Mark R. Teasdale. Evangelism for Non-Evangelists: Sharing the Gospel Authentically. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016. See here to purchase the book.
Mark R. Teasdale teaches evangelism at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, which is in Evanston, Illinois.
If you are reading this book and expect it to be a how-to on how you can share your faith, then you will be disappointed. Teasdale acknowledges on pages 108-109: “I hope it is clear by now that I am not arguing for the adoption of specific practices of evangelism but providing insights that help us navigate the often tricky route of putting our evangelism into practice.”
Teasdale’s method of evangelism, in my opinion, is best summarized on page 141, where Teasdale refers to his “insistence on holding evangelism and [spiritual] formation together rather than treating them independently.”
Teasdale is not offering canned device about how to sell the Gospel. Rather, he is talking about Christians clarifying to themselves what they authentically believe, being willing to learn from others, living an alternative lifestyle of giving that can attract people’s attention and admiration, and inviting people to a Christian community where Christ’s love is shared.
Part of me would have preferred a how-to book, but I wonder: Would I really? Would I prefer an approach that gives Christians a script to read? Would I prefer an approach that stereotypes the people to whom Christians evangelize, as if life is that neat? Teasdale’s approach is more authentic, and it values authenticity.
Teasdale discusses the historic Enlightenment barriers to evangelicalism: how the Enlightenment treated religion as a private pleasure or preference, while prioritizing what could be supported by senses or reason. Teasdale also talks about postmodernism and where he believes it can be an asset and a liability to evangelism. On page 49, Teasdale depicts God as loving and kind, one who is non-violent and will not establish the Kingdom of God by force. After reading that, I wondered how Teasdale would address Bible passages that seem to suggest otherwise!
In light of the above, part of me wishes that this book had more of an apologetic element. But I wonder: Do I really? Do I want to read a rehash of the same canned answers and arguments, as if these answers and arguments are infallible? Maybe Teasdale does well to present Christianity as a narrative and a lifestyle that is lived, a narrative and a lifestyle that impacts Christians and that Christians can invite others to join. I somewhat like Teasdale’s chapter on how Christians can clarify to themselves what they believe, and why, for, while it has Christian parameters, it is rather open-ended, in areas.
I should add: While apologetics is not a significant element in this book, Teasdale does appeal to anecdotal evidence for the supernatural.
Rather than being a how-to book on evangelism, the book is more about the attitude and the approach that Christians should have in evangelism. I value this book for what it is, rather than heavily criticizing it for what it isn’t.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest!