I’ve been reading the last two days a wonderful little book by William J. Abraham called The Art of Evangelism. As the title may suggest, this is not a “how to” book of techniques, but a brief yet thorough overview of evangelism as a practice of the church.
Anyone who has read Abraham’s The Logic of Evangelism will recognize the ideas in this book, which centers itself around the notion that evangelism is about initiation of people into the reign of God. The Art of Evangelism is a slim volume designed to be useful as a study book by a small group and focused on helping a congregation begin to incorporate practices and understandings that are necessary for evangelism.
I must confess, one of the features I like about the book is the way Abraham provides brief overviews of some fundamental parts of the evangelism puzzle. His six-point overview of the Christian gospel, for instance, is a wonderful tool for both the preacher and lay Christian as they seek to articulate exactly what the “good news” of Jesus Christ means.
Also quite helpful is his outline of six “dimensions to entry” into the rule of God. In brief, the six are the:
A couple of the word choices are awkward because Abraham is going for an acrostic on METHOD. The “horitzonal” dimension we might call social or community. The “operational” dimension we might call mission or active or works of mercy.
In addition to describing these six dimensions into the rule of God, Abraham helpfully points out that different people may enter through different doors. For some, exposure to the theological content of Christianity may be a first step. For others it is an experience of conviction and conversion. For others is may be the activity of Christian mission. For others it is the social life of a community.
But whichever dimension we enter, full initiation into the reign of God involves all six dimensions or doors. The full life in the kingdom involves the moral, the experiential, the theological, the social, the active, and the disciplined life of faith.
And evangelism is about bringing people into full participation in the reign of God in all its dimensions, not merely getting people in the pews or to the altar rail — although both those may be part of the overall art.
One last word on the book. It includes valuable appendices providing outlines for a workshop a congregation might host to develop faith sharing abilities, guides to leading a person to Christ, and other very helpful suggestions for a congregation seeking to — as the book’s subtitle says — carefully craft evangelism into the life of the local church.
I recommend the book highly.