J Mack Stiles. Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. 128 pp. $14.99.
Church and Ministry
Many evangelism books devote the body of time on how to do evangelism. Few pull back the curtain and discuss what is evangelism. Likewise, many books aim at individuals, few think in terms of the corporate gathering. You will find this addition to the 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches series to be a different sort. It tackles the what, the how, the individual and the church.
Mack Stiles does not make assumptions on what we think is evangelism. In fact, in Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus, Stiles proceeds with caution distinguishing evangelism as program and evangelism as culture. He does this tactfully by sharing stories of individuals working as teams in churches fostering a culture of evangelism; Stiles in one such individual. You see Mack Stiles is not a pastor. He is a lay elder, the CEO of Gulf Digital Solutions, and an active proponent of fostering church cultures of evangelism. He says, “To be compelled by love to share the gospel individually is a beautiful thing, but when it happens in community, it’s joyfully glorious” (48).
Ask yourself this: Where does the burden of evangelism rest in my church? Is it a programmatic event, an evangelistic preacher, or in a ministry? If so, your church might be promoting a misdirected means for evangelism. It might indirectly give members excuse to abdicate their joyful role in God’s Great Commission. Building your evangelistic philosophy on the above components is not bad – they are all great blessings – unless they are ultimate means for evangelism. We need more than events, pastors and ministries. As Stiles says, “We need to develop cultures of evangelism in our local churches, too. We want whole churches that speak of Jesus” (42).
To help us have an illuminated version of evangelism, Stiles explains fundamental definitions that many take for granted. He defines evangelism (26), the gospel (33), and the Church (71) in fresh terms. He unpacks these definitions in view of an evangelistic culture (chapter 2). He demonstrates what healthy churches look like and what unhealthy churches lack (chapter 3). Stiles gives the nitty gritty of being intentional evangelists (chapter 4), and what must be done when sharing the faith (chapter 5).
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
Many churches light the evangelistic match through programs that fritter out. What our churches need is a long burning oil fueled lamp. We need a sustainable resource. This book is that resource. Evangelism fuels churches with what’s necessary to foster a culture of evangelism. Pages 83-98 are olives from which to squeeze oil. There you’ll prepare congregations to share the gospel, understand a gospel-shaped way of life, slay assumptions, view evangelism as a discipline, pray for opportunities and mindset, and give leadership to evangelism.
And throughout Evangelism Stiles shares stories of people at Redeemer Church in Dubai burdened to share the gospel and the resultant fruit. You’ll hear the stories of Samanti, Van, Kelly, Andrei and Craig: living fruits reaped in a culture of evangelism. These are stories to be leveraged so that your church might see similar fruit.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
Evangelism by J Mack Stiles will fuel you and your church to envision a vibrant gospel sharing culture.