A Review of the “Sacrament of Evangelism”

 

sacrament of evangelism

Summary:
The Sacrament of Evangelism by Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie presents “a way of looking at life and the world that is open to God’s presence everywhere.”[1] Their book avoids being another “how-to” book and instead focuses more on the motivating factor in evangelism—jumping on board with what God is already doing in the lives of people.

According to the authors, the word sacrament itself has the idea of “presence of God” but more specifically it often refers to the mutual effort of God’s grace and our response to divine grace.
So in other words, God is both near and always able to give grace.[2]

Evangelism is a type of sacrament. Those who put it into practice come to see God at work in their lives. The authors makes the point, “It is not a question of whether God is at work in His world. It is a question of whether those who claim to follow Him will participate with Him in this sacrament.”[3]

The book’s 20 chapters are divided into four parts: (1) Preliminaries, (2) Abiding in Christ, (3) The Gospel and Humanity, and (4) Content and Follow-Up. The “Preliminaries” are particularly useful for those new to evangelism get a jump start. The chapters on “Abiding in Christ” offer practical insights for maintaining and living and evangelistic life. The third and fourth sections deal with how to connect with unbelievers and follow-up with new Christians.

Application:
I appreciate how Part 1 encourages people to get started in evangelism despite any awkwardness, “Every new endeavor comes with a degree of awkwardness. In fact, if you do not feel awkward in some part of your life right now, you are probably not growing.”[4]

Further, the authors remind us that something doesn’t have to be done well in order to be good through the use of a G. K. Chesterton quote, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”[5] In other words, don’t avoid doing something that is good to do simply because you aren’t good at it or you feel you will do it poorly. Sometimes we get the idea that we must master an endeavor before we’ve even begun. It is helpful to remember that we will never fully master anything this side of heaven. Thus we must continue to grow and mature in all areas.

I also appreciate the authors’ emphasis on beginning all evangelism with prayer. I’ve found that one of the biggest reasons people fail to share the gospel with others is fear. Yet, every Christian—whether extroverted or introverted—can pray. Root tells a powerful story of a restaurant owner whom he shared the gospel with after having prayed for him over the course of several months.[6]

I most resonated with chapter 7, “Discovering God’s Love.” C.S. Lewis claimed that pride is the worst vice but the authors asserted that pride comes from fear and we fear because we turn away from God’s love. As Christians, we must continually remind ourselves of God’s love for us.

Taking it a step further, I loved seeing the juxtaposition of fear and love and evangelism, “If we deny the riches of His love in our own communities, we will be less likely to tell others about the grace of God.”[7] What a powerful reminder that when I am not mindful of God’s love in my own life my own personal evangelism will suffer as well.

Conclusion:
Overall, I recommend this book. It is one that I found myself wanting to pick up and reread a second time right after I finished it. The book is simple enough that most lay leaders and Bible study groups can enjoy and benefit from; yet, it is also profound enough that those of scholarly persuasion will find themselves pausing to reflect on the words and the practical ramifications.

Note: This review was adapted from a book review written for an independent study class at Dallas Theological Seminary in January of 2014.

[1] Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie, The Sacrament of Evangelism, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011), 15.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. 17.

[4] Ibid. 23.

[5] Ibid. 24.

[6] Ibid. Ch. 3.

[7] Ibid. 76.