Evangelism can be a bit of a dirty word. Perhaps it makes us think of some dude wearing a Bible-verse laden sandwich-board, or someone standing in the high street with a megaphone. The problem with all those connotations is that they make evangelism out to be something that normal people just don’t do. It’s something for the experts, or maybe – worse still – for the crazy people.
Interestingly, in the Church of England, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have just issued a call for a week of prayer for the “evangelisation of our nation”. So they obviously think it’s pretty important – but, then again, they’re Archbishops right?!
And yet, as Paul Williams notes in this little book, most of us who’d identify as Christians would recognise we’ve got something worth sharing. The gospel is good news; good news about Jesus our Saviour, Friend & King. As Christians, we’ve discovered and tasted the sweetness of that good news, and so it’s natural to want to share it with others.
But that’s often where we get stuck. We want to talk about Jesus, but we’re just not sure how to go about it or where to start. Plus, the very thought of doing so can bring us out in a bit of a sweat! And that’s where Intentional is such a helpful and practical pick-up.
Let’s start with its size. It’s part of the 10publishing series, which is intentionally (ahem) bitesize and easy-to-read. So even if you can’t remember the last time you finished a Christian book, I’d be confident you’d get to the last page of this one. For me it was a couple of intra-Cumbrian train journeys. Crumbs, some of the chapters are just three or four paragraphs!
So it’s totally manageable. But – even better – it’s full of good stuff. Canon Paul Williams is a church leader in Sheffield, and Intentional is his succinct and practical guide to helping people like you and me get a little bit better about talking to people about Jesus.
And throughout the book it’s clear this is something Paul is trying to put into practice himself. The book is full of examples – but these aren’t of sermons or talks Paul’s given in church, but of conversations and chats he is having with his mates. He’s honest about his own struggles, which means you can identify with what he says. But Paul’s also hopeful about just getting a little bit more confident and a little bit more prepared. He shares that he made a commitment to himself a few years back to never be asked a question twice that he doesn’t know how to answer. If he’s stumped or clueless by someone’s question, he acknowledges it – but then goes away and thinks through what he would say next time. What a great resolution!
Here’s three more things I particularly appreciated about Intentional:
- It begins by focusing on the ‘fear-factor’, and looks at some of the practical wisdom that the apostle Peter shared with Christians who were feeling fearful of publicly owning their faith. He reflects on this under 3 ‘C’s: Conviction; Confidence; Compassion. I think we all feel this from time-to-time, and so it’s good to be shown how the Bible speaks into our hearts here.
- Paul isn’t trying to turn us into people who spout one-way mini-preaches. Intentional is about the importance of having engaging conversations – actually caring and listening to real people – and that means being intentional about asking good questions, just as much as it is about giving decent answers.
- The sub-title is ‘Evangelism that takes people to Jesus,’ and that emphasis is another great strength. As Christians, we want to not just raise the possibility of there being a God, but help people to consider how God has made himself known: supremely in Jesus and what he has done for us at the cross. Of course Jesus’ epic love-driven rescue mission is often just not on Joe Bloggs’ radar, and yet Intentional gives helpful wisdom about taking people to a point where it could be.
Intentional is one of those books that you just think, given its size and given its content, it’s hard to imagine why you wouldn’t give it a read! I don’t think there’s many books that do the same job as succinctly, or as practically. So why not pick up a copy of Intentional from the publisher here – it’s about the price of a pint and it won’t make your breath smell funny.
Full disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy of the book for free, but I hope this is still a fair and honest review!