They present a practical form of personal evangelism that can help the ordinary person in the pew overcome their shyness or fears in talking about their faith in Christ.[Read more…] about Book Review: Becoming a Contagious Christian
I am a big advocate of evangelism as a lifestyle.
When I read the book the Acts, I see how evangelism played out in the life of the apostles and early believers. They spent time with people. They shared their faith, and the “Lord added daily” to their numbers.
How can a believer experience a lifestyle where evangelism occurs in the ordinary routine of life?
The principles Cecil maps out could help the ordinary believer find ways to incorporate evangelism during the ordinary course of life.
This is a practical and accessible book, not overly academic or dry. As he goes through the book, Cecil is good at including appropriate stories and biblical references. The stories come from his own life.
The foundation of personal evangelism
Cecil starts recognizing that evangelism starts out of your own relationship with Jesus. (Principle 1). Without nurturing your own relationship with Christ, you’ll lack any passion or motivation to share.
While he recognizes that there are different styles of evangelism, he confronts the copout “that’s not my style” and shows how each of us are called to share our faith, no matter what our preferred tendency is. The section on the dynamics between the closeness of our relationship with people and what strategy we should adopt is very eye opening. We should not ever have a reason to say “That’s not my style.”
Definition of Evangelism
Like many writers, he starts with defining evangelism. Cecil clearly defines evangelism as the particular conversation where the gospel is shared. For Cecil, evangelism is an event in the process of disciplemaking.
Evangelism is an event and not a process. We are to do the work of an evangelist. The definition of evangelism has two main parts: information and invitation. One part without the other is out of balance. One should not think of presenting an invitation without any information. And likewise, providing only the information without an invitation to trust Christ will leave the listener frustrated and still unsaved. After a person trusts Christ, instruction in the spiritual life starts the person down the road toward spiritual maturity
On the one hand, I agree with his definition of evangelism. A strict biblical interpretation of meaning of evangelism would be the actual proclamation of the gospel.
On the other hand, I would see all the appropriate activity and conversations leading up to that particular moment as part of the evangelistic process as people walk through stages of their journey to Christ. He would call that “witnessing.” It’s a slight difference of nuance.
The Seven Principles of an Evangelistic life
1. Keep Your Priorities Straight
There is a great commandment before there is a great commission. You may have the slickest method, the slickest presentation, and be the most silver-tongued person around; but if your relationship with Jesus Christ is out of focus, evangelism is out of balance. (Location 276).
2. Evangelism is an Event in the Process of Disciplemaking
The people in the relational-strategy camp talk a lot about the cultivation and talk little about the harvest. The writers in the aggressive-strategy camp talk a lot about the harvest, but talk little about the cultivation. Normally a person has to choose between one of the two strategies. It seems to me that both are correct, if properly employed. We ought to target some sort of middle ground where we see the two united with such terms as cultivation, sowing, and harvesting. There is a proper time for cultivation, a proper time for sowing, and a proper time for harvesting (Location 496).
3. Make the gospel clear.
There are two main parts: (1) Christ died for our sins, and (2) He arose from the dead. Notice now that Paul supplies biblical evidence and also empirical evidence for each statement. The statement “Christ died for our sins” is followed by the biblical evidence, “according to the Scriptures.” And following the biblical evidence, Paul supplies the empirical evidence, “He was buried.” “He [also] was raised on the third day.” Again, Paul supplies both biblical evidence, “according to the Scriptures,” and empirical evidence, “He appeared.”
With both biblical and empirical evidence, Paul declares the Good News. The Gospel, the Good News, is: Christ died for my sins and arose from the dead. (Location 1005)
4. Evangelism is more spiritual than methodological.
The question in evangelism is not how you can get better equipped or find the newest and latest method of sharing the Good News. The main question in evangelism is, What’s holding you back? If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ, because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life, sharing Jesus Christ is a passion. This brings about the fourth principle of evangelism: Evangelism is more spiritual than it is methodological (Location 1297)
5. Being a good witness means passionately pursuing the lost in love.
Being a good witness is being salt and light in a tasteless and dark world by living by grace and truth. Being a witness is more involved in cultivating relationships and sowing seeds in the process of disciple making. But being a witness is anything but being passive in life and not being involved with people. Being a witness is passionately pursuing the lost in love and being intimately involved with people. You are a witness for Jesus Christ because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in your life. You are to do the work of an evangelist. You can be either a good witness for Jesus Christ or a poor witness for Jesus Christ, but one way or another you are a witness! (Location 1514)
6. Evangelism moves forward as God’s people get involved in ministry and service.
We were not created to be alone. We need each other. How can we harness the power that is found in the body of Christ to corporately reach out to a lost world around us? What are some of the things that we can do to reach out to the community? (Location 1963)
Here is another basic principle of evangelism. Evangelism moves forward as God’s people get involved in ministry and service. If I am able to get my people involved in service, and they give themselves away in ministry, evangelism will take care of itself. (Locations 2038)
7. Disciple, nurture, and assimilate new believers into the church.
Follow-up is the process of establishing a believer in the faith. Notice two things about this definition. First, follow-up is a process and not just an event. We never arrive in follow-up. Secondly, the person being followed up may or may not be a new believer. There are a lot of people sitting in our pews who have never effectively been followed up. (Location 2723).
Each chapter has relevant story of the principles involved, plus there are additional chapters that tease out
Quotes I liked:
- How we live serves as a foundation for evangelism, not as a substitute.
- The greatest obstacle to [evangelism] is the church that is preoccupied with its own existence.
- Being a witness is passionately pursuing the lost in love and being intimately involved with people.
- Doing evangelism centers on proclaiming that Christ died for our sins and arose from the dead.
- I believe that the Father’s heart is expressed in three ways: a concern for the world, a compassion for the lost, and a passion for reconciliation.
- If you just feel compassion without showing mercy, then you really have not experienced biblical compassion.
- Until the Gospel is actually presented, evangelism has not truly occurred. It is good to keep in mind that all relational strategies must become aggressive at some point; otherwise, that person is still lost.
- You start by being a good witness for Jesus Christ. But what exactly is a good witness for Jesus Christ? Being a good witness is being salt and light in a tasteless and dark world by living by grace and truth.
- An evangelistic personal testimony is a clear statement of your conversion with a Gospel presentation woven in
Doug Cecil has done a tremendous service to the body of Christ in his newest book on evangelism. His work is a must read for every Christian who wants to be used by God to expand the family of believers. – Keith Ferguson
Order your copy
Order your copy of The 7 Principles of an Evangelistic Life from Amazon. I will receive a small commission. Doug Cecil is the author.
Outreach Magazine compiled a list of 33 influential books in the March 2012 edition.
“Whether you are aspiring to evangelize more effectively, exploring the nuances of ‘missional’ in your life and your church, looking for a great small group curriculum, or just wanting to expand your ministry knowledge in general, we want to help you find the best resources out there.”
I see that I need to catch up on my own reading.
- The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, Scott McKnight
- Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture, Tim Sinclair
- Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target, John Lennox
- If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question, Normal Geisler
- God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway? John Lennox
- Why People Don’t Believe: Confronting Seven Challenges to Christian Faith, Paul Chamberlian
Leadership and Church Planting
- Nuts and Bolts of Church Planting, The: A Guide for Starting Any Kind of Church, Aubrey Malphurs
- Ministry Velocity: The Power for Leadership Momentum, The Power for Leadership Momentum
- Heartbeat! How to Turn Passion into Ministry in Your Church, Charles Arn
- Journeys to Significance: Charting a Leadership Course from the Life of Paul (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series), Neal Cole
- Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women, Carolyn Custis James
- From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology, John Dyer
- Hip-Hop Redemption: Finding God in the Rhythm and the Rhyme (Engaging Culture), Ralph Watkins
- You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith, David Kinnaman
- Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series), Reggie McNeal
- On the Verge: A Journey Into the Apostolic Future of the Church (Exponential Series), Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson
- Right Here, Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People (Shapevine), Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford
- Rumors of God: Experience the Kind of Faith You’ve Only Heard About, Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson
Small Group Curricula
- Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships, Carl Medearis (Book)
- Muslims, Christians, and Jesus Participant’s Guide with DVD: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships, Carl Medearis
- Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, John Piper
- Church Diversity: Sunday The Most Segregated Day of the Week, Scott Williams
- A Future for the Latino Church: Models for Multilingual, Multigenerational Hispanic Congregations, Daniel Rodriguez
Compassion and Justice
- The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus, Mark Labberton
- Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care
- A Heart for Freedom: The Remarkable Journey of a Young Dissident, Her Daring Escape, and Her Quest to Free China’s Daughters, Chai Ling
- Now I Walk on Death Row: A Wall Street Finance Lawyer Stumbles into the Arms of A Loving God
- A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, Donald Miller
- Ocean Adventures (Nature of God), Peter Schriemer
- Evangephobia Student Devotional: Face Your Fears and Fuel Your Passion, Greg Stier
- Evangephobia Dvd Curriculum: Face Your Fears and Fuel Your Passion 4-week Small Group Study, Greg Stier
- Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids, Kara Powell and Chap Clark
- Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers (Youth, Family, and Culture), Chap Clark
- Missional Youth Ministry: Moving from Gathering Teenagers to Scattering Disciples (Youth Specialties), Brian Kirk and Jacob Thome
- Noticing the prompting of the Holy Spirit
- Listening for Spiritual Thirst
- Using great questions to help a person discover their thirst and need for Christ.
So I’m always on the lookout for great conversational tools and training to help Christians grow more comfortable with sharing their faith.
I’ve personally shifted from seeing evangelism as only a one way proclamation event to a multifaceted process of a series of events that add up to a person’s decision to surrender to Christ.
Many conversations are a key element in a person’s journey to Christ.
New ideas change us slowly, like water on a rock, imperceptibly reshaping grooves and contours. We rarely change our minds in the heat of discussion and usually need several opportunities to hear new ideas before we adapt a new position. (p. 48)
Have more fruitful spiritual conversations
In Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk, authors Dale and Jonalyn Fincher intend to help Christians gain the right to be heard through genuine care and concern for those God places in our lives as we go about our daily activities.
How does a Christian have normal conversations about Jesus without accidentally sounding offensive, bigoted or intolerant?
Part 1: Making Spiritual Small Talk
The first section of Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk focuses mostly on principles of spiritual conversation.
Principal #7 was a great one: Allow people to remain unconvinced.
Learn to ask more questions and not be afraid to learn from the person you are talking to since questions open up the possibility of meaningful conversation and honest engagement.
The authors also point out conversation stoppers that have killed their own conversations (chapter 3).
- When feeling cornered by someone’s question, offer a spiritual cliché, for example, “Just take it by faith.”
- Don’t fallback on that’s-the-way-I-was-raised answers.
- When feeling fearful or threatened, lash out hatefully.
- Show your disgust for the other person or his views or situation in life.
- Sniff out their sin, and then club them with shame and blame.
Part 2: Restocking Your Tools
The second section includes chapters on discussing our faith in particular in contrast with spiritual themes in our culture.
This will date Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk as they tackle four popular books from the last few years, like The Secret.
But the principles they lift out will remain valid for having conversations. They provide more examples of ways to engage others in dialogue about faith.
Part 3: Helping Friends Home
This final part of Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk deals with common questions and topics that might arise in spiritual conversations. For example, the problem of pain and suffering is one that different religions handle with vastly different ideas on the solution. They raise the question of evolution and other red herrings that distract people from focus on Jesus.
Some of these are attributed to a particular “brand of Christianity” rather than basic foundation truths about following Jesus. Some theological streams will take issue over what issues the authors molehills and mountains.
My take on Coffee Shop Conversations
Overall, the book was a decent read.
At times I felt like Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk drifted, allowing quick skimming of certain sections.
As a strength, it focuses on conversational principles and points the reader on skills to grow your spiritual conversations.
This is not a book on how to memorize and present a gospel formula – its goal is not to teach you a script or presentation.
Rather, their stated goal is to help you have more conversations that can open the doors to that gospel sharing down the road.
For those that believe in proclamation via monologue presentation before relationship – Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk won’t work.
For those that want to grow in their conversation skills, Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk gives several suggested ways to grow more comfortable in your conversations.
Order your copy of Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk from Amazon (affiliate link).
This week, I’ve been reading unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters.
It is the fruit of a 3 year study of perceptions that those not it in the church have about Christians and the church. Simply put, Christianity has an image problem.
One surprise to the researchers was
“many Christians have lost their heart for those outside the faith” (p.14)
The title term “unChristian” takes it’s clue from the most common reaction to our faith:
“Christians no longer represent what Jesus had in mind, that Christianity in our society is not what it was meant to be” (p.15).
38% of those surveyed (2 out of 5) have had a “bad impression of Christianity” and 1/3 said that Christianity represents a negative image with which they would not want to be associated (p. 24).
Another lesson learned from the research is that “Christians have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for (26).
The next chapter of the book looks into the most common points of skepticism and objections to Christianity.
- Too focused on getting converts
- Too political
Inside each chapter is an analysis of of the theme, and how the church can reshape the perception.
For example, the term “Sheltered.” The perception is that “Christians are boring, unintelligent, old-fashioned, and out of touch with reality.” The solution is to reshape that perception as “engaged, informed, and offer sophisticated responses to the issues people face” (121).
But reshaping is not playing with semantics. The book is a call to action and provides practical steps and suggestions for pastors, church leadership, and lay people.
As you seek to engage people around you, this informative book will help inform you as to some of the reactions that people may have and how to respond to them.
Order your copy of unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters from Amazon.