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Evangelizing in the 21st Century: Strategies…

Evangelizing in the 21st Century: Strategies for Bringing Souls to Christ…

by Charles G. Goodall

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An exhortation for Christians to be active in promoting the Gospel in their lives and in their communities.

The author has age and experience and provides much detail about his experiences in the book. He also sets forth his evangelistic philosophy and explains the lesson he uses to help people understand the differences between the church and other religious organizations. At the beginning he discusses modern worldviews through D.A. Carson's pluralisms prism. Toward the end he discusses the attitudes and mentalities necessary for people to have the right evangelistic spirit and to get busy along with a good description of the life cycle of an individual local church.

There are many good exhortations in the book. I especially appreciated his expansions on "fishers of men": first, that too many times Christians are not really fishing for men but keeping the aquarium while trying to get fish out of the other aquariums; that as fish fight on the line once hooked that many times the preaching of the Gospel is going to lead to some challenges and disputes and those are not necessarily signs of failure. The recognition of the need for love of souls and willingness to get outside of one's comfort zone is appreciated. Goodall maintains a healthy balance in discussing personal contacts vs. mass media, recognizing the greater effectiveness and pride of place of the former while appreciating the lesser yet still present place of the latter.

While many of the principles of evangelism expressed in the book are timeless--need for the work, the strategies of how to do the work, mentalities, getting out of comfort zone, etc.-- the general posture of the book seems much more akin to evangelizing in the 19th or 20th century than what will be evident in the 21st: explaining to people why x denomination is inconsistent with what is revealed about the church in the New Testament. The author's experience comes from places where most people would identify as Christian of some form or another and associate to some degree with a denominational church; most of his audience also lives in such places. Yet what is happening in the northeast and the west coast will no doubt become more normative for the rest of the country, with far more people unassociated with Christianity save in name only, not very aware of differences among churches, and who don't care as much about them. The presentation has little room for someone who does not believe in God, or believes in God but is not convinced about Jesus, or someone who wants to believe, doesn't know a lot about God or Jesus, and would like to. No matter what there will always need to be a time and place to discuss differences among churches and why it is necessary to maintain New Testament authority for what we do, but in the 21st century we are going to have to be better prepared to first persuade people that there is a God, that He is the Creator, that He has revealed Himself fully in Jesus of Nazareth, who lived, died, was raised again, and now reigns, and that He invested His authority in His Apostles whose declarations are preserved for us in the New Testament as our guide and authority for faith and practice. New Testament authority, after all, doesn't mean a whole lot to someone who doesn't accept Jesus' lordship.

While I agree there are times when people we are evangelizing may challenge, dispute, and resist, I don't believe it always has to be that way; it certainly wasn't in the NT examples in which the Apostles began at the point of agreement, made known what God did in Christ, and as a result many rejected it (and harshly) but others did accept and believe, and no fanfare is recorded in the process.

There is great value in this book: one can learn from Goodall's lessons and experience (although the book would not have been hurt if the self-promotion had been turned down a few notches), appreciate what he has learned, apply those lessons, and be more effective evangelists and equippers of the saints for evangelism. When exhorting those who are members of denominations or other "Christian" religious organizations many of his approaches will prove most useful. But in the 21st century we either are facing or going to face a much wider and broader array of people and have to expect even less knowledge and understanding about the Bible, its Subject, its Author, and must be prepared to begin the conversation at a much more primary level than would be expected in times past. ( )
  deusvitae | Nov 18, 2014 |
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