This is a review, but mostly a recommendation, of Carl Medearis’ book Speaking of Jesus – The Art of Not-Evangelism. I’ll get to the review in a minute, but I’ll start by saying up front: seriously, this is a book you should buy and read. If you’re a Christian who’s interested in evangelism, you should read it. If you’re sick to death of Christians trying to evangelize you, you should read it too. And if you think there’s something sort of cool about Jesus and can’t figure out why those Christians yammer on about Jesus but seem so not like him, you REALLY should read it!
This book is not new … Carl published it in 2011 and somehow I only learned about it a couple weeks ago. But I’ve been in dialog with Carl over Facebook for a year or two, mostly around the topic that it’s possible to be unapologetically a fan of Jesus and still have Muslim friends, and even talk with those Muslim friends about Jesus. He does this through the crazy notion that if you actually love people and treat them as friends instead of, say, part of the “enemy” or the opposing team, they often reciprocate. He also has this weird idea that if Jesus really is as powerful and important as we say he is, maybe meeting Jesus is more important than thinking the right stuff about Jesus. So Carl lays out the case for realizing that introducing people to the person, character, and way of Jesus is something entirely different from trying to “win” them to a religion. As he says in the book:
I don’t want to redefine salvation. I don’t want to redefine the gospel or even Christianity on the whole. I suppose I want to undefine them. I want to strip away the thousands of years of graffiti painted onto the gospel, turning it into a reasonable code of doctrines. The gospel is not an idea. It is not a belief. It is not a favorite verse. The gospel does not live in your church, it cannot be written down in a simple message, and it is not the sinner’s prayer. The gospel is not a what. It is not a how. The gospel is a Who. The gospel is literally the good news of Jesus. Jesus is the gospel.
(emphasis in original)
People who’ve read my blog for any time know that one of my recurring frustrations is when people are driven away from considering the claims of Jesus, not because of who Jesus is, but because of the jerks we Christians can be (see this post if you want a refresher). Under the guise of the “offense of the gospel,” Christians can be a downright offensive bunch at times. As Carl put it, “We often blame Jesus when our evangelistic efforts fail … I don’t think it’s Jesus they aren’t liking. It might be you.”
This book is a great thought-provoker. One more quote to whet your appetite:
Maybe you’ll read this and think that I’m trying to make salvation easier or make a way for all the gays and liberals and Muslims and Buddhists to get in without going through all the “proper channels.”
Maybe yes and maybe no. I’m not trying to change what salvation is because salvation is not my responsibility. God didn’t put Carl Medearis in charge of deciding who stays and who goes. That’s Jesus’ job, and He can keep it.
My job, no–my joy comes from sharing the good news of Jesus with people. I point to Him, and He does all the heavy thinking. I don’t have to convince anybody of anything.
I let Jesus run His kingdom.
Pretty good advice, if you ask me. Go get this book and read the rest!