Book Review: Living Dangerously, Shawn Anderson

LivingDangerouslyCoverThe Great Commission calls each of us to “Go and make disciples.”  Your lifestyle plays a part in that process.  Eventually, you’ll need to talk about your faith in Christ and share the gospel, but your lifestyle and your character will play a role in your witness.

What areas of your character significantly impact another person’s journey to faith?  Are there identifiable character traits that impact your evangelism?

Shawn Anderson makes a significant contribution to answering this question in his book Living Dangerously: Seven Keys to Intentional Discipleship.   He did a national study (in the USA) of adult conversion experiences to see what were some common characteristics of a person who led someone to start following Christ.

Anderson asks adult converts to think of key influencers in their journey to faith and what characteristics played a significant role in their decision to follow Christ.

It’s not a study of new converts and their background, but what about their “key influencers” that helped lead them to faith in Christ?

The focus

In my reading so far, this is a different angle to the effective evangelism question.  Anderson’s work is not a study of evangelism techniques, as in

  • memorize this presentation,
  • develop this argument,
  • seek after the lost,
  • build relationships, etc.

There are plenty of books available on these evangelism approaches, the spiritual beliefs of unbelievers, and church growth methods about attracting people to Jesus via missional communities or attractional church methods.   Yet, Anderson saw a gap – there are not many books focused on the discipler – the person who is instrumental in helping a person find faith in Christ.

He choses that term based on the Great Commission.   Anderson intentionally makes a distinction between a discipler (all of us) and an evangelist (a particularly gifted person or office in the church).  In the context of his book, this is a helpful distinction to understand.

I determined that I would uncover the mysteries of discipleship by asking people about their conversion process, so conducted a nationwide study to better understand how people became followers of Jesus. I hypothesized that people are led to Jesus when there is someone who takes a special interest in their salvation.

My thesis was that this person is especially influential in the lives of unbelievers when his or her life reflects Jesus, the greatest teacher of disciples. The results revealed that, indeed, individuals were influenced to commit their lives to Jesus by people who modeled Jesus in their lives.

The 7 top characteristics

Discipleship involves creating disciples out of unbelievers.  Our role is to introduce people to Jesus.  As such, Anderson identifies 7 character traits of the disciplemaker that are influential.

  1. Loving
  2. Faithful
  3. Authentic
  4. Knowledgeable
  5. Trustworthy
  6. Caring
  7. Passionate

These are the character traits of a disciple maker that had the most influence in helping an adult become a believer in Christ.

Each chapter explores these character traits in fuller detail, particularly focused on how to develop this trait a little more in your own life.  For example, in the chapter on “Knowledgeable,” Anderson writes:

“Nevertheless, unbelievers indicated that there were explicit indications of knowledgeable disciplers. They revealed that knowledgeable disciplers studied the Word of God, made the Scriptures relevant, and welcomed biblical questions . . .Some factual knowledge is essential in making disciples, but what seems to matter more to them is our ability to make the Bible relevant to their lives.” (71).

If some bible knowledge is important, then Anderson takes the step to call us into personal devotions, self-feeding, as well as consuming sermons.  We need to understand ourselves how the Bible is relevant to our life.

Lifestyle Evangelism from Paul

Anderson’s research confirms that verbal proclamation can be supported through the characteristics of our lifestyle.  The Apostle Paul’s character witness was just as a important as his verbal witness. He lives out lifestyle evangelism when we worked among the Thessalonian church.  He writes:

We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.  Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.   Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.  You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.  For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2: 6-12 (NIV)

Anderson’s research helps to identify particular characteristics that we can develop that are effective in relational evangelism.

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Evangelism without discipleship is incomplete

Evangelism without Discipleship is incompleteSeveral years ago, I participated in a street evangelism outreach in a foreign country.

I was doing an evangelistic campaign with a mission organization that had mobilized thousands of short term volunteers for ministry in Europe.

I learned to share a simple gospel script, such as the Ten Commandments, or the Bridge Illustration.

Our team prepared a few short dramas to draw a crowd and then I’d share a short message.

I remember the thrill of being on the streets in a foreign country, presenting the gospel to passers-by, working with an interpreter.

I remember a few people who wanted to make a decision to follow Christ, as well as some hecklers.

Some of these people were clearly broken and aware of their need for a Savior.   There were emotional moments of repentance as it appeared the Spirit of God was a work in bringing conviction for sin.

That was over 20 years ago.

Evangelism without discipleship is incomplete

While well meaning and energized on the task of saving souls, I learned a valuable lesson on that mission trip.

We were practicing evangelism without any potential for discipleship.

Our mission was a two week excursion into a foreign city that none of our team had ever been to before.

Our mission was independent of any local church.

  • There was no possibility of helping grow the new faith of people who responded to the gospel.
  • We didn’t have a reference sheet of local churches to refer these new believers.
  • We could not refer people to further Christian growth in a local church.

If evangelism is helping people find faith in Christ, and discipleship is the process of nurturing that faith, then we missed an important step in our work.

A local church plays a vital role in developing believers.

A new believer led to the Lord by the street evangelist could simply return to their old life.

A new believer led to the Lord in an emotional moment after a drama could walk away and the next day say “that was strange.”

The worries of this life could choke out any sense of new found faith.

Evangelists can walk away saying “150 people responded to the gospel” but have no idea how many people actually stayed on as a follower of Jesus.

Evangelism without the potential of discipleship in a local church is incomplete. [Tweet this]

Now when I do intentional contact evangelism, I make sure a local church is involved.  When I serve mission teams that enlist our help in the city, we are the local church that can do the follow up work.

The church is a partner in the work of evangelism

The church is a partner for the evangelist.   The church’s responsibility is to help make disciples.

If I am leading people to Christ, I want to invite people to my church.

If I helping others lead new people to Christ, I want to help invite them to my church.

(This is why hospitality ministry is important as well – to receive those who are coming).

An evangelist can be out among the people, developing those relationships, but the church should be the place for ongoing discipleship of new believers.

Your Turn:

If you are leading short term evangelism teams, what steps will you take to make sure a local church is involved?

Video: What is the role of the Evangelist

Recently on The Exchange, Rice Broocks joined Ed Stetzer to discuss the role of the evangelist in the church.

Every pastor wants the church to grow. I want my own church to grow.

However, I don’t want only Christians from other churches to be part of my church. I don’t want a local believer coming to our midst looking for the “next best thing.” I don’t want a spiritual nomad to come and graze for a few months before moving on to the “next best thing.”

Rather, I want my church to make a difference in the lives of spiritually dead people. I want to see

  • The broken find healing from their wounds.
  • The addict set free from their addiction.
  • The morally upright find true righteousness.

I want to visibly see the power of the gospel changing lives on this side of eternity.

He quotes (approximate numbers because it’s live conversation)

  • 3% of north american churches grow through evangelism
  • 80% are plateau or decline
  • 17% is migration of believers between churches.

Of those 3% that are growing, most are focused on “Come and see” versus “Go and Tell” which suggests the church is not doing well in equipping people to share their faith.  (Here is how I do evangelism training).

Why is that?

  1. We are not clear what the gospel is.
  2. We hope people admire our works and ask us about our faith.
  3. Few evangelists.

The New Testament evangelist is there to equip the saints.

A simple definition of an evangelist is

  • Sharing the gospel with unbelievers while
  • Equipping church members to do the same.

Equip people to share their faith

This is my purpose in running EvangelismCoach.org as a website and teaching ministry.

I want to help you grow your church by providing evangelism training.  You can learn evangelism skills to share your faith:

I want to help your church be ready to receive those who come to your church by providing hospitality training.  You can help move visitors to members by

Do you need help in Personal Evangelism?

Grow in Personal EvangelismStart here with this MP3 Download on Evangelism Training from the store to help you see where you need to grow.

In this 70 minute MP3 AUDIO recording on personal evangelism you will learn:

  • How church invitations are part of evangelism
  • How to discover and share your own journey to faith
  • What you can say about the gospel message.
  • How to personally lead someone to faith in Christ.

It’s a 70 minute audio file that takes just a few minutes to download, but it may help you answer the question:

What can you do in the next 90 days to grow in your evangelism skills?

 

92% of Jesus’ conversations

Video about best evangelism courseDarrell Davis points out how many conversations that Jesus had.

Out of 132 contacts that Jesus had with people recorded in the New Testament, 6 were in the temple, 4 were in the synagogue, and 122 were out in the mainstream of life. (Adapted from Why Christians Sin, by J.K Johnson, Discovery House, 1992)

As evangelists, we need to make sure that we are regularly engaging people outside of the church.

Most of us freely admit that after being a Christian for a few years, we find our social circles have changed to mostly Christians.

In fact, Jeffrey Johnson Got Style?: Personality-Based Evangelism shows research that confirms that most do so within two years of becoming a Christian (p. 76).

He cites a 1998 study by Charles Arn that shows that most Christians may only have on average, friendships with less than 4 people outside the church.

What can we do to fix that this week?

Statistics on PC USA Membership Loss 2008

Since the PC USA is where I hold my ordination as pastor, these statistics are of interest to me, and I know that many of the EvangelismCoach.org subscribers are in that same tribe.

Source: PC(USA) – Presbyterian News Service – PC(USA) records steepest membership loss since reunion in 1983.

Membership in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) fell by 69,381 in 2008, the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) has announced in its annual statistical report, continuing a trend that began in the mid-1960s.

Total membership of the denomination is now 2,140,165.

According to the Research Services office of the General Assembly Council (GAC), the 2008 decline was the PC(USA)’s largest numerical and percentage net membership loss since Presbyterian reunion in 1983.

Almost 104,000 people joined the PC(USA) last year, but that good news was more than offset by the 34,101 Presbyterians who died, the 34,340 who were members of the 25 congregations that left the PC(USA) for other denominations, and the staggering 104,428 who were removed from the rolls by their sessions without apparently joining any other church.

Can a positive spin be put on this?   The General Assembly Stated Clerk announces

Parsons insisted that “Presbyterians can be evangelists!”

“But we often stumble over the words. Can we not challenge one another to be able to answer these basic questions,” he said. “Why do I believe in God? Why do I go to church? Why do I go to that particular church?”

Fewer congregations were dissolved in 2008 than in 2007 — 65 vs. 71 the previous year. And 40 new churches were organized last year, 23 more than the previous year. The PC(USA) currently comprises 10,751 congregations.

This suggests the need for

Eric Hoey, in an additional statement wrote:

In a June 18 statement, the Rev. Eric Hoey, the GAC’s director of Evangelism and Church Growth,  . . . . . attributed the large number of new members, in part, to the “Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide” initiative that came out of the 218th General Assembly (2008).

“Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide” created a groundswell of local and regional activity. The initiative challenged all levels of the church to acknowledge our decline and to commit to four areas of growth: evangelism, discipleship, servanthood and diversity,” Hoey said.

Presbyterian News Service has written a series of articles about congregations that are engaged in innovative outreach programs in order to Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide,’” he added.