I did a lot of reading this year.
I read so much I surprised myself. Over the course of the next few days, we’ll talk about the how’s, why’s, and what’s of my reading this year. For now, lets just say I read more books this year than in any single year of my life.
While that level of reading by necessity must be broad, I did have one goal in my reading this year—read as many books as I could about evangelism. Now, why, you may ask would I read as many books as I could on evangelism? Well, the simple answers is I want to get better at it. The more complex answer is that I find that the more I think about a topic, the more central it becomes in my life. One easy way for me to think about evangelism more was to read more about it.
There were a lot of books. I didn’t get through all of them. I plan to continue the emphasis going forward in the New Year. Because evangelism is not just something I need to get better at, but I believe the whole body of Christ in America needs to get better at, I created a list of the ten best books on evangelism I’ve read this year. There’s a short blurb below each link that tells a bit of my journey with the book and why it might interest you.
This was the second or third book about evangelism I read this year and it was easily the best. Jean is a prophetic minister who regularly hears from Jesus and shares His heart with lost people around her. This may seem really scary and difficult, but Jean makes the process seem so simple and friendly that by the end of the book you’ll be wanting to put it into practice. Not only did I learn about hearing from Jesus and sharing what I’m hearing with the lost by reading this book, but I encountered the love of Jesus as I read the author’s testimony. I highly recommend picking up the audio book where you’ll get to hear a very personal evangelism testiomony told in the author’s own voice toward the end of the book. It’s well worth it.
Spirit Led Evangelism was such an encouraging read. The book is by Che Ahn, a stalwart in the charismatic renewal movement who has been moving in Holy Spirit-inspired evangelism since his days in the Jesus People movement. Che covered the whole spectrum of evangelism, from sharing the Gospel and partnering with the Holy Spirit in signs and wonders to church planting and its impact in the harvest. Ahn encourages believers to follow the Holy Spirit and be persistent and faithful in evangelism, which is a rare combination. I think you’ll be helped by this book.
This book is a classic. You can’t go anywhere in American Evangelicalism without encountering someone whose thoughts have been impacted by this book. What I found interesting is that so much of the house church movement’s thinking finds its origin and support in the discipleship principles laid out here. The key to effective evangelism is found in sharing the Gospel and training up converts in a way of life that leads them to do the same. Without this plan in place, both our evangelism and our churches will suffer. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.
This book has one clear focus—convincing you that you need to be more bold for Jesus. The author believes in the West, we don’t share the Gospel because we are afraid, and I agree with him. His answer is to regularly ask Jesus for boldness to share the Gospel. It’s a simple formula and a long book. I hesitated putting this book so high on this list, because the book repeats the premise so much, but I believe that the premise is so true and accurate that I think you should read it and put some of his recommendations into practice.
Many of the books I read on evangelism were written from a perspective that would have worked in 1990, but no longer work in 2019. This book was the first book that acknowledged that we are no longer culturally in the same place that we were in 1990 and that the tactics that worked in 1990 might not be as helpful as they used to be. My big takeaway from this book is that people need to be exposed to Christians in normal, everyday life in order to see that Christians aren’t the odd cultural phenomenon that the media makes them out to be. If you struggle with the culture being less receptive to Christianity than it used to be, I would highly recommend this book.
This book is written by Peyton Jones, a missionary to Wales who spent time planting a church in a Starbucks there. Peyton writes from the perspective of someone who has been to Western countries who have rejected Christianity at a far higher level than the United States and he plants churches and trains church planters to reach those same types of people here. I came to this book looking for strategies, I left with the conviction that God loves lost people and if we spend time with people who are far away from God and have the Gospel at the ready, we will see people come to Jesus.
This is a good book written by Alvin Reid, a professor of evangelism at a Southern Baptist university who wrote this book to help people who don’t see themselves as evangelists get better at sharing the good news. There is a lot of good, practical advice about sharing the Gospel as part of your everyday life. If you struggle with fear in evangelism or need a good, practical starting point, this is a good book for you.
I don’t remember who, but some semi-famous preacher who has led a lot of people to Christ said this was the book that has informed all of his evangelism. After reading this book, I can understand why this book would be a solid introduction to evangelism. It’s mostly about creating a system that enables evangelism and discipleship and that works extremely well in a college environment. The trick is making it work in a post-college environment.
This is an older book, but one that is full of stories of the author learning how to share Jesus with people. The premise of the book is that Christians need to get out in the world and bring the Gospel to where people are. There are a lot of encouraging stories that will benefit Christians trying to learn how to share Jesus with others.
I didn’t intend to learn much about evangelism from this book but I couldn’t ignore the forward by David Platt that commended the author as a model for evangelism. I think the core thought that was helpful in this book was an emphasis on teaching in aiding people to come to Christ. Especially if you identify as a teacher, this book may give you insights into how you can lead people to Jesus.
So, there you have it. The top ten books on evangelism that I’ve read this year. If you haven’t read a good book on evangelism this year, pick a book from this list and start reading.
You won’t regret it.
Several years ago I had a friend who I started talking to about discipleship. I looked him in the eye and asked him, “If you lead someone to Jesus today, would you know how to help that person grow in the Lord?” A kind of glazed look came over my friend’s face as he realized that he really didn’t know what would come next if he lead someone to Christ.
My friend isn’t alone. In fact, my experience in Christianity in the West tells me that very few people know how to share Christ and fewer know how to disciple those they lead to Christ. This hinders the spread of the Gospel.
Before we go too far, I feel like it’s important to say that I understand not every Christian is going to be an evangelist. I don’t primarily consider myself an evangelist and many of the people I know who share the gospel regularly aren’t evangelists either. But every believer should have a basic understanding of how to share the gospel and disciple new believers. This is part of what Paul means when he says that “we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:15). Every believer is called to be a witness and a disciple (and therefore a disciple maker), but not every believer is called to be an evangelist.
You are called not just to be a Christian and pursue your calling, but regardless of your calling to lead people to Christ along the way. And as you lead them to Christ, you will need to baptize them and instruct them in following Jesus. Don’t settle for anything less than that.
If you are an elder or teacher in the body of Christ, make sure that those around you can articulate the gospel and know how to respond when someone says yes to it. This can make the difference between leading one person to Christ and many more people coming to Christ through the testimony of a new brother or sister.
For those of you who don’t know how to share the Gospel with those around you, here is a clear, simple, reproducible way to share it that we’ve used many times with those we know:
Many times, though, leading people to Christ is the easy part. Teaching them to obey the Risen Christ and helping them to lay aside their old lifestyle is much harder. So next week, we’ll look at a process we’ve used here to raise up disciples.
Until then, what do you think is the main difficulty you have in sharing the gospel and discipling new believers? Let me know in the comment section.
20 years ago a young, awkward, lanky teenager gave his life to Jesus. Without much direction or personal instruction, he consumed whatever material he could afford to buy out of his charismatic church’s bookstore. In the bookstore he found what looked to be a twenty year old copy of a book containing dreams and visions by a prophet named Rick Joyner. The book would affect the lanky teenager in profound ways by imparting a desire to know God and become more like Christ.
That lanky teenager, if you haven’t figured it out yet, was me. The book was actually only written two years previous. (In my defense, two years seemed like a long time back then.) It was called “The Final Quest.” In many ways the theme was very similar to “The Pilgrim’s Progress” in that Rick was expounding on deep truths of the Christian life as he progressed in an allegory portrayed as a physical journey.
The book starts out as a horrible army of demons are attacking Christians and Rick has to climb a mountain (“The Mountain of the Lord”), first for safety, but then as he begins to understand each level of mountain represents a different stage of maturity, out of a desire to know Christ more. As he climbs higher up the mountain he becomes more mature and more effective in the battle against the demonic forces.
Lately, the following section has been on my mind. In this stage of the vision, he is being lead up and down the Mountain of the Lord by the personification of Wisdom, aptly named “Wisdom.”
Wisdom led me down the mountain to the very lowest level, which was named ‘Salvation.’ ‘You think that this is the lowest level,’ declared Wisdom, ‘but this is the foundation of the whole mountain. In any journey, the first step is the most important and it is usually the most difficult. Without ‘Salvation’ there would be no mountain.’
I was appalled by the carnage on this level. Every soldier was very badly wounded, but none of them were dead. Multitudes were barely clinging to the edge. Many seemed ready to fall off, but none did. Angels were everywhere ministering to the soldiers with such great joy that I had to ask, ‘Why are they so happy?’
‘These angels have beheld the courage that it took for these to hold on. They may not have gone any further, but neither did they give up. They will soon be healed, and then they will behold the glory of the rest of the mountain, and they will begin to climb. These will be great warriors for the battle to come.’
‘But wouldn’t they have been better off to climb the mountain with the rest of us?’ I protested, seeing their present condition.
‘It would have been better for them, but not for you. By staying here they made it easier for you to climb by keeping most of your enemies occupied. Very few from the higher levels ever reached out to help others come to the mountain, but these did. Even when these were barely clinging to the mountain themselves, they would reach out to pull others up. In fact, most of the mighty warriors were led to the mountain by these faithful ones. These are no less heroes than those who have made it to the top. They have brought great joy to heaven by leading others to Salvation…
Again I felt shame for my previous attitude toward these great saints. Many of us had scorned them as we had climbed to the higher levels. They had made many mistakes during the battle, but they had also displayed more of the Shepherd’s heart than the rest of us. The Lord would leave the ninety-nine to go after the one who was lost. These had stayed in the place where they could still reach the lost, and they paid a dear price for it….
(The Final Quest*, Rick Joyner, pp. 51-53)
My point in retelling this part of the story is this: In some parts of the church, those who reach out to the lost, the broken, and the hurting are seen as less spiritual. Often they are perceived as a mile wide but an inch deep. In order to relate to the lost and the broken, the evangelists among us chose a different path than the cloistered life that supposedly produces maturity. And while we desperately need people coming to Jesus in this hour, our attitude towards those who can and do lead people to Jesus is often one of disdain for their lack of depth.
But Jesus thinks differently than we do. We live in an upside-down Kingdom. What that means is that things that seem very important to us now (money, popularity, worldly success) mean very little to God and the things that mean much to God (humility, honor, self-sacrificing love) mean very little to men. God’s Kingdom is upside down compared to ours. To be specific to our context, Jesus says, “But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then,” (Mark 10:31).
The church teaches us that the mega-church pastor, the preacher on a book tour, and the ascetic are all important and spiritual. But in this upside-down Kingdom, those that live lives near the broken to bring them to salvation are honored. They bear the price of relating to the brokeness of humanity and remaining close enough to the lost to be able to communicate the Gospel. Because of this, they may never write a book or draw a huge crowd, but they have God’s attention.
I write all this, not just so we appreciate evangelists more. That’s a good start. But I also write it so that we consider, very seriously, the idea that God may value an earthy, more mission minded version of Christianity than many think. Maybe according to the upside-down values of the Kingdom, Jesus assigns honor to those who make it their aim to live among and lead lost souls to the Mountain of the Lord. And if this the case, maybe we should make it more of our aim to be like those guys, and less like the mega church pastor, the writer, or ascetic. Maybe part of our journey into maturity is to become more like your lost co-worker and less like a monk, all for the purpose of reaching him and helping him know Jesus. Maybe instead of avoiding the world, we embrace it with the love of Christ and let that love transform us into more of who He is.
If we live in an upside-down Kingdom, I think it might be more important than we realize.
*It probably goes without saying, but I do not consider the revelation contained within the Final Quest to have anywhere near the level of authority of Scripture. I believe Scripture is a far more reliable witness than any personal revelation and I quote this section as springboard for conversation.
** Also note that this photography was altered from its original version: A duck was cropped out and the picture was flipped upside down.