Will McRaney wrote this book to help Christians share their faith in our postmodern world. McRaney felt the United States has become so post-Christian, personal evangelism has become the only answer. Non-Christians do not attend church, therefore Christians have to bring Christ to them. McRaney believed a Christian's experiences and relationships with non-Christians are worth building upon and utilizing when sharing Christ. Non-Christians are no longer scared of going to hell, if they even believe in it. This means Christians need to change the gospel when they share it with non-Christians. The new gospel appeals to people's feelings and experiences.
This was a great book in the much needed area of personal evangelism. Many people don't practice personal evangelism today, but it is the last hope for Christianity in America. Program and event evangelism does not reach postmoderns. They value experience and relationships. If Christians do not begin practicing this discipline (personal evangelism), Christianity will continue to die, just as it already has in Western Europe and Canada.
This book was pretty academic, and could be used as an evangelism textbook for colleges and seminaries. Though academic, it shouldn't be too difficult for the average reader who actually has a concern that her family and friends will die and go to hell.
McRaney, Will H. Jr. The Art of Personal Evangelism: Sharing Jesus in a Changing Culture. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003.
Will McRaney is an Associate Professor of Evangelism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served in several positions such as pastor, church planter, and professor. In addition to his work at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, McRaney also leads a church growth consulting ministry called Ministry Enhancement Group.
McRaney's book, The Art of Personal Evangelism, emphasizes the importance of personal evangelism for both the Christian and the church. While a large percentage of Christians do not practice personal evangelism, McRaney points out that 'everything begins with personal evangelism.' The purpose of his book is to review the biblical doctrines of evangelism and to provide assistance in bridging the timeless message with the postmodern culture. McRaney achieved this task by dividing the book into four sections: the first section reviews the foundational elements of personal evangelism; the second section discusses communication theory as it relates to personal evangelism; the third section provides practical application aids in personal evangelism; and the fourth section is comprised of five appendices to aid the reader in further research.
The first section of the book deals with foundational elements of personal evangelism. These elements consist of the theological doctrines of evangelism, including God's role, the Christian's role, and the content of the gospel message. God's role in evangelism is defined as the instigator and agent of conversion. God desires a relationship with mankind for both His pleasure and for the benefit of His people. It is because of this desire that God created a means of salvation through the cross. This salvation is accessible only through Jesus Christ and the moving of the Holy Spirit. However, God uses His people as the messengers of the gospel. It is our role as His people to effectively communicate 'the essential gospel message with the view toward seeing people supernaturally become followers and imitators of Christ.' Types and methods of evangelistic encounters vary, but the message and the goal of evangelism remains the same in all cases ' to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all the Christ has commanded.
The second section of the book discusses communication theory as it relates to personal evangelism. McRaney covers three main areas of communication as it relates to evangelism. These include making the gospel make sense, communicating inside your context, and communicating outside your context. There are three primary styles of communication: self-centered, message-centered, and other-centered. We must communicate the gospel with a loving nature as God communicates. There are many facets of communicating with people inside our context. We must understand our culture in order to communicate effectively with the people within it. We must understand that there is a shift from modernism to postmodernism, and then we need to understand what this shift means for sharing the gospel message. Communicating Christ outside our context entails sharing the gospel with people of different age groups (children, youth, and seniors), and with people of different cultures. Sharing the gospel outside our context demands that we understand who we are talking to before we attempt to share the gospel.
The third section is comprised of three chapters that supply practical application for the principles covered in the first two sections. These include conversation aids, removing barriers, and the final chapter consists of a miscellany of items. The chapter on conversation aids covers such items as assessing readiness to hear the gospel or make a decision, answering objections, and how to transition to a spiritual conversation. Also, there are internal and external barriers prohibiting the Christian from witnessing. These include: fear, relational distance, isolation, intellectual, informational, and pragmatic barriers.
McRaney's book, The Art of Personal Evangelism, is an incredible primer on the spiritual discipline of personal evangelism. This is an excellent book for pastors, church members, or students of evangelism. He does a wonderful job in highlighting the fact that personal evangelism is the key to kingdom growth, as well as providing the proper tools to equip the reader to take up the task. Strengths of this book include the thorough description of the theology of personal evangelism, and the practical application section is invaluable. I found the communication theory section helpful as well. There are a few weaknesses in the book, though. First, the editing of the book leaves a lot to be desired. There were several errors that were missed. Fortunately, McRaney deals with this by providing additional information on his website: www.megnet.org. Also, McRaney seems to focus his writing for a reader in the United States. Yet, these principles are just as applicable in Europe, Australia, Africa, or Asia. With the current cultural phenomenon of globalization, it would have been a stronger book if McRaney did not focus so intently on the United States. An example of this is found on page 62. McRaney is talking about being an expert on World Religions, yet the first sentence discusses the plurality of the United States. Despite these minor weaknesses, McRaney's book is a must read for any and all Christians. If the reader does not have a heart for personal evangelism before he reads the book, he will once he has finished it ' and he will have the skills necessary to do it.