Dr. Jim Singleton
Executive Director of Missional Leadership
If you wanted to read on evangelism in 2021 . . . yes, I know that is a very large “if.” Most Christians are not wanting to read or take courses on evangelism. We like having people come into relationship with Jesus, but we wish God would use someone else to get them there!
One of the pillars of what we call the “missional church” is that it is going to take all of us investing in our social networks for evangelism to happen in today’s world. Thirty years ago, we could simply point friends to a great church and assume that the church itself and the preacher would draw them to Christ. That is not happening the way it once did.
Like it or not, younger generations are not apt to visit a church. Finding a church is just not on their to-do list. In the missional church emphasis there is the reality that most people will only consider Christ if someone they trust in their social network (work, neighborhood, school) is willing to cross the barrier and actually speak about Jesus.
Through classes or reading or modeling, we will all need to acquire a new (actually, ancient) skill. The early church did this kind of work within their social circles. In the early church, there were no buildings, worship was mostly hidden, and pastors were mostly bi-vocational. Evangelism happened relationally.
So, if you want to read on Evangelism in 2021, where would I send you?
Let’s start with our friend, Dr. Leighton Ford. Today, most of us know him for his books on listening and attentiveness, but Leighton started his ministry (and his writing) as an evangelist. His first book on evangelism is The Christian Persuader: The Urgency of Evangelism in Today’s World (first published in 1966, new edition available on Amazon). It is one of my favorite books on evangelism, and as timely today as when first written.
In 1977, Leighton wrote Good News is for Sharing: A Guide to Making Friends for God (new edition available on Amazon), which offers practical ways to get involved in the relational side of evangelism.
Leighton’s third book on evangelism is The Power of Story: Rediscovering the Oldest, Most Natural Way to Reach People for Christ (first published in 1994, new edition available on Amazon). In this book, Leighton helps us understand the vitality of learning to tell real faith stories as a way of doing evangelism. It is a gentle and wooing book … avoiding what we might call “pressured evangelism,” and highlighting the art of telling faith stories as a means of witness.
If I have now interested you in reading, let me tell you about two other more recent books which fit so well with what Leighton has written.
The Reluctant Witness: Discovering the Delight of Spiritual Conversations was written in 2019 by Don Everts, a Presbyterian pastor who also writes for The Lutheran Hour Ministries. As part of a major research project with Barna on spiritual conversations, Don discovered that most Christians are not talking much about their faith to anyone, much less unbelievers. Seventy-four percent of Christians are having fewer than ten spiritual conversations with anyone in a year.
Their data was not from the Zoom world of 2020 – but from 2018 where there was still coffee hour at church. The news is that coffee hour conversations were not of a spiritual nature.
In ways that will remind you of Leighton’s The Power of Story, Everts helps us learn to tell the stories of our faith. Everts followed up The Reluctant Witness with two others:
- The Spiritually Vibrant Home: The Power of Messy Prayers, Loud Tables, and Open Doors (2020), which talks about faith in families.
- The Hopeful Neighborhood: What Happens When Christians Pursue the Common Good (2020), which talks about sharing our faith stories in the neighborhood.
The final book to add to your list is Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus More Believable, by Sam Chan, an Australian who
writes for a world that thinks they have sniffed Christianity and found it wanting. This is a textbook-like resource that is amazing in its comprehension and accessibility. I use it
in my Evangelism classes at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Try not to get overwhelmed at all that is here … but please do pick one for 2021 and read it! To get the mission of Christ done in today’s world will require all of us to be ready.
Dr. Jim Singleton is Executive Director of Missional Leadership for Leighton Ford Ministries and Associate Professor of Pastor Leadership and Evangelism at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.