Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book Review: The Pastor-Evangelist

In preparation for leading tonight's Sunday Evening Bible study on fellowship and hospitality in the New Testament, I just re-read a chapter called 'Hospitality Evangelism' from one of the top-ten most influential books on me. I reviewed it a while back, but thought I'd re-post that review today, in hopes of pointing more people to that great book! Here it is:
There are two kinds of books that most of my pastor-friends read: new books that are ‘cutting edge’, and old books that have stood the test of time. The former are often reviewed by Tim Challies (at least in the circles I run in), and the latter are usually edited by Justin Taylor, or recommended by one of the super-pastors most of us little guys consider mentors from afar. The Pastor-Evangelist: Preacher, Model, and Mobilizer for Church Growth, fits into neither of these categories. Published in 1987, it’s too old to be ‘cutting edge’, and it’s too new to be a classic. It’s a book that has flown under the radar among most of my friends, but it is a book that deserves the attention of every pastor.

Edited by Roger S. Greenway, and contributed to by over a dozen American Presbyterian pastors, this book is rooted in Reformed Theology, and is a call for pastors and churches to have an evangelistic emphasis woven into the fabric of their existence. The book uniformly argues that to ‘do the work of an evangelist’ is a charge that applies to every pastor. To fulfill his charge, the pastor must preach evangelistically and with an aim to create a congregation of evangelists, he must model an evangelistic lifestyle to those under his charge, and he must strategically mobilize his congregation for effective evangelism.

The book begins with two chapters of theological underlay. Greenway writes on ‘Jesus, the Pastor-Evangelist’ and Edmund P. Clowney writes on ‘Kingdom Evangelism’. The ministry of Jesus, the paradigms in Acts, and the charges to Timothy, all combine to show that evangelism ought to be one of the central priorities of every local church pastor. Clowney reinforces this by reminding the reader that Jesus preached the gospel of the Kingdom that must be proclaimed to the world.

The ‘meat’ of the book is a series of practical chapters that fit under the categories ‘preacher’, ‘model’, and ‘mobilizer’. C. John Miller writes a chapter on ‘Prayer and Evangelism’ that had me on my knees in my study, even as I was preparing for an evangelistic outing with the church I serve as pastor. His stories of the coolness of his studied preaching, verses the blessing of God on his preaching when he began to prioritize both study and prayer, urged me to action! Some of the other ‘middle-chapters’ were: ‘Preaching and Evangelism’ (Dick J. Hart); ‘Evangelism Through Small Groups’ (Frank M. Barker, Jr); ‘A Full-Service Church’ (Bartlett L. Hess); ‘Learning How to Witness’ (D. James Kennedy); ‘Evangelism Through Sunday Schools’ (Kennedy Smartt); ‘Follow-up to Fellowship’ (James C. Bland III); ‘Equipping the Church for Lifestyle Evangelism’ (T.M. Moore); ‘Hospitality Evangelism’ (Richard P. Kaufmann); ‘An Integrated Plan for Evangelism and Church Growth’ (Terry L. Gyger); ‘Revitalizing a Dying Church’ (Harry L. Reeder III); ‘Pastor-Evangelists: Need of the Hour Everywhere’ (Roger S. Greenway).

The authors do not hide the fact that churches with Reformed convictions often fare poorly when it comes to evangelism. T.M. Moore notes that this is sometimes a conscious decision: John Owen believed that evangelism was primarily the job of the pastor, and was primarily to be done from the pulpit. The authors show that this is contrary to the teaching of Scripture’s didactic sections, along with the paradigms in Acts and the very creative methods for evangelism this inspired book describes.

Perhaps the most helpful chapter for me was Richard Kaufmann’s ‘Hospitality Evangelism’. He begins by quoting Peter Wagner: “The effectiveness of the Christian’s role as a witness for church growth decreases with that person’s maturity in Christ”. Kaufmann explains: “As a Christian matures in Christ he becomes more and more involved in the church. His free time is quickly filled with Christian activities such as worship services, prayer meetings, Bible studies, Sunday school, committee meetings, and church socials. Either his non-Christian friends are converted, or he gradually loses contact with them as their interests take them in different directions” (pg 140). In a ten page chapter, Kaufmann sets forth an intentional lifestyle of getting to know one’s neighbours, having them over for supper, and gaining trust with the goal of speaking the gospel into their lives, seeing them converted and integrated into a local church. This lifestyle of hospitality evangelism is in line with God’s work in salvation history: When the curtain of the Temple was torn in two the ultimate ‘open house’ began. Since God has been so welcoming with his people, every one of his people ought to be welcoming to the strangers around them.

In the last analysis, this is a book to buy and re-read. It may be a great book to read as an elder’s team. Select chapters, especially ‘Hospitality Evangelism’ would be great as photocopies for church members. This book will be life-changing, especially if the reader takes Edmund Clowney’s advice, and doesn’t avoid evangelism by escaping to the study to read about it! May the reading of this book serve to mobilize many pastor-evangelists who preach, model, and mobilize their churches for this all-important calling.

Canadians can buy it here.
Americans can find it here.

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