Book Review: Reimagining Evangelism
In a consumer culture the church must get beyond "selling" the gospel.

Eight centuries ago St. Francis of Assisi famously told his followers to "Preach the gospel always. And use words if necessary." Like Francis, Rick Richardson's new book Reimagining Evangelism: Inviting Friends on a Spiritual Journey (Intervarsity, 2006) challenges our popular assumptions about outreach. To jumpstart our discussion of Richardson's ideas we've invited David Robinson, pastor of Harvest Fellowship Church in Manhattan, Kansas, to review his book.

Rick Richardson opens his book, Reimagining Evangelism, with this statement?"Over the years, evangelism has gotten a bad name. It is sales, manipulation, TV preachers, big hair, pushing people to convert and going door to door. It elicits feelings similar to the intrusive practice of telemarketing." People are repelled by clich? images of evangelism and the church's tendency to reduce the dynamic work of God into an easy to read, streamlined, impersonal message. After our recent barrage of political ads, it's frightening to consider their similarities with certain methods of evangelism.

Reimagining proposes a fundamental shift in our current image of evangelism. If we are to engage people in this consumer culture with the gospel message, Richardson believes we first need to rid ourselves of this unhealthy image of evangelism as "closing the deal" on some impersonal spiritual sales call. He proposes the image of a travel guide who encourages those around them to recognize what is already going on and invite them to take part in God's much bigger story.

I appreciate how Richardson plainly states that those who follow Christ need to see themselves as collaborators with the Holy Spirit in guiding people on a spiritual journey. I think he does an excellent job of showing how evangelism is not exclusively reserved for a special group of Christians, but is something that we are all gifted to be a part of.

He takes this a step further by saying that evangelism is not to be seen as simply the role of one individual, but that entire communities have a role as well. In his challenging 3rd chapter he claims that there is a shift "to a central focus on community in the process of conversion" taking place. He states repeatedly that conversion is not to be seen as a "me and God thing", but instead as a family affair where we shift allegiance from the world to Jesus. In our "commitment-phobic" culture, this shift puts a much greater emphasis on healthy, authentic communities that understand their identity and their role. This importance of our corporate witness is certainly something the Church today needs to consider.

January 02, 2007

Displaying 1–10 of 13 comments

Pastor Chris

January 12, 2007  3:59pm

I just got my copy of this book today and find it very well written and points very well stated. I agree with much of his approach, even though it may take a little longer than 3 point outlines. . . . Pastor Chris Evangelism Coach

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January 09, 2007  9:53am

Francis did not say "Preach the gospel always. And use words if necessary" according to American, but it is in the spirit of what he lived.

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Tony Seel

January 07, 2007  6:05pm

Eight centuries ago St. Francis of Assisi famously told his followers to "Preach the gospel always. And use words if necessary." If someone could provide a citation for this oft-used quote, I would appreciate it. I am not convinced that this is from St. Francis. Here is a quote from chapter 16 of the Little Flowers where Francis agonizes over whether he should continue in uninterrrupted prayer or take time out for preaching. The response that he gets from one of the brothers is "The Lord thus directs that you should reply to Brother Francis, that God called him not for himself alone, but for a harvest of souls, and that he should bless many through him." Later in the same chapter Francis is told directly by Brother Masseo "that you continue with preaching, because God called you not for your sake alone but for the salvation of others."

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Pastor Chris

January 06, 2007  9:35pm

I agree with the basic premise of the book, and certainly have put it on my reading list. When preachers preach, its time to invite people into the kingdom, to call for a decision. But in the context of relationships, helping people discover where God is at work is a helpful approach that is not bait and switch, not canned, and validates a persons quest for the truth. Chris

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January 04, 2007  11:07am

"he claims that there is a shift "to a central focus on community in the process of conversion" taking place. He states repeatedly that conversion is not to be seen as a "me and God thing", but instead as a family affair where we shift allegiance from the world to Jesus." Here we seem to have another sef-help book for pastors just like the myriad of others being published today that are going to "Reimagine" something or other. This is just as much a marketing ploy as 'big hair'. The notion that the emerging church isn't marketing the gospel to fit the current culture just as much as the previous generation did shows it's youthful naievete and unwillingness to simply preach Biblical truth.

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January 04, 2007  8:24am

the times they are a changin great to see new refreshing books out encouraging believers to play in the game...Sjogren and Ping have two books in the offering both worth a read and more important to practice...OutFlow and Irresistible Evangelism...both talk about dailogue, listening, asking good questions, and developing relationships as we encourage people toward Christ...Celtic Way of Evangelism by Hunter is also a great read...

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January 04, 2007  4:56am

A Dear pastor friend of mine once said, " You can read all the books you want on becoming pregnant... but unless you get in bed, life will never come out of it." That is what our Heavenly Father wants with us; a total intimacy with us in which Life is born out of His Love interaction with us. Total to say wherein He says, " So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. " That is the witness, that is the impact, that is what exposes the " Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord." Many, it appears, would rather be Christians ( to their understanding ) than disciples of Christ. We would not forsake all that we have because it would mean losing our life as we know it and therefore lose control of ourselves as we leap by Faith into a Almighty God we couldn't have even dreamed of exsisting. For so many years I have heard, " The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few." That is not an invitation to pull people into a unlimited limited understanding of meetings and prayers on how to evangelize and that itselfe being our reward as salvation. Books are written with the change of time and a never ending cycle of need is not met as the core of relationship in Christ points out that " If I am lifted up I shall draw all men unto me." Corporate worship in a given place at a given time points to each individual as being at all times and at all places as time echoes the statement, " Greater is He that is in YOU, than he that is in the world." And faith... what has anyone done today ( or ever),( including ourselves ) without Faith, since Jesus said, " Without me, you can do NOTHING." Happy trails and tribulations. He that has the Son, has Life...

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Stephen Cochenour

January 03, 2007  6:58pm

I was supprised to hear some comments from my small, emerging young adult congregation a few weeks back. We were talking about the hype from the Baker boy's blurb on CNN "What the Hell happened to Chirstianity," when one guys said, "it's so frustrating that this guy get to speak on CNN on what he believes the gospel message is. Why can't we do that?" This comment turned the conversation into discussion about ways that we can share the gospel with the people around us. At first, I was suprised to hear the word "evangelize" come up, but as I listened to the conversation it just made sense. We decided that we want to publish a quarterly, media rich publication. Our small group has a disproportionate number of writers, artists, videogrophers, etc and we decided to use those mediums as a method of engaging the culture around us. We're not trying to water down the gospel or tip-toe around the truth, rather we are using the gifts that GOD has given us to do work for his glory. This is the style of evangelism that is starting to show. From other reviews of this book I've read, I think this fall right in line with Richardson's thoughts. the LORD be with you.

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Shawna R. B. Atteberry

January 03, 2007  1:27pm

Thank you for the review. This book has just gone on my to-read list. Echoing other commenters, I am also glad for the "sales pitch to heaven" trend to be coming to an end. I also like that this book is emphasizing community engaging in evangelism instead of isolated individuals doing the work.

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Paul Bowman

January 03, 2007  9:10am

Thanks for the review. This book is on my to-read list. I'm noticing the shift in evangelism as well. For instance, see Bill Hybels latest offering - Just Walk Across the Room. I'm thankful for the realization that the salesman approach is becoming less & less effective.

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