My friend Jamie Rogers (church planter extraordinaire in Long Island) mentioned to me when I was up there in January that Mack Stiles’ book Evangelism was the best he had read on the subject. Having just finished it, I’d certainly concur that it is a very strong read indeed! This book is part of the series of 9 Marks titles that are relatively brief, accessible, and, in my experience, meaty. It is written by a man who clearly has a heart for seeing people come to know Jesus. If you struggle with personal evangelism or consider the whole idea terrifying, you will be greatly helped by this title.
There are three particular strengths to the book. First, its main thesis is that evangelism is a whole-church task best executed within an intentionally cultivated culture of evangelism. This idea was most helpful and, I believe, sorely needed! Many (most?) evangelism books actually prop up modern American notions of radical individualism by instructing you how to share the faith with him or her. This book is arguing that evangelism is done best when we (the Church) are sharing our faith with him or her. Thus, when a nonbeliever visits a church, they should, in addition to hearing gospel proclamation, be the recipient of authentic, loving, and careful evangelism as numerous people who engage them bear witness to what Christ has done in their lives. Again, this should be authentic, not forced, as people who have been born again simply share how Christ has changed their lives. This emphasis on creating a culture of evangelism was great appreciated!
Secondly, Stiles pushes against programmatic evangelism or the idea of canned presentations of the gospel. He seems to me to be saying that these efforts, while usually well-intended, do not ask too much but too little. Furthermore, they put the onus on the Church to create evangelistic opportunities instead of simply responding to or seeking Spirit-created opportunities as they come. I have long thought that our churches are adrift in a sea of programmatic overload. I know. I have contributed to the problem. It’s a tough thing, really. Programs are not bad in and of themselves. I applaud and use many of them. But in areas like evangelism they seem to compartmentalize what should really be a natural, organic aspect of our lives as Christians. I hear Stiles arguing for this organic approach to evangelism.
Third, the book gives great examples of what this evangelistic culture looks like. I was inspired and encouraged and convicted to read these stories of how God uses whole congregations to bring people to the faith. As a pastor, I long for such a culture of evangelism and believe that Stiles’ has offered a very helpful snapshot of what that might look like. On a practical note, such anecdotal evidence makes the reading experience so much more enjoyable as well.
This is a great book on a crucial topic that should be read and considered by all who care about evangelism and doing it rightly…which should be us all!