The Study of Evangelism: Exploring a Missional Practice of the Church

by Paul W. Chilcote and Laceye C. Warner, eds.

In a brave new post-modern world, Paul Chilcote and Laceye Warner sense a warrant for fresh study of selected aspects of evangelism in light of current “missional” rethinking.

Eerdmans Publishing, 2140 Oak Industrial Drive N.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49505, 2008, 458 pages, $28.00.

Reviewed by Keith E. Eitel, dean, Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

Evangelism and academics are not terms usually found together. In a brave new post-modern world, Paul Chilcote and Laceye Warner sense a warrant for fresh study of selected aspects of evangelism in light of current “missional” rethinking. They designed this collection for a post-doctoral seminar funded by The Foundation for Evangelism, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, and held at Duke Divinity School. Writings on evangelism are myriad. With a grid for their choices, the editors were “missional” in that they approached the subject matter with a global mindset and emphasized women’s issues in relation to evangelism. They were sensitive to the need to transcend traditional boundaries that inhibit some due to “denomination, culture, and ideology” (p. xiii).  

More specifically, “six propositions concerning evangelism” determined the authors’ selection of essays and articles. The first two are foundational convictions: evangelism grows out of the missio Dei and is a developmental process transpiring over time. Values three through five are internally focused. Evangelism entails discipleship, growth, development in Christ; is aimed at recognizing the “reign of God” in the believer’s life; and should be the “practice of the whole people of God.” Finally, outwardly, evangelism is sensitive to the cultural context of the hearer, whether intercultural or not (pp. xxvi-xxvii). Essays are clustered and themed and range in date from 1974 to 2006 around these specific convictions. Each grouping is set into an editorial context to orient the reader as to connections between the topical slices.

These articles and essays are nothing new. The uniqueness is the collation of them into a set focused around the values and concerns of the editors. Readers could benefit from more historical detail to place each article subset into their meaningful contexts. For example, the earliest included article, written by Orlando E. Costas on “Evangelism and the Gospel of Salvation,” appeared at the time when momentum for the first Lausanne conference was growing as was the rise of liberation theology. Additionally, the editors seem convinced that evangelism is more a sociological and less a spiritual reality (p. xxi). Finally, there is an important yet arguable statement in reference to the “two endowed chairs of evangelism in high-profile seminaries” that were “anomalies until the 1980s” (p. xxiv). Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary established such an academic chair in1908.

The book will prove useful for doctoral readings seminars to represent a specific viewpoint. Those seeking fresh insights for “missional” personal and church evangelism need to seek further.

Check these titles:
Geisler, Norman and David Geisler. 2009. Conversational Evangelism: How to Listen and Speak so You Can Be Heard. Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House.

McRaney, Will, 2003. The Art of Personal Evangelism: Sharing Jesus in a Changing Culture. Nashville, Tenn.: B&H Academic.


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