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Review: Training for everyday evangelism in the digital age

Francis Chan. Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples. Nashville, Tenn.: David C. Cook, 2012. 333 pages. $14.99.
J. R. Woodward. Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World. Downer’s Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2012. 226 pages. $16.
When I first enrolled in a church growth class at Harding School of Theology, I took notes on how to attract people with high-quality worship experiences and targeted programs.
In the three decades since that class, the attractional movement has given rise to megachurches with tens of thousands of members across the United States.
However, a study released in 2007 by Chicago megachurch Willow Creek Community Church gave many church leaders who followed an attractional model pause. High attendance at worship and activities did not equal members experiencing spiritual growth, the study found.
Perhaps this confirms what members of Churches of Christ have known all along — equipping members for spreading the Gospel results in more church growth than any contemporary worship style or engaging programs. As Church of Christ author Ivan Stewart put it, “Go ye means go me.”
Francis Chan, well-known author of “Crazy Love,” embodies this shift. He left his position as a megachurch minister to form a small fellowship devoted to discipleship and outreach. Another author, J.R. Woodward, is a church planter who equips ministers to lead congregations in reaching out to their communities. Both challenge church leaders and Christians to attract spiritual seekers by training Christians to share the Gospel with friends, neighbors and coworkers.
Chan’s new book, “Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples,” calls readers to live out the Great Commission in their daily lives. He agrees with Stewart that evangelism is every Christian’s task. “While it’s true that the pastors, elders and apostles in the New Testament made disciples,” he writes, “we can’t overlook the fact that discipleship was everyone’s job.”
This also calls to mind the view of one of the most active missionaries and evangelists of our brotherhood, Reuel Lemmons, who once said, “We are depending entirely too much on professionals and have forgotten the priesthood of the individual believer.”
This book is meant to be a workbook Christians can use to bring unbelievers to the knowledge of the truth.
The book’s website, MultiplyMovement.com, features short videos of Chan and megachurch minister David Platt, author of “Radical,” discussing the concepts of each chapter.
Also on the website, Chan provides free downloads of every chapter, each of which is meant to be covered in a weekly meeting between disciple-maker and disciple or disciples.
After establishing the importance of making disciples and of how to get involved with a local church (including baptism), the chapters move through the major points of the Old and New Testaments.
Churches of Christ have a great history of using Bible study to help others come to Christ and grow in their faith, and Chan’s book is a solid supplement. I give it four stars instead of five because much of the material is extremely basic and, in some places, too simple in its interpretation of Scripture.
Woodward’s work is more focused on equipping church leaders to equip its members for evangelism. “Creating a Missional Culture” suggests that modern church leaders need to become aware of their culture in order to reach new people.
Since the rise of the digital age, which Woodward places about 2010, people are more skeptical of the traditional hierarchical forms of leadership and more open to sharing and joining in mission, he writes. To adapt to this, he presents what he calls a “polycentric” leadership structure, based on the model given in Ephesians 4:11-12.
Woodward indicates that the most difficult issue for leaders is not learning something new, but unlearning the models of leadership that may have worked in the past but no longer work today.
One example of this is the method of trying to attract people to worship through advertising alone. The digital age requires that Christians go out of the building and into the chaos of the world, working side by side with others, serving in their cities and developing relationships with those who need Jesus.
Chan and Woodward offer great resources for us as they challenge our members and leaders to apply the Great Commission to our own lives, standing on the edge of chaos in a digital age that seeks structure, hope and salvation.

is lead church planter for the Agape Church of Christ in Portland, Ore., and author of “The God of Second Chances: Finding Hope Through the Prophets of Exile.”

  • Feedback
    Thank you for including this review on everday evangelism. Evangelism is the worst failure of Churches of Christ today. Please include a review in each issue on a book, course, video, or website focussing on evangelism. Our country’s morality is rapidly declining in parallel proportions to the decline in church attendance & membership.
    Jerry Tindel
    Brentwood Oaks Church of Christ
    Austin, TX
    March, 29 2013

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