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It seems utterly superficial, but one of the most frequent methods of promulgating information about Christianity for fallen away folks or getting the word out to people who are teetering on the edge of this or that near occasion of sin is to give them a book.

Sometimes when I read a book, I have no trouble thinking of some poor sinner in my life who could benefit from it the same way this poor sinner did. But when I hear that as advice on, say, a call in radio show, I think it's a little lacking and doesn't do anything to actually fix the problem at hand.

How do you bridge the gap between giving a person a book and letting them make the most of it and giving a person a book with the expectation that it will do some good?


I'm seeking an answer akin to what one might be taught in a class on evangelization at a seminary, not just friendly advice.

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Related - but if I understand it this question is more about selecting a {insert topic} book for a given reader? Can you perhaps make the actual question clearer? –  Marc Gravell Jan 26 '12 at 18:32
    
@Marc yeah, that was the inspiration for the question. I asked the guy who asked that to ask this question instead but he didn't so I figured I'd give it a shot. –  Peter Turner Jan 26 '12 at 18:34
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I'm puzzled by this question. The goal is "to tell people about Jesus" - not "to tell people about Jesus through literature". Literature is just a tool. So the context is important when answering - (why) is literature necessary in your context? My answer would be more about evangelism generally, but I've already answered that here and I'm not sure that is what you are looking for. –  Wikis Aug 2 '13 at 8:46
    
I have mixed feelings about this question. On one hand, I'm interrested in it and I like it. On the other hand, I wonder whether it is a good fit for this site, and hesitate whether to cast a closing vote for being "pastoral question" or not (I know it's not pastoral sensu stricto, but it's more about practice than about doctrine). –  Pavel Aug 2 '13 at 14:29
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5 Answers

I admittedly did not attend seminary; but ...

The general advice I've heard in homilies (and in at least a few videos by prominent Catholics online) was reminded to me a few weeks back at a Bible study when I mentioned to the group about the pitfalls of arguing God, religion, morality, etc. on Facebook. The advice, in brief, is that our main purpose in communicating with people is communion with them!

Hence, while it may be beneficial at times, under the whims and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, to lob a book at someone's head and walk away, this is not normal evangelization! The normal path entails knowing a person, being in communion with them, and building with them a common relationship with God.

So, unless instructed by the Holy Spirit, more important than lobbing a book at someone is having a beer with them and enjoying manly silence together. As you come to be in communion with that person, and by simply being in communion with that person, you can share your relationship with God with them. If you find a good book for them, it's ideally not a handoff; it's an awkward, metaphoric man-hug.

That is, it's worthwhile to say "I love you man" during the exchange and have a brief awkward conversation afterwards that ultimately ends in "That was awkward. Let's never do that again."


For reference: Dr. Scott Hahn talks about evangelization a good deal on Catholic radio. The general gist of his talks, and explicitly in some cases, talks about the personal, communal, and sometimes cultural connection we need to make with people when evangelizing. A few notables:

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Having trouble finding the video I'm thinking of. My wife thinks the reason I might be having trouble is because it wasn't a video (but one of Fr. Nielsen's homilies). ... I still think Peter Kreeft and/or Fr. Barron make similar points: I'll try to dig something up in the next day or two. –  svidgen Aug 2 '13 at 4:14
    
I found the quote I was thinking of! It's in the 2nd video I've linked, about avoiding arrogance. Dr. Hahn talks about the necessity of authenticity of friendship. –  svidgen Aug 5 '13 at 16:55
    
Well I've got all of Fr. Eric's homilies on my computer! (I could have tagged 'em better on the website though) –  Peter Turner Aug 5 '13 at 18:14
    
@PeterTurner hehe ... all his homilies are the same. "Something something something ... so let's turn to Mary for help ... " –  svidgen Aug 5 '13 at 18:28
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When I attended Bible school about 10 years ago it was highly associated with this nondenominational church that could not be described by any other word except evangelical.

Their "formula" (though they hated using that word) for evangelism was summed up thus:

The Process: “Developing disciples through SCMD.” Everything we do at Real Life Ministries revolves around these four purposes.

  1. S -- We will SHARE Christ with a dying world, making disciples of all nations - 1 Peter 2:9
  2. C -- We will CONNECT disciples into a leader directed small group - 2 Timothy 2:2
  3. M -- In small groups we will train disciples to MINISTER in the church, and in the world - Ephesians 4:11-12
  4. D -- We will release those who have been developed to DISCIPLE others - Matthew 28:19

Source

Their methods for evangelism went far beyond handing out literature. They depended on the whole congregation for evangelism; they take a strong belief in the priesthood of all believers, as most other evangelical churches do, but they did a good job actually convincing the congregation to spread the gospel everywhere in their daily life through the "process" quoted above.

The process, as stated above, is deeper than "this is what you should do". It also defined the maturity of any given christian. I will better explain each part, first from "the process" perspective then from the maturity perspective.

  1. Share - Clearly, the first thing you must do to evangelize the world is actually talk about the good news. You need to share what you know about Christ with those that do not know him.
  2. Connect - Those that are convinced, or at least interested, deserve more than an alter call. You personally are to invest in the new believer's life; you are to take personal interest in their spiritual well being. This is what was typically called intentional relationship. Their primary vehicle to facilitate this was small groups of church members that met weekly in somebody's home.
  3. Minister - This is when that intentional relationship comes in handy. This is the step where you train young believers (I mean relatively new to the faith) in the mature wisdom that God has given us. This is where believers who know little about their faith grow spiritually, truly learn what Christianity is, and are educated in the particulars spelled out in the Bible.
  4. Disciple - They used to call this "prepare". After a young believer is successfully ministered, you are to then prime them to go out and "make disciples". They are to go out and do this exact same process with another unbeliever or young believer. This is where they are trained in the particulars of this process, and they become like the mature Christians that counseled them up to this point.

Now the maturity perspective:

  1. Share - Typically, new Christians are excited about their new found faith. It is all they think about and are eager to share it with everyone. That is a good thing, though it is a double edged sward. They have the little basics down about Christianity. They understand the sin state that we are all in and they also understand that Christ is the answer to save us from it. Beyond that, they are simply not spiritually mature enough to actually, effectively "make disciples". They simply have not been a Christian long enough; they need counsel by more mature Christians.
  2. Connect - Christians in this stage of maturity likely did not intentionally work their way to this point, however, mature Christians likely did intentionally push them to this point. Christians in this stage are quickly learning that our God is a relational God. He desires that we connect with Him, that we love Him. After that, He desires that we connect with fellow believers, that we love them as well.
  3. After a time, when the new Christian has gained experience in being Christian, he has gained maturity, connected with fellow believers, and shifted his thoughts from being about himself to being about others, specifically, the lost and less mature Christians. The Holy Spirit has worked in him and he naturally desires to "shepherd" the Lord's flock. But he is still not quite mature enough yet to understand what exactly he should do. This is the step where the most maturity is gained. This Christian naturally develops the fruits of the Spirit, learning that they are vital to his mission to spread the good news. This is where he truly changes his life; where he removes the proverbial planks from his eyes.
  4. Then after some more time this hypothetical Christian is quite mature. He knows much about God and the Bible and, above all else, wants to please God and show His love to the world. He's ready to get to business! He's ready to intentionally invest his life into another's with the hope that they will know God. He is a disciple of Christ.

So how does this all relate to your question about bridging the gap between giving a book and actually helping a young Christian in need?

It doesn't!

Giving books to those who would benefit from it is only a very small part of evangelism. It is good that you would give books to those persons. What you should do after that is not necessarily an exact thing or method, but it is summed up in one phrase: intentional relationship. For example, you give someone a book. Then what you should do is continuously follow up. More than that you should show them Christ's love by serving them. If serving them spiritually (ie giving them the book) is a closed door, you can help open that door by serving them physically (ie help them with something around their house) or emotionally (ie empathize and sympathize with their condition and help in a way that is meaningful to them).

To "fix" any problem at hand for any "poor sinner" starts with you, the mature Christian, intentionally making relationship with that person. Giving the book was "sharing". Now you must "connect".


The senior pastor at the church has written a book on this exact thing. I have not read it because it was written after my two semester stint at the Bible school.

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To do the most good, the literature should be targeted. If the person has been asking about a topic, then any book you give on that topic has a chance to inform the person. Obviously, if he is asking about how to get saved, there is literature for this, whether in book form, email, a Chick tract, or printout from the Internet.

I don’t choose books at random (well, sometimes I do). I choose books addressing something I am interested in. This will hold true for anyone who reads a book. To make sure it will help the person (having an “expectation that it will do some good”) give him a book that addresses the topic he is interested in, and be available to answer any follow-up questions. If possible, tell the person what the book has done for you when you have been in the same situation and needed answers. You’ll want to give them a book that targets their comfort level; meaning that your don’t give a KJV book to a person who would be more comfortable with the CEV.

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Intimacy is the key:

God is relational, and even within the Trinity, we know that God is “three persons” that are relational. In His creation, God fashioned man for relationships. If one had to identify the Bible or God Himself with one word, “love” would be the most likely candidate. The reason is that “love” speaks specifically to “relationships”. Literature speaks of love in timeless ways, because the essence of love is eternal. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1John 4:8).

We are relational, so when we share literary insight with others, we are sharing our heart or our personal economy. We are saying: “This is important to me, this has helped me. Perhaps it will be important to you, and will help you... you matter to me”.

Exodus 3:6 “Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God” Literature allows us to “look upon God”. It is like the insulation around a copper wire; literature allows us to handle the eternal realities of God and share those realities with one another.

The Bible is alive because the Bible speaks of God and mankind’s relationship with God. John Bunyan, Andrew Murray, A.B. Simpson the Apostle Paul, C.S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton and many more capture timeless truths that can be shared with others. They are proof that “truth” can be comprehended and shared, creating companionship through a common accord.

Many today look at the relational division within the world (and within the Church) and believe a “common accord” is impossible, yet, these writings stand contrary to this opinion and promote relational wellness like a “light of the world”.

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Albeit that the question is a little unclear as mentioned, I can still hopefully offer some thoughts for the heart of what you asked:

How do you bridge the gap between giving a person a book and letting them make the most of it >and giving a person a book with the expectation that it will do some good?

Christian writing today is not the same as the Bible, in many ways. However, that is not to say that it is not inspired by God. Luke 12:11-12 reminds us that the spirit speaks through us to encourage and spur on one another.

11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how >you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at >that time what you should say.”

However, the God's message has been already revealed in its complete fullness through the Bible. Christian writing today is useful for explaining, analysing and promulgating the gospel message, but not for adding to it. For this reason, books have their limits. For this reason, we can't hold the expectation that through reading books, a person will be made aware of their shortcomings.

My belief is that the frame of mind when giving someone a book should be that it will aid them in their understanding and reading of the scripture- a kind of 'Cliff's Notes' on the bible, and that through this reading, they won't be swayed by the powerful writing or deep arguments, but by the power of God working through the Holy Spirit.

In summary, when giving someone a book, you do it not as an act to hope that they will 'make the most of it', but that it will help them in their understanding of the only book that saves, the Bible. (As with everything, praying also helps).

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