From the bookshelf: Unbinding the Gospel

Martha Grace ReeseI’ve soaked up reading Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism (Real Life Evangelism Series) by Martha Reese.

I met her in Nashville and spent some time interacting with her on the research. The full research can be seen here at

She did a survey study of over 1000 mainline churches to observe what churches were doing in evangelism.

It covered the full range of theological perspectives from conservative to progressive to outright liberal (self definitions, I guess).

She used evangelism quite broadly defined: “Anything you do to help another person move close to a relationship with God, or into a Christian community.”

That can be interpreted in several different ways from just adding members, or generating conversions.

I’m sure that there are some churches that simply help people join — irrespective of a relationship with Christ. I’ve not had the opportunity to drive down into the definition.

However, what I found most compelling in her story is this: “Our most important discovery is that a vivid relationships with God lies at the heart of real evangelism.”

To me, that’s a no brainer, and perhaps to Ms. Reese it was to0. The research she did supported that.

“People in evangelistic churches can tell you what difference being a Christan makes in their own lives” (p.5)

“People who share their faith love God and believe that other people’s lives would be better if they were in a relationship with God too.” (p.4)

Let me ask you this:
Using a question direct from the book (p. 15): “If your faith is already vibrant and alive, can you talk about it?”

(According to Reese, many mainliners do not know how to talk about their faith, and the research shows it. They love God and love the church, but are fearful when it comes to talking about faith).

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  1. Jimmy Kinnaird says

    I very much like your comments on the relationship of vibrant faith to actually sharing of faith. But you have brought up another issue that that is “Why are people who love the Lord not taking about it?”

    I think there are several reasons. some might be as simple as not knowing how. Others answers may be more complicated. We live in a society that discounts biblical Christianity and anything that smacks of evangelism. I’ve heard it said that evangelism is a word that both the non-Chrisitan and the Christian are afraid of. We need good models who live out their faith in word and deed. We need skills in relating to people and knowing when the proper time is to “take the plunge” into a spiritual discussion. we may also need some boldness.

    I do have a concern in the terminology for evangelism that the author uses. While I want to recongize that there are actions and prayers and other things we may do that is not directly sharing our faith, it shoud lead to sharing our faith. (like: I was one of those people who joined a church, but really had not saving, living relationship with Christ. I lived under the assumption that since I was a church member, I was going to heaven and right with God. I was not. I needed someone to talk to me about my personal relationship with God before I realized my need. so, I believe the definition is good as far as it goes, but if it would add, with the intent of the person coming to faith in Christ, that in my opinion would be better.

    Looks like I’m going to need to read her book. Thanks a lot. Blessings to you.


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