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If You Wanted to Read on Evangelism in 2021

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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.

From Ramez Athalla (via Leighton Ford)

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I feel it is most appropriate, when talking about Reconciliation today, to honor Billy Graham who did more than anyone else in our lifetime in proclaiming worldwide the message of reconciliation.




Ø He insisted on integrated crusades

Ø He included RC & Orthodox leaders of the countries in which he preached on the platform with him.

Ø He called for and raised for funds for the Lausanne Congress of 1974 which resulted in the Lausanne movement which still challenges evangelicals to work together in the task of World Evangelization.

Ø He planned several Evangelists’ conferences to especially train national evangelists

Ø He refused to be “politicized” – and when he made statements he later regretted having made, he apologized.

Ø He was a model of moral and financial integrity


As we remember his life and honor him in his death let us commit ourselves to emulate his exemplary lifestyle.   


A Special Prayer Request (Mark Slaughter, IVCF)

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Leighton asked me to send you a paragraph about my upcoming trip to Cambridge University (Feb. 2-10) for a large evangelistic Mission Week with IFES.  Lindsay Brown invited me to join him and Michael Green to participate and to learn and explore possibilities for adapting this model on American universities.  Mission Weeks have been a great catalyst for identifying and mentoring emerging evangelists across the U.K. and Europe.  There are daily free lunches (a talk and Q/A) on pertinent gospel themes, and daily evening sessions.  Please pray for students to have humble boldness and the Holy Spirit’s power as they engage their friends, and for many to explore and begin a life of following Jesus.

Personally, please pray for me as I lead prayer meetings, speak with students about Jesus, mentor/model evangelism to leaders, and ponder future implications in the USA for me personally and with other ministries.  And please pray for my physical, emotional, and spiritual health in this demanding week, especially after having some physical symptoms this past month (which are better!).  This week is a vital part of my own discernment journey regarding my future role with IVCF or elsewhere.

What Kind of Evangelist Do I Want To Be? (Leighton Ford)

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Here are some end of the day thoughts I wrote down when I was asked what kind of evangelist/communicator I want to be.

I want to be, not necessarily in order:

A thoughtful evangelist
A generous evangelist
A lifelong learner
A child of the Father always growing more and more like Jesus
A creative expressor
A trusting and open friend
An old time and new time believer
A lover of beauty
A listening soul
An every moment attender and thanker

Oh yes, also as I grow older not be too serious and always able to laugh at myself.


Leighton Ford

Good News Is For Sharing – Carson Pue

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“I love taking public transit to work because I am surrounded with ‘normal’ people – those who are not followers of Jesus. They are the majority – especially in my city.

One time a women in her young twenties boarded the train dressed in black from head to toe and sat right in front of me facing sideways. She looked as through she might work in one of the large towers in the city center. Her style was like ‘professional Goth’. As she was getting settled I was able to see a tattoo on her left cheek. It was an upside down cross.

’I notice your tattoo. Where did you get it done?’ I asked.

She looked directly into my eyes pondering. Was I being judgmental or condemning? She answered with the name of an artist nine blocks from our church.

’I guess if you are going to get a tattoo on your face, you would want to have the right artist’ I answered. ‘My son gets his done by an artist in Calgary. What’s the meaning of your tattoo?’

Laughing, she responded, ‘It is my way of giving the finger to organized religion.’

’Well, it is a very appropriate tattoo for this week,’ I responded.

’Why is that?’

’Because the Pope announced he is resigning and he actually sits on a chair that has an upside down cross engraved on it’.

’He does? Unreal!’ She was really mystified. ‘Why would the Pope have that on his chair?’

’Out of respect for you, I want you to know I am a minister. I work at First Baptist downtown.’ She was flummoxed, her head now fully cocked to one side.

’I know that organized religion can be incredibly frustrating for people to understand and even experience. But the Pope has your symbol on his chair because it reminds us of Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter was crucified on a cross like Jesus but upside down. He was killed because he refused to renounce his faith in Jesus. He didn’t feel himself worthy to be crucified like Jesus and asked to be hung upside down. That’s why the cross on the Pope’s chair. The church was founded by this man – Peter’.

With a softer bewildered look she began to gather her things together for the stop. My morning friend did not seem anxious to run away. Had our commute allowed, we might have talked more’.

Carson Pue

Rev. Dr. Carson Pue is recognized as a leader of leaders. He is known globally through his mentoring of Christian leaders through Arrow Leadership and as the best selling author of Mentoring Leaders: Wisdom for Developing Calling, Character and Competency. Known as a keynote speaker for his masterful storytelling and innovative leadership style, Carson equips others with remarkable and fascinating untold stories behind what it takes to be a Christian and a leader. Carson now serves as Special Assistant to the President at Trinity Western University, and runs Quadrant Leadership Inc. doing executive coaching and mentoring.

From Good News Is For Sharing (2017, Revised Edition, Leighton Ford Ministries)

You can order the book here.

Good News Is For Sharing – Steve Johnson

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Steve’s Story

I was invited to dinner to meet a friend and his guests at a country club. On my right was a well-known basketball coach, and on my left the owner of the club.

We talked basketball for a little while, but most of our conversation centered around our personal ‘faith stories’. After listening to everyone, the owner said, “Steve, I’m a Catholic, can I be a Christian?”!

I shared my story, which was very similar. I had to learn that my parents’ commitment wasn’t enough. I needed to let God know I was committing my life to him.

He tapped me on the shoulder and took me outside. Under a beautiful starry night he said “I want that”. “Want what?” I asked. “I want that relationship with Jesus. I suppose this is where I pray after you.”

I told him I thought he already knew how to talk to God and asked him to pray aloud. He began the most intimate prayer that I have ever heard offering his life to Jesus. Then I prayed, confirming that I heard his commitment and asked God to bless him.

I encouraged him to tell someone the commitment that he had made. He went to the friend who had invited me and watched then embrace.

For years people around that table had prayed for this man. He just needed someone who had a similar story to explain what he didn’t understand. He’s emailed me since with thanks for telling him my story.

Leighton Ford once told me that I am the world’s leading expert – on my story! I’m glad I have shared it often – and especially that evening.


Meet Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson made a commitment of his life to Christ at 16 years old and immediately felt led to share the Gospel with those around him. While attending the University of Wisconsin and Bethel Theological Seminary, along with his wife Lynne, Steve started several churches. Eventually he and his brother Paul helped this church planting movement to grow to over 600 churches. This took place while pastoring Community Church in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Steve also co-founded a second global church planting ministry called Vision360 and currently, with Lynne, started a mentoring program for high capacity leaders called 2xGlobal (www.2xGlobal.com). Steve has a speaking ministry across the country, always with the goal of leading people to Christ and then helping them to reach their God given potential.


Taken from Good News Is For Sharing (Revised edition, 2017 – Leighton Ford Ministries)



Witnessing Is Seeing and Telling (Leighton Ford)

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“I can’t talk to anyone about Christ because God just doesn’t seem real to me

This is a genuine obstacle. Sharing Jesus Christ is not basically talking about a moral code, our church, or Christian philosophy. It is introducing people to a person. And we can’t introduce someone we ourselves have never met.

Timothy, Paul’s young protege, was apparently very timid. Paul shared with him the secret of his own confidence: “I am not ashamed because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim 1:7, 8, 12).

Witnessing is taking a good look at Jesus and telling what we have seen. The better I know him, the less ashamed I am.

The Holy Spirit enables us to know Jesus Christ, to have the same relationship to him the first disciples had. The Holy Spirit has been called “the applied edge of redemption”; he takes what Jesus Christ did for us twenty centuries ago and applies it to the reality of our lives today.


Leighton Ford


Adapted from Good News Is For Sharing (Revised edition, 2017, Leighton Ford Ministries).

Billy Graham – Evangelist or Activist? (Leighton Ford)

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Sixty years ago Billy Graham brought his historic 1957 New York crusade to a close with a pre-Labor Day rally that brought an estimated 200,000 to Time’s Square.

My wife and I were there as part of the team. That summer we heard Billy preach six nights a week in the old Madison Square Garden for sixteen and a half weeks. It was packed out every night except one, a record never broken. Up to 2.3 million attended and some 61,000 registered a new commitment to Christ.

That year and for many to come to come he would become known across the world for the huge crowds that came to hear his simple message: that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son with the gift of eternal life.

Billy was always an evangelist. What is often forgotten is that over the years he would also be known for an influence beyond his crusades. He desegregated his early southern crusades, and became an advocate for Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, based on what the Bible said about God’s care for all and for the poor.

That New York crusade began in May of 1957. It was twenty-five years later in May of 1982 that he made perhaps his most controversial move: accepting an invitation to attend a peace conference in Moscow.

He accepted the invitation against the advice of many, because he believed the threat of global nuclear annihilation had grown so grave that he had to take a stand. As Duke historian Grant Wacker records, he believed that “to work for peace was a moral issue and not just a political issue.” He recommended that the conference call “the nations and leaders of the world to repentance.”

Several years later he was invited back to Moscow and led a mass gathering that attracted thirty thousand. No one claims this brought about détente with the old Soviet Union. But it did open some doors, perhaps more than we will ever know.

Billy the evangelist was a reconciler in the tradition of others, like John R. Mott, the respected student evangelist and YMCA leader, who worked for peace in Russia after World War I, and the Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones, who through his contacts with Japanese diplomats sought to avert war with Japan.

Today the nuclear-rattling threats come from North Korea. Political and military leaders are considering how best to respond without a war that would kill millions.

One of my friends who knows Korea well reminds me that Billy made a courageous visit to the leader of North Korea years ago. He was roundly criticized. Yet that was arguably the moment that convinced Kim Il Sung to allow US Christian agencies to serve there.

My friend asks: does the American church have a prophetic courage to provide that kind of presence now?

There seems to be no evangelist of Billy Graham’s stature to provide that today. But God cannot be barred from North Korea or any part of the world, and he is at work through his people.

There are many followers of Christ in North Korea living faithfully in a hard situation. We can pray for them.  There are Christian agencies (as described in a recent TIME article) who want to continue their humanitarian work, who could potentially provide channels of communication. We should urge the State Department to allow them exceptions to the recent order for all Americans to leave North Korea.

We should certainly take to heart the admonition of Paul to his young friend Timothy, and to fellow believers living under the pressure of a hostile government, that prayers should be made “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”

Naïve this may sound.  But there is no travel ban on the Holy Spirit. And God’s ways and wisdom are greater than we can imagine.


Leighton Ford, Labor Day 2017

The Evangelist Must Cling To Christ (C.S. Lewis)

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In an essay on apologetics, C.S. Lewis wrote words which can and should be read and taken to heart by every evangelist. In fact, if we substitute the word “evangelist” for the word “apologist” it is as if he were writing for those who proclaim the Good News.

“…I have found that nothing is more dangerous to one’s own faith than the work of the apologist (evangelist). No doctrine of the faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have just successfully defended in a public debate.

For a moment, you see, it has seemed to rest upon oneself: as a result, when you go away from that debate, it seems no stronger than that weak pillar. That is why we apologists (evangelists) take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments, as from our intellectual counters, into the Reality – from Christian apologists (evangelists) to Christ Himself

How The Good News Travels (Leighton Ford)

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Dr. James Engel, for years a marketing professor at Ohio State, studied what motivates people to buy products. Later he and his colleagues at Wheaton College Graduate School took a similar long look at the process of evangelism.

Dr. Engel and his colleague H. Wilbert Norton suggest that the Great Commission’s command to make disciples contains three mandates that are related but distinct:

  1. To proclaim the message
  2. To persuade the unbeliever
  3. To cultivate the believer

They make no claim that this is a final and definitive statement. The Holy Spirit works as he will (John 3:8). But this is a helpful tool in describing how the good news travels from A to B.

If your own coming to Christ is recent enough that you can remember the stages clearly, this may be intuitive for you. If you are presently trying to share Christ with certain people think through where they are on that journey!


Adapted from Good News Is For Sharing by Leighton Ford, 2017 Revised edition.