The End Times and the Church’s Mission | Influence Podcast


According to Stephen Covey, one of the seven habits of highly effective people is beginning with the end in mind. I doubt Covey was thinking about the Book of Revelation when he identified that habit, but I can’t think of a better way to begin the New Year than by talking about the end times. So that’s what I’ll be doing with Dr. Chris Carter in this episode of the Influence Podcast, the first podcast of the 2021 season.

I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host. Dr. Chris Carter is an ordained Assemblies of God minister, missionary to Japan, and author of Revelation: The End Times and the Never Reached, published in December 2020 by Assemblies of God World Missions. He holds a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

P.S. This podcast is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

P.P.S. You can read my review of Carter’s Revelation here.

How to Talk About Jesus | Book Review


Most people come to Jesus because of the witness of family or friends. Ordinary believers, then, make the best evangelists. In this book, Simon Chan offers eight tips for effective personal evangelism, which center on building friendships and living authentically. “In addition to our deliberate efforts to do evangelism—to create opportunities for evangelism—we just need to be Jesus, and evangelism opportunities may well come and find us in unforeseen and exciting ways.” A useful book for church members…and pastors too!

Here are the chapter titles and subtitles, which summarize Chan’s eight tips:

  1. Merge your universes: Evangelism is a lifestyle choice.
  2. Go to their things, and they will come to your things.
  3. Coffee, dinner, gospel: Find creative ways to do hospitality.
  4. Listen: The Golden Rule of Evangelism: Evangelize the same way you want to be evangelized.
  5. Tell a better story: Make them wish that Christianity is true.
  6. Tell them stories about Jesus: Scratch their itching ears with Jesus.
  7. Become their unofficial, de facto chaplain: You are their connection with the sacred.
  8. Lean into disagreement: For such a time as this.

Chan is also author of the seminary textbook, Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus More Believable (Zondervan, 2018). That book focuses more on how pastors can do evangelism.

Book Reviewed
Sam Chan, How to Talk About Jesus (Without Being That Guy): Personal Evangelism in a Skeptical World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

Eight Models of Evangelism | Influence Podcast


After a D. L. Moody revival meeting, a woman approached the 19th-century evangelist and said, “I don’t like the way you do evangelism.”

Moody responded, “Well, ma’am, let me ask you, how do you do it?”

She said, “I don’t.”

To which Moody replied, “I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it!”

Moody’s answer is the right one, and it also points to the variety of ways Christians can do evangelism. In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Priscilla Pope-Levison about eight models of evangelism that have stood the test of time.

I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Priscilla Pope-Levison is associate dean for external programs and professor of ministerial studies at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, Texas. She is author of Models of Evangelism, recently published by Baker Academic, which I reviewed here.

Models of Evangelism | Book Review


Because the euangelion (Greek, “good news”) is the center of Christianity, evangelism is a core function of the Christian church. But how is it best practiced? Models of Evangelism by Priscilla Pope-Levison answers that question by identifying eight types of evangelism, each of which is characterized by “longevity,” “a substantial body of literature,” and “a significant number of proponents.”

Pope-Levison offers these definitions of the eight models:

  • Personal: developing a one-on-one relationship that provides a comfortable context for evangelism
  • Small group: convening eight to twelve people for a short-term, focused study on the gospel
  • Visitation: knocking on doors, getting to know neighbors’ needs and religious inclinations, and initiating conversations about the gospel
  • Liturgical: integrating evangelism into the church’s worship as it follows the Christian calendar
  • Church growth: establishing new ports of entry that receptive people can easily join in order to be introduced to the gospel
  • Prophetic: challenging individuals and structures to pursue the gospel in word and deed in its social, political, and economic fullness
  • Revival: an organized, crowd-based gathering that typically includes music, an evangelistic message, an invitation, and follow-up
  • Media: appropriating media ranging from the printed word to the internet for an evangelistic purpose.

For each model, she identifies its biblical, theological, historical, and practical foundations, then provides a fair-minded appraisal of its strengths and weaknesses.

To illustrate Pope-Levison’s methodology, consider how she treats personal evangelism. Biblically, the New Testament contains “countless examples … of individuals sharing good news one-on-one.” Pope-Levison focuses especially on such encounters from the Gospel of John and the Book of Acts.

Theologically, personal evangelism “finds its orientation in two theological foci: Christology and Pneumatology,” specifically the Incarnation and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

“Jesus was sent into the world to make known the invisible God,” Pope-Levison writes. “He entrusted and commissioned his disciples to make the invisible God known to the world.” After His ascension, Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on His followers as “the divine instigator and guide for personal evangelism.” Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:29–30 is an example of Spirit-instigated personal evangelism.

Historically, Pope-Levison shows that many individuals have come to saving faith in Christ through the personal evangelism of an acquaintance. She mentions Dwight L. Moody in the 19th century and Charles Colson in the20th. She also points out that personal evangelism is the preferred strategy of campus ministries such as InterVarsity, Navigators, and Cru.

Practically, Pope-Levison notes the “stark simplicity” of personal evangelism, which “requires no theological degree,” “demands no need to control a conversation,” “necessitates no hyperspirituality,” and “requires no sacred space.” Instead, personal evangelism builds on five core practices: 1) Begin with lifestyle evangelism, 2) raise your evangelistic temperature, 3) foster the relationship, 4) share the gospel, and follow up.

As she appraises personal evangelism, Pope-Levison notes that it is both the “simplest” and the “hardest” of the models of evangelism. Simplest because any Christian can do it with any nonbeliever anywhere and anytime. Hardest, however, because it imposes a potential cost on the evangelist.

Speaking for the evangelist, Pope-Levison writes, “I will bear the brunt of embarrassment; I will face the risk of rejection; I will be liable to the charge of ignorance; I will confront the reality that I am not yet a candidate for sainthood.” The motivation of the evangelist is thus “the key obstacle” to overcome in this model of evangelism.

One other concern Pope-Levison expresses about personal evangelism is its weak ecclesiology. She worries that“it may seem like the church, the body of Christ, is irrelevant.” After all, the focus is on individual conversion, not church membership. This is not an insuperable difficulty, however. Still, personal evangelists need to keep in mind that Christians are called to follow Christ not as lone rangers but in the company of other believers.

As noted above, Pope-Levison uses the same methodology for each model. As the book goes on, she demonstrates how these models intersect in various ways. They do not compete with one another so much as complement one another.

So, who should read Models of Evangelism? It is published by Baker Academic, so the intended readers are undergraduate and graduate students preparing for ministry in the local church. I think pastors and other church leaders would also benefit greatly from the book as they think about how their churches can evangelize their communities.

It is said that a woman approached Dwight L. Moody after one his evangelistic crusades and said, “I don’t like the way you do evangelism.”

Moody responded, “Well, ma’am, let me ask you, how do you do it?”

She said, “I don’t.”

To which Moody replied, “I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it!”

Whatever the model of evangelism, the important thing is just to do it.

Book Reviewed
Pope-Levison, Priscilla. 2020. Models of Evangelism. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

The Better Way of Neighborly Love | Influence Podcast


“While the divisiveness of our current moment in the United States may be regrettable and fatiguing, it also represents an incredible opportunity for Christians,” writes Don Everts in the current issue of Influence magazine. He goes on to say, “As church leaders, our job is not only to help Christians recognize the temptations we’re facing, but also to highlight another way: a way of neighborly love that can cut through all the yelling and point others to the beauty of the gospel.”

I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host. In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Everts about how Christians can be good neighbors in a divided culture. This conversation arises from his Influence cover story, “Neighboring for the Common Good,” which is based on his forthcoming book, The Hopeful Neighborhood, published by InterVarsity Press.

Don Everts is a writer for Lutheran Hour Ministries and associate pastor at Bonhomme Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri.

Messy Prayers, Loud Tables, and Open Doors | Influence Podcast


“While God can (and does) interact with individuals in a vacuum,” writes Don Everts, “he often uses the household as a reliable laboratory for discipleship.”

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Everts about three characteristics of spiritually vibrant homes. This conversation arises from his book, The Spiritually Vibrant Home, published earlier this year by InterVarsity Press.

Don Everts is a writer for Lutheran Hour Ministries and associate pastor at Bonhomme Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

This episode of the Influence Podcast is brought to you by the Assemblies of God, publisher of the Church Relaunch Kit.

For more than a month, public health orders have closed church doors through the United States in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. When those order are lifted, don’t just re-open your church, relaunch it! The Church Relaunch Kit offers church leaders valuable insights about relaunching your church’s ministries to the community.

To download this free resource, as well as other related resources for your church, go to COVID19.AG.org.

P.S. This podcast is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

Pentecostals and the Poor | Book Review


Pentecostals and the Poor began to take shape when the Asia Pacific Theological Association invited Ivan Satyavrata to present four lectures on the theme, “Power, Tradition, and Social Engagement,” at its fall 2011 General Assembly in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Satyavrata reworked those lectures into the resulting monograph, the inaugural volume in The APTS Press Occasional Papers Series. It outlines the author’s mature reflections on four topics: (1) the Pentecostal tradition of social engagement, (2) the biblical perspective on Pentecost and mission, (3) a Pentecostal theology of social engagement, and (4) the role of Pentecostal theological education.

Satyavrata is, in the words of his publisher’s website, “Senior Pastor of the Assembly of God Church in Kolkata, which has close to 4,000 people and a significant social outreach, providing education and basic nutrition for several thousand children in and around the city of Kolkata. He has played an active role in Christian leadership training as President of the Centre for Global Leadership Development (formerly SABC), Bangalore, of which he now serves as Board Chairman, and has recently been invited to serve as International Deputy Director for the Lausanne Movement in South Asia. His chief interest has been in issues relating to the Christian witness to people of other faiths.”

Regarding (1), Satyavrata argues that “strictly speaking there is no one Pentecostal tradition; what we do have is multiple Pentecostal traditions which bear a certain family resemblance.” That resemblance centers around “the immediate, manifested presence of the Holy Spirit experienced by the early Church in Acts [which] is normative for the Christian faith community today.” Crucially, social engagement has always been part of that tradition. “Pentecostals today offer not only spiritual refuge from the problems of this world but concrete and authentic social engagement alternatives. They have in fact done so from the very beginning [of Pentecostal history] as a natural extension of their evangelism and missionary efforts.”

Turning to (2), Satyavrata argues that biblically, “the Church’s mission [should be seen] as a continuation of the mission of Jesus.” Jesus’ self-conception revolved around the concept of the kingdom of God. According to Satyavrata, “three crucial aspects of Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom have bearing on our understanding of mission”: (a) announcement of the kingdom’s arrival, (b) demonstration of the kingdom’s reality, and (c) extension of God’s kingdom-rule. Just as the Spirit of God empowered Jesus’ mission, so the Spirit continues to empower the Church’s mission. “Pentecost made the church a witnessing church, and her witness was spontaneous, immediate, effective and directed to ever widening circles of men,” Satyavrata writes.

Based on critical reflection on the biblical witness, Satyavrata arrives at the following conclusion: “A theologically robust Pentecostal understanding of mission thus views mission in terms of God’s ongoing redemptive project of extending his kingdom-rule to people of all nations as the Holy Spirit empowers the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world.”

Flowing out of this broad understanding of mission, Satyavrata then turns to (3) a Pentecostal theology of social engagement. At the outset, he makes the following statements: “The extraordinary success of the Pentecostal movement is largely due to its outreach to those on the periphery of society…. The genius of Pentecostalism has thus been its relevance to the powerless—its ability to penetrate enslaving power structures of the socially and economically marginalized.” American readers need to keep in mind as they read these words that Satyavrata is referring to the global Pentecostal movement, not just the expressions of that movement in America. (American Pentecostals are both like and very unlike Pentecostals throughout the rest of the world.) Satyavrata also notes that Pentecostals “have in general been better at doing it [i.e., social ministry] than articulating it in statements of faith or theological formulations.”

Following on his understanding of mission, Satyavrata notes the relevance of the kingdom concept to the church’s social ethic: “The kingdom ethic of Jesus is made operational within the charismatic community by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and becomes thereafter the moral foundation for the life of the early church.” He then examines “how Pentecostal spirituality shapes Pentecostalism’s social response” by looking at five key features of that spirituality: prayer/worship, liberation, healing, community, and hope.

In the final section of his monograph, Satyavrata sketches (4) the role of Pentecostal theological education in mission. He defines theological education as “the Church’s mandate to disciple God’s people, further their growth in vocational giftedness and maturity in Christ, and thus equip them to fulfill the kingdom-mission of Christ.” This means that the aim of theological education is transformation holistically understood, including the transformation of (a) spiritual passion, (b) theological formation, (c) community, and (d) mission. He concludes: “Since education is for mission it must generate creative and fervent missionary engagement and make a difference in the whole world!”

Pentecostals and the Poor is a short, easily digested monograph worthy of your consideration. Although its origins lie in an academic context, its reasoning and conclusions are stated clearly and is well worth reading by pastors and other leaders in local churches.

(Full disclosure: he Satyavrata is a professor and friend of mine.

Book Reviewed
Ivan Satyavrata, Pentecostals and the Poor: Reflections from the Indian Context (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2017).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

Evangelism, Compassion, and Mission(s) | Influence Podcast


“When compassionate missions stand apart from evangelistic efforts and apart from the work of the local church, the uniquely redemptive role of the church is either diminished or lost altogether,” writes Dr. Jerry Ireland in For the Love of God.

“Therefore, missionaries must find ways to engage in compassion in ways that are more directly linked to the evangelistic calling of the church.”

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Dr. Ireland about the relationship between evangelism and compassion in the Church’s mission. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and host of the Influence Podcast.

Dr. Ireland is chair of the Intercultural Studies and Ministry, Leadership, and Theology departments of the University of Valley Forge, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. An ordained Assemblies of God minister and former missionary to sub-Saharan Africa, he is author of Evangelism and Social Concern in the Theology of Carl F. H. Henry and editor For the Love of God: Principles and Practice of Compassion in Missions.

My conversation with Dr. Ireland is coming up after a brief word from our sponsor.

This episode of the Influence Podcast is brought to you by My Healthy Church, distributors of Tru Fire Curriculum:

Children’s leaders often feel worn down by curriculum that doesn’t give them what they need to be effective. Tru Fire provides leaders with engaging lessons and empowers them to connect kids to the Holy Spirit so that they can feel confident their kids are developing lifetime faith through experiences with God they’ll never forget.

To download free sample lessons, visit TruFireCurriculum.com.

P.S. This podcast is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

For the Love of God | Book Review


For the Love of God, edited by Jerry M. Ireland, examines “principles and practice of compassion in missions,” as the subtitle puts it. Part 1 examines principles, and Part 2 examines practices. Contributors are for the most part missionaries with practical experience and/or relevant academic training.

Part 1 includes five chapters: “Introduction” and “A Missionary Theology of Compassion” by Ireland; “Missions and Compassion: The Indigenous Principles” by Alan R. Johnson; “Defining Poverty” by JoAnn Butrin and A. Chadwick Thornhill; and “Best Practices in Compassionate Missions” by Suzanne Hurst.

Part 2 includes nine chapters: “Compassion and Unreached People Groups” by Jeff Palmer and Lynda Hausfeld; Counterintuitive Missions in a McDonald’s Age: Recovering the Apostolic, Incarnational Model to Integrating Gospel-As-Mission and Gospel-As-Deed” by Jean Johnson; “In Pursuit of Holistic Economic Development” by Brian Fikkert; “The Church’s Response to Injustice” by JoAnn Butrin, Suzanne Hurst, and Brandy Tuesday Wilson; “Orphans and Vulnerable Children” by Ireland; “Health Issues and the Church’s Response” by Karen Herrera and Paula Ireland; “Natural Disasters and the Church’s Response” by Jeffrey Hartensveld; “The Local Church and Faith-Based Organizations” by Jason Paltzer; and “Conclusion: For the Love of God” by Ireland.

Ireland summarizes “the approach of this text” in his Introduction:

This text addresses compassion in missions from a thoroughly evangelical perspective. As such, this text will center around three themes to which we will often return: biblical foundations, the local church, and development principles. The central thesis of this text is that these three themes must guide evangelical responses to compassion if we are to be faithful to Scripture and to the church’s uniquely redemptive purpose. We will argue that Christian compassion is fundamentally a matter of discipleship and that modern Christian missions often tends, contrarily, toward the professionalization of compassionate ministry. Such an approach robs local believers of their God-given mandate to love their neighbors (Matt. 22:39).

In other words, the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20) commands believers to make disciples of all “nations,” that is “people groups.” A necessary outcome of discipleship is compassionate individuals and congregations who minister to the needs of their neighbors holistically. In cross-cultural situations, missionaries’ primary work is to empower the local church to make compassionate disciples, rather than to do the work of the local church themselves.

Who should read this book? Missionaries are obvious candidates, especially those working in compassion-focused missions. Those preparing for missionary careers or those teaching them also are intended readers. However, I would also recommend the book to pastors, especially those whose churches sponsor compassion-focused missions or who send abroad short-term missions teams. The emphasis on empowering indigenous local churches to perform compassion ministries, rather than doing it for them, should affect the way U.S. churches fund their missions program, as well as how they utilize short-term missions teams.

The book includes a 14-page Bibliography, but not an index. Though an index would be helpful–indexes are always helpful in academic books–the specificity of the chapter topics obviates need for one.

Book Reviewed
Jerry M. Ireland, ed., For the Love of God: Principles and Practice of Compassion in Missions (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2017).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

How to Have Better Spiritual Conversations | Influence Podcast


“Americans today are less involved in spiritual conversations than we were twenty-five years ago,” writes Don Everts in his new book, The Reluctant Witness. In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I talk to Everts about why this is the case and what we need to do to have better spiritual conversations.

Don Everts is a writer for Lutheran Hour Ministries and associate pastor at Bonhomme Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri. He is also author of several books about evangelism, most recently, The Reluctant Witness: Discovering the Delight of Spiritual Conversations, published by IVP Books.

For free online resources about how to engage in better spiritual conversations, go here.

And to read my review of The Reluctant Witness, go here. If you like my review, please click “Helpful.”

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