Doug Pagitt was kind enough to send over a copy of his newly released book, Evangelism in the Inventive Age, for me to review a couple of weeks ago.
I meant to have this posted sooner, but as so often happens, ministry responsibilities foiled my best laid plans.
Nevertheless, I thought that in light of the current series of posts on evangelicalism, it would be an appropriate time to post a review on a book about evangelism.
Clearly, the issue of evangelicalism is something that resonates deeply with me. So, I was eager hear what the pastor of Solomon’s Porch had to say about the subject. I am happy to report that I was not disappointed.
I found Evangelism in the Inventive Age to be a fascinating and challenging critique of the current model for evangelism, one which obviously defines much of evangelicalism. It’s the cookie cutter model that Pagitt is critiquing, the model which views the gospel and its presentation as a stagnant, monolethic thing which never needs adapting. It can be published on a tract or proclaimed from a street corner with no consideration for the audience. For Pagitt, however, “Evangelism is not the act of telling. It is the act of communicating.”
Perhaps there was a time when the monolithic approach was, on some level, effective, but as Pagitt clearly demonstrates in the book, this is no longer the case for a global, interconnected society. According to Pagitt, and I think he is correct, the church needs an approach to evangelism that “resonates” with the listener. This concept of resonance is something that appears constantly throughout the book, and it should. As Pagitt explains, people are not going to connect to the gospel unless it resonates with who they are, what their context is, or where they are on their personal journey.
That’s not to say that the gospel should be fundamentally altered, but rather Pagitt argues, we should follow the lead of the early church in Acts and speak the language of the culture. In other words, he says, we need to not put up unnecessary barriers that hinder the ability of the listener to hear the gospel. Rather, we need to find ways to help them discover how their own story resonates with the story of God. As Pagitt explains, “Evangelism in the Inventive Age demands that we deliver the good new of God by finding the resonance between God’s story and the story playing out in each of us.”
I think this is a brilliant and timely insight, something all of us need to hear. Too often we force our own version of the faith onto other people and other cultures. We speak to others in what is for them a foreign language, and then wonder why they don’t understand and respond. If we are serious about evangelism, then we need to accept the fact that the majority of people on this planet do not speak, look, talk, think, act, dress, eat, play, or worship exactly how we do. But that’s ok. Diversity is a wonderfully beautiful thing that only adds to the church. It never “soils” it.
If the church is seriously interested in making genuine disciples, if the church is seriously interested loving and embracing “the other”, if the church really wants to follow in the footsteps of her founders, then I think this book would make a great tool to get started down that path.
Whether you’re in full-time ministry or not, all of us have been called to preach the gospel to the very ends of the earth. So, help yourself out in answering that calling and pick up a copy of this book today.
A big thanks once again to Doug Pagitt for his generousity in sharing his work for review. It was a book well worth reading.
Grace and peace,