Making New Disciples: Exploring the paradoxes of evangelism
By Mark Ireland & Mike Booker
London: SPCK, 2015.
ix & 206 pp. pb.
At the present time new books on evangelism are not exactly notable for their novelty value so any new entry into this crowded market place needs to have something distinctive to contribute; this book certainly does. Having previously collaborated on Evangelism: Which Way Now? in 2003 Mark Ireland and Mike Booker take a step back from the front-line and view the evangelistic tools most widely used by parishes from a sympathetic but critical perspective.
In his insightful introduction (a brief essay in its own right) Archbishop Justin Welby makes the helpful distinction between books used as manuals (to be followed step by step) and those used as maps (providing the bigger picture and requiring decisions to be made). This book is very definitely a map; there is no ‘how to do evangelism’ but a carefully thought out reflection on the options and current fashions in evangelism from the perspective of two highly experienced practitioners.
Rather than a joint effort throughout the book the two authors have taken responsibility for different chapters (apart from the introductory first chapter). And rather than repetition or contradiction this approach brings freshness and immediacy (‘I’ generally works better than ‘we’).
The starting point is the example of Jesus and the primacy of prayer. In keeping with much contemporary missional thinking discipleship, not conversion, is seen as the focus of evangelism. The authors cast a critical eye over the evangelistic and missional tools that are widely used today: MAP. Alpha, Christianity Explored, Pilgrim, Fresh Expressions, Messy Church are among those discussed. But the authors do not fall into the trap of assuming that all innovation is necessarily good and, following Davidson and Milbank, examine the wide evangelistic opportunities open to the traditional parish church. The helpful concept of the ‘common good’ is discussed together with outworkings of this concept such as CAP, Street Pastors and Foodbanks.
The book’s strengths are:
- A deep understanding of both the practice of, and research into, evangelism.
- A realistic understanding of the society the church is called to serve in the UK.
- A critical examination of current evangelistic practice, particularly the ‘off the peg’ tools that are widely used.
- A clear belief in the mission dei and in the making of disciples as the most appropriate focus of evangelistic activity.
Here is an ideal book both for students of contemporary approaches to evangelism in the UK and for local Christian leaders who have a desire to engage in effective evangelism but also an open mind as to the best methods to use.
Diocese of Blackburn
MAKING NEW DISCIPLES – MARK IRELAND AND MIKE BOOKER
With the mandate from Jesus (and our diocese!) to make disciples, how are churches today tackling this task/privilege? Mark Ireland and Mike Booker have their ears to the ground. Whilst much thinking in the church today is along organisational lines and of classroom style, they highlight that in this current age it is a long journey for most, requiring friendship and encouragement at every stage from a Christian who spends time with Jesus. It is relational and directed to enabling every local church to be a community, where discipleship happens. Disciples are formed through worship, mission and community. “Church is the community of disciples called to be together with Jesus and sent out (Mark 3:14)”.
Without prayer evangelism becomes merely a human endeavour, illustrations are given as to how it is going effectively with social action (holistic mission) and current courses and ventures are evaluated from real experience. Ministry is the work of the entire body of Christ and “.. clergy must be given time to fulfil their primary responsibility of training the laity for evangelism”. Other pertinent observations are made.
I thoroughly recommend this very readable book to all concerned about mission – all of us?!!