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Evangelism in the Inventive Age Paperback – February 1, 2012
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Now please understand: I am a big fan of books and literature in general, and of the writing of Doug Pagitt in particular. I've loved all of Doug's books, and his longest book-- 'A Christianity Worth Believing'-- is one that I wished would go on and on.
I love the brevity of his latest book because it is so purposeful: it is an expression of the thing it describes. Namely, where 'evangelism'-- the sharing of the message of God-- has become such a stigmatized and technical and guilt-ridden enterprise for so many people, Doug charts a different path without being as prescriptive and constraining as we have come to expect from lesser books about evangelism.
With a winsome, sweeping style, Doug gets the reader to:
1. Inquire after the nature of the 'Good News' (aka 'the Gospel). Rather than promoting an unnatural, exacting, and/or painful conversion experience, Doug suggests that the task of evangelism is to help people find resonance between themselves and God. As such, he dismisses out of hand any evangelistic effort that is based in fear, since that is antithetical to God's intentions for people. So what exactly are we trying to give to people?
2. Think about holistic, honest, genuine ways of communicating this message. Informed by the massive literature around the Enneagram personality sorter, Doug shares some great insights into the fears, hopes, and dreams of different kinds of people. As an Enneagram skeptic, this section didn't resonate with me as much, but I did appreciate the new skill set it highlighted: listening and empathizing and caring over and against the preaching and telling and converting that is promoted elsewhere.Read more ›
From all of Doug's illustrations and explorations, I most appreciate his reading of Jesus. Pagitt shows that when Jesus is the model, evangelism is more interesting and challenging than the flyer passing and tract reading that typically comes to mind. With Jesus as the example, evangelism becomes something we CAN and, possibly, already do (as long as we are not relying on pamphlets). Evangelism must not be reduced to a series of bible verses. Genuine evangelism is deeper than four special laws. Evangelism is personal because our faith is personal.
And, Jesus is personal. The Son of God who is "The Word made flesh" is personal and particular. Jesus offered particular answers to the particular people he interacted with and, as Doug writes, "Jesus practiced a first-name faith, a particular faith that was directed specifically at whomever he was talking to a the moment. The Jesus we find in the Gospels never gives the same answer twice."
Never the same answer twice... Doug is right, and our individual experiences with God's reinforce that observation.Read more ›
I found Evangelism in the Inventive Age to be a fascinating and challenging critique of the current model for evangelism, one which obviously defines much of evangelicalism. It's the cookie cutter model that Pagitt is critiquing, the model which views the gospel and its presentation as a stagnant, monolethic thing which never needs adapting. It can be published on a tract or proclaimed from a street corner with no consideration for the audience. For Pagitt, however, "Evangelism is not the act of telling. It is the act of communicating."
Perhaps there was a time when the monolithic approach was, on some level, effective, but as Pagitt clearly demonstrates in the book, this is no longer the case for a global, interconnected society. According to Pagitt, and I think he is correct, the church needs an approach to evangelism that "resonates" with the listener. This concept of resonance is something that appears constantly throughout the book, and it should. As Pagitt explains, people are not going to connect to the gospel unless it resonates with who they are, what their context is, or where they are on their personal journey.
That's not to say that the gospel should be fundamentally altered, but rather Pagitt argues, we should follow the lead of the early church in Acts and speak the language of the culture. In other words, he says, we need to not put up unnecessary barriers that hinder the ability of the listener to hear the gospel. Rather, we need to find ways to help them discover how their own story resonates with the story of God.Read more ›