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.
I deeply agree with his illustration of the problems in modern Evangelism. I especially agree his description of how normal Christian individuals are exhausted under such ministry concept. I have following three main learnings from this small book:
1. As church leaders, we should motivate and encourage Christians to live a joyful, purposeful life that can demonstrate the glory of God. Rick says “we feel that we are selling a product that people mostly don’t want”. If we Christians don’t enjoy the Gospel message and demonstrate how wonderful it is in our personal and community life, people will neither it’s “good” nor it’s “news”.
2. Rick’s emphasis on spiritual community and his examples in Alpha course let me remember the similar stories in our Alpha Course back in China. In Acts 2, Bible says the new born church “having favor with all the people”. We should rethink our over-emphasizing on “individual evangelism” but connect the seekers with the community with Holy Spirit indwells within it.
3. I also learned from Rick on his keen observation and understanding for modern people. They desire more experience and story than the logic and persuasion we used to like. Actually, I was drawn near to Christ by story but later learn about Christ through logic and apologetics. So I think it’s very wise and appropriate to use (and enjoy!) story, experience and friendship in Evangelism.
It’s a small but great book to help me rethink the strategy of evangelism according to the Bible, and rescue us from exhausted “gospel-selling”.