Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis: A Review

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I’ve never felt like a good Baptist.

Why? Because I don’t think knocking on people’s doors and leading them through the Roman Road and pressuring them to pray “the prayer” is an effective way to make followers of Christ.

There. I said it. If you want to leave now, I understand.

I’ll never forget a lunchtime Bible study in college that filled me with hope. Our campus minister drew a circle. He talked about how the general method of evangelists was to get people inside the circle – and then leave them there while they go find more people to herd inside.

What if, he conjectured, it was more like there was a big point in the middle, labeled Jesus? And we were trying to help people get closer to that point?

In his book Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism, Carl Medearis uses pretty much the same illustration. Medearis speaks of an evangelism that is simply leading people into conversation about Jesus and letting the Holy Spirit truly do the work.

The year before Libbie was born, I went on a “mission trip” to Brazil with a few others. It was an amazing two weeks; I loved meeting the students from the seminary, having dinner with the local imam, going to a service at a mosque, and touring the breathtaking area we were in. I loved talking with the missionary couple and the two of their three children that still lived at home. I loved taking a Lebanese cooking class.

What I did not love was trying to approach people cold turkey to talk about the Gospel.

Why? It always seems like such immense pressure. Like I had to defend every aspect of what I believed to be the Christian faith. Apologetics. History. A lot of stuff I didn’t know nor understand.

Having lived and ministered in the Middle East and around the globe, Medearis makes one thing clear: people are turned off by Christianity but long to hear more about Jesus.

I honestly cried at the end of this book because I felt such a wave of relief. Maybe I don’t have to defend Christianity, Christianese, and why Elisha would let a bear kill some kids for making fun of him. Maybe I can just share the relationship I’ve cultivated with Jesus myself. Maybe I can just do what He did: love people. Especially the people we’re not “supposed” to love.

If you, like me, have always felt like the “get your butt into heaven” method of evangelism is just not quite right … you need to read this book. You probably won’t agree with everything Medearis says, but it’s well worth the few hours of reading.

And if you ever want to talk about Jesus – I’m here.

9 thoughts on “Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis: A Review

  1. It’s incredible how many people (much less denominations) think that *we* do the work of saving people. The very language we use – “I led so-and-so to Christ” reeks of self congratulation. The Spirit opens their eyes to truth; all we are responsible for is sharing our own experience with Jesus. I hope this book gets a wide readership, and one that truly convicts hearts.

    • That is such a good way of putting it, Diane. I think what rubs me so wrong is the idea that we are counting the number of salvations “we” get. Personally I think we should be out there doing more feeding the hungry and hanging out with the homeless and less going door to door.

  2. Interesting. I share many of your sentiments on evangelization. Of course, being Catholic it is not a big part of my faith life anyway. The Church has never been one to go out and actively seek converts, at least not in such a direct way. My husband was in a Christian band for a few years. We witnessed many “altar calls.” I always felt like they lacked so much—mainly because we all have that moment of certainty about God, but many, many more moments of doubt and confusion and struggle, and where was the band going to be then? For that new believer? (Of course, that is my own opinion/view, from the outside. Maybe there was great followup and I just didn’t know that). Anyway, this book sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    • I guess I would say that I think altar calls are mostly to, for lack of a better word, push people to do the business they need to do with God. When it becomes a pride thing – oh, at our conference we had 3,000 at the altar call – you’re right, there’s no way of follow-up and it becomes about US again, not Him.

  3. I was raised with the same view of evangelism and it left the same bad feeling with in me. It just didn’t seem biblical and as an earlier comment pointed out, where does that leave them if they are not plugged into a community of believers to help them grow. I’m currently in classes moving toward my ministerial degree, one of the classes I just finished that really stretched my views on evangelism. Out textbook was this book, it’s along the same lines based on your review.

    if the link doesn’t work it’s Reimagining Evangelism: Inviting Friends on a Spiritual Journey by Rick Richardson.

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