Becoming A Contagious Christian. By Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994. 221 pages. (Paper), $12.99.
Many have heard of Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago suburb of South Barrington, Illinois, with their attendance of more than 16,000, and their semi-annual church leadership conferences. Author Bill Hybels serves as senior pastor at Willow Creek and Mark Mittelberg is the associate director of the Willow Creek Association and the evangelism trainer. One of the primary ideas promoted by Willow Creek and emphasized in this book is reaching “seekers,” the unsaved who are looking for something and need salvation.
Becoming A Contagious Christian contains much we can learn about living and sharing the gospel we say we believe. God’s grace of unmerited salvation should inspire us to be contagious in sharing the gospel with unbelievers. No matter who we come into contact with in our daily lives, each person that crosses our path may have that moment as their first or final opportunity to witness the life of Christ in us or to hear about salvation. No matter the situation, there is a way to eventually share the gospel with unbelievers. The goal of the book is “to give you practical steps toward becoming an effective carrier of God’s life-changing message. If we are authentic Christians, before we can become highly contagious Christians, we must first live in a way that convinces the people around us that we actually have the disease ourselves!” (p. 23). The expression of compassion toward others is important, because they “will recognize it as an earmark of authentic Christianity” (p. 69).
While the ideas for sharing the gospel in the book are sound, there is a problem with the so-called “clear communication” of the gospel. In Chapter 11, Making The Message Clear, the message imparted is anything but clear. It says that the only way to receive Christ’s forgiveness “is to humbly bow before Him, admit our waywardness, and say yes to His incredible offer” (p. 152). “Each of us has to receive the forgiveness and leadership of Christ individually” (p. 154). “To become a real Christian is to humbly receive God’s gift of forgiveness and to commit to following His leadership” (p. 156). “We must humbly admit to God that we’ve rebelled against Him and need His forgiveness and leadership” (p. 159). Are you confused yet? The clear gospel message is lost in Lordship Salvation. Nowhere in Scripture are we told to do anything but believe–faith alone in Christ alone. We are never told to bow humbly, receive His leadership, or commit to following Him.
The fresh and original approach in sharing the gospel of salvation so people hear and believe is great. However, the clouded gospel message presented in Becoming A Contagious Christian makes it impossible for me to recommend this book.
San Antonio, TX