Book Review – Sharing Jesus [without freaking out]

I can’t avoid the reality that I once had a near terminal case of CKD – “Christian Kid Disease.”    Those at risk for CKD include children of the 80s who went to Youth Group, went to church at least 4 times a week, listened to awful…and I mean AWFUL Contemporary Christian Music with even worse theology, and had a deep seated terror and a near co41eNHDPEIKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgmplete paralysis when it came to “witnessing” [80s word] – or as it’s better known “evangelism.”  Fortunately, CKD has a cure – a heaping dose of the pure, unadulterated gospel.

Dr. Alvin Reid (Pastor and Professor of Evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Seminary) gets this, and thankfully wrote “Sharing Jesus [without freaking out}” to help those suffering with CKD learn to love sharing Jesus. As he states “We need to reboot our understanding of evangelism.”  Oh. I like this book.

Right away, Reid doesn’t fall into the CKD trap of making evangelism a super awkward Christianese-filled monologue where one pressures someone to ‘invite Jesus into their heart.’  Instead, “its in our everyday conversations that we can help people see that their life matters, that their passion to live comes from God and that he good news of Jesus can rescue them from pain.”  [2]

Reid makes many solid points, and one of the first that resonated loudly with me is that one of main reasons why Christians don’t share the hope of Jesus more often is because typically Christians surround themselves with other Christians…and spend life in a Christian bubble.  We need to be more intentional in our relationships – start real friendships that are based in love and naturally sharing Jesus.   He then goes on to outline several principles for being fruitful.

Principle 1: God created you for his glory, to advance his gospel with the gifts, talents, and opportunities he gave you. [11]  We need to be more intentional about owning the mission, not just feeling guilty about not participating in it. We need to back up the mission with credible lives, proclaiming the gospel in word and deed.

Principle 2: In order to share Jesus confidently and consistently with others, first share him confidently and consistently with yourself. [23]  We need to be biblical theologians. Not only do we need to know our Bibles, but we need to know the story of the Bible.  All the Bible points to Jesus, the center of the redemptive plan of a holy God who rescues a human race that rejected it’s Creator.  He writes “They need to see the story of Jesus is as big as the Bible itself, the story of Jesus is bigger than our times na dour individual lives, or even the spiritual aspect of our lives alone.” [25]  This is the grand metanarrative – the overarching ‘big story’ of the Bible – creation, fall, rescue, restoration.

Principle 3: Shifting from giving and evangelistic presentation to having an evangelistic conversation takes pressure off the witness and relates the gospel more clearly to an unbeliever.  [41] This is the weakness of the CKD model of the 80s where an awkward monologue was the tactic of choice.  Reid calls for more “gospel intelligence” and “gospel fluency” to introduce the gospel in everyday conversations.  He also calls for three vital things people can tell about us in a conversation:  (1) If we care about them, (2) If we believe what we are talking about, (3) If the hand of God is on our life. I also appreciated the realism in this book, for example the author writes “most times your conversations will not lead to a conversion, but will help nudge the person further along in their gospel understanding.”

Principle 4: God has sovereignly placed you in this world at this time with the abilities and gifts you have to bring glory to him and show the joy of the gospel to others. [56] This includes “starting with the why” – understanding why we are doing evangelism, even before the “how.”  [This is the great mistake of pragmatism.]  You were made to do this, he writes, with the personality, limitations, and circumstances of YOU!

Principle 5: Effective evangelistic conversations connect the unchanging gospel with the specific issues people face. [68] This is a realistic, non-programmatic approach – again in contrast to years gone by.  He gives five approaches to being a conversationalist in today’s different [social media[ world.  (1) The power of stories, (2) asking good questions, (3) genuine affirmation and encouragement – ie. not condemning a person for their sin, nor condoning it – affirm them as a person made in the image of God, (4) speak to the person’s mind and heart, and (5) connect beneath the surface.

Principle 6: Expect people to be open to the gospel, and learn to share Jesus where they live. [84] Quoting Bruce Ashford, Reid points out four areas which we are called to live out our faith: home, culture, workplace, and community.  [87] Reid reprints Thompson’s “Concentric Circles of Concern,”  and in so doing again points out the weakness in a programmatic, plastic evangelistic method – most of those “techniques” were geared towards “Person X’ – all well and good, but more realistically how about our family?  Our neighbors? Our co-workers? Those that God has sovereignly placed in our lives through relationships!  [see Principle 4!]

Principle 7: Talk to the actual person in front of you about the Jesus inside you; let them see and hear the change Jesus makes in you.  [99] The truth is “God uses people just like [us] to impact people just like those you know for his glory.” AMEN!  This principle included a helpful section on dealing with objections, in a gracious and accessible way.

Principle 8: Developing a lifestyle of sharing Jesus consistently flows out of a plan to share Jesus regularly. [112]  This speaks to living an intentional life.  This includes prayer [though covered more in Principle 5], but realistically understanding your giftedness, calling, and our passions.

I loved this book and highly recommend it, especially for those recovering from the effects of CKD.  It’s an easy, well-written, yet convicting and highly practical read – with all the theological grounding one would hope for.  Onward to the evangelistic revolution!








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