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Reid's Intro to Evagelism
on November 30, 2001
This work is intended by the author to be used by pastors and students in the field of evangelism. Reid divides the subject matter into three major sections with five chapters in each of the first two sections and eight in the final section. The major headings are: Part 1, What We Must Know: The Convictional Basis of Evangelism, Part 2, How We Must Live: The Spiritual Basis of Evangelism, and Part 3, What We Must Do: The Methodological Basis of Evangelism. This review will focus on the second section regarding the spiritual basis of evangelism.
In Part 2, Reid introduces his topic by relating the attitude of Dr. David Livingstone in his passion for the lost souls of Africa to the need for the individual to not only be equipped with a biblical basis for evangelism but with a heart that is "filled with a passion for God." As the reader moves through this section, he is exposed to the author's ideas regarding Christian character, Christian discipline, evangelistic prayer, the work of the Holy Spirit and Christian witness in that order. This structure points up one of the major weaknesses in Reid's approach to the subject. If the reader is expected to understand the spiritual basis of evangelism and is introduced to this section with the example of Livingstone's passion for souls, then the reader should have been led immediately to the source of this passion in a chapter on the Holy Spirit's work in evangelism. Instead, one has to wade through two chapters that should follow the explanation of the Holy Spirit's place since character and discipline are part of the work of the Spirit. In addition, Reid's chapter on prayer discusses several aspects of the Holy Spirit's work through the prayer life of the evangelist but the reader has not yet been introduced to the fundamentals of the Holy Spirit as The Evangelist.
The second weakness of Reid's approach is also his greatest strength. Reid has a great enthusiasm for his subject and is obviously a practitioner and not a theorist. This book is extremely readable because the author tells his and other people's experiences along with injecting other anecdotal material to hold the reader's interest. The narrative flow of the book makes one want to keep reading and seeing where the author will go next, what interesting characters will be met, what extraordinary circumstances will be experienced. However, in the fast moving stream of the narrative, one loses the impact of the principles that the author has learned by experience or through the experiences of others. At the point where one should stop and reflect on the eight scriptural principles involved in "Praying Your Friends to Christ" at the end of the chapter with that title, the author suddenly takes the reader on another anecdotal ride with a student named Joel who shares Jesus with a stranger. The chapter is concluded with a wonderful quote from Leonard Ravenhill that makes no mention of prayer at all. The reader would have greatly benefited from a logical and practical summation of the important points in each chapter so that he could return to them in outline form and flesh them out as needed from the body of Reid's work. This approach would have been more in keeping with the books purpose as being a guide for students and pastors.
In the book's preface, Reid relates a personal anecdote regarding his early reservations about writing as a professional. His entire perspective about himself in this regard was dramatically changed by a small note of encouragement from a professor. In the same vein, it would be well if someone could get the message across to the author that he is "a very good evangelist." Much of the enormous value of this text is buried in the telling of too many tales about other evangelists and their work when what the reader needs to know is how the author does the work of an evangelist in a way that he can relate to personally. The professor that encouraged Reid long ago is correct, he is a very good writer in that he knows how to keep his subject interesting and alive. There is no doubt that the author can demonstrate enthusiastically his passion for Christ and lead others in a personal forum to become soul-winners. If heart and enthusiasm are the most important elements an evangelist needs then this text is sufficient. However, if one is in need of a stronger methodology or a teaching text, then all the elements are available in the present text but some work will be involved in establishing those elements into a clear structure.