Christianity’s Crisis in Evangelism: Going Where the People Are. By Linda Raney Wright. Graham, OR: Vision House Publishing, 1995. 185 pp. Cloth, $14.99.
This is an intensely practical discussion of reaching the lost in our day, written by a woman who is obviously an active soul-winner herself. This author is concerned—rightly it appears—with what she sees as a crisis in evangelism among American Christians.
One source of this crisis, she believes, is that Christians have often developed an uncompassionate “us-versus-them” mentality toward the unsaved. She connects this with the political and social activism that increasingly characterizes the evangelical community. She points, for example, to a survey she did with a number of committed Christians which revealed that “much more time was spent saving morals, saving the country, and saving the family than in saving the lost” (p. 15, italics original). The result is a tendency to view the unsaved person as “the enemy” rather than as the object of Christ’s saving love.
Another feature of the crisis in evangelism, the writer contends, is confusion about the message. In this regard, she takes Lordship Salvation directly to task. Appropriately she tells about a woman she calls Ella who trusted Christ but had a heroin addiction. She was told at one point that if she left the drug re-hab center and went back to the streets it would prove she was never saved at all. This, of course, is typical lordship fare. Actually it took ten years for her to break her addiction (pp. 63-64, 91). The writer is properly concerned with the practical disadvantages to this kind of teaching.
But she is concerned with more than that. She properly regards Lordship Salvation as unbiblical. Her arguments against it from Scripture are well taken, and she correctly recognizes that passages on discipleship are not part of the Gospel message (p. 83). But her combination of scriptural arguments with practical arguments make her presentation strikingly effective. For example, in a response to the lordship idea, “How can you call yourself a Christian and still divorce your spouse, sleep with another, or drink too much?” she writes:
But the questions conspicuously not being asked are: How can you call yourself a Christian when you have a critical attitude, when you are not witnessing, when you feel superior to another human being, when you have unforgiveness or unbelief, when you do not control your tongue, when you are performing out of the flesh, not out of the Spirit? [p. 77].
A particularly engaging section of the book is chapter nine, “A Touchy Encounter.” This chapter contains computer conversations, which actually occurred, between a non-Christian and two Christians, one rather offensive and insensitive and one sensitive to the feelings of the unbeliever. The exchange involving the insensitive Christian is hard to read because it is so painfully true to life. The chapter as a whole is highly effective and makes its point unmistakably.
Not everyone, of course, will agree with every syllable of this book. Perhaps the writer lays too much stress on the role of praying a prayer to receive Christ, which is apparently her preferred method for leading a person to faith. Yet there is no reason to think that she believes the prayer to be essentialto the conversion experience. There is also a use of Rev 3:20 (p. 115) with which many GES people might disagree. But on balance, there is relatively little in this volume to concern those who believe in grace, and a great deal that will have them saying a hearty “amen”!
In addition to its other fine aspects, the book is a refreshing and challenging call to contemporary Christians to share the Gospel of grace out of a heart of genuine love for the lost. We commend the author and publishers for this worthwhile contribution to evangelism.
Zane C. Hodges
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society