Jesus' exhortation to "go and make disciples" might seem daunting to a Christian worried that a Christopher Hitchens is around every corner, eager to debate the existence of God. Jerry Root, associate professor of spiritual formation at Wheaton College, co-authored The Sacrament of Evangelism (Moody) with Stan Guthrie to rethink the nature of evangelism and reassure its anxious practitioners. Owen Strachan, co-author of The Essential Edwards Collection, spoke with Root about recovering the "sacramental" dimension of evangelism.
Some evangelicals might be unfamiliar with classifying evangelism as a sacrament.
Generally, people see sacraments as places where God shows up in unique and particular ways and mediates grace. I've sensed that evangelism is not something we do in isolation from God. We don't take him to anybody—he's already there and already more interested in that person than we are, and somehow engaged with that person. We're not just speaking the gospel to an uninterested audience. We ask questions, listen to the answers, and let the person give us information that allows us to go deeper. All of a sudden, in the process of sharing, the message gets Velcroed to a high-felt need, and in that particular moment, we realize we've been participating with God all along, and he has shown up.
What are some ways we misunderstand evangelism?
The biggest misunderstanding is that we don't understand how essential it is to the whole program of God's work in the world, and most people don't do it. Evangelism is one of the marks of being mature in Christ. Dawson Trotman, who founded the Navigators, rightly said a person is physiologically mature when they ...1