus as the savior and many evangelical claimed. Third, Evangelism should involve summoning people to respond, to repentance, to faith in Jesus Christ, and to baptism. And finally, the gospel saves and redeems. The apostolic gospel promises forgiveness, the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, and justification. In order to validate the four points clear, he started with the historical creeds, then back in the Bible to find the Gospel preached by Paul, the Gospel described in the four Gospel books, the Gospel preached by Jesus, and the Gospel preached by Apostle Peter. Finally he revisits the problem of evangelism today and suggested to create and form the Gospel culture, instead of preaching a decision-based Christianity.