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Friday, April 15, 2011

An Oldie on Tactical Evangelism

When I most recently visited my parents, they were in the middle of a redecorating job that caused my father’s entire theological lending library to be stacked in boxes in the hall.  (Note: he would not consider it a lending library, largely because of my loose return policy.)  This upheaval unearthed an 11-year-old book that appealed to me mostly because it was short.

“Engaging the Closed Minded” reads a little like an academic paper.  No fluff, straight shots of information and loads of citations in six chapters.  Author Dan Story’s aim is not to present apologetics arguments, although he has written another book to that end and recommends several more in the notes of this book.  “Enaging” is a tactical manual.

Story first establishes this book as pertaining solely to apologetic, versus lifestyle, evangelism.  Once you have the tools, the evidences (yes, you do have to read a lot of other books and study the Bible systematically to get these, but you were going to do that anyway, right?), you need a game plan that prevents you from standing on street corners yelling, “Accept the historicity of Scripture, Sinner!” to passing pedestrians.

This book may not be new (1999) or well known, but it is a concise source of handy ideas.  What are the basic combinations of worldviews and personality types that you may encounter, and how does this affect your approach?  How can you recognize and circumvent peripheral issues and distractions that obstruct a focused discussion?  What is the goal of apologetics (to create a platform for a gospel presentation where one is not yet ripe)? 

Story offers tips for finding common ground from which to launch, for keeping things friendly, for not sabotaging your own witness.  There’s also plenty of space devoted to Socratic Methodology, which I love.  It’s about questioning, shifting the burden of proof, recognizing that most people know next to nothing about the Bible or Christianity, or even the roots of their own assumptions and beliefs.  It’s about just asking questions to help people examine what they think and find where, maybe, they haven’t thought much at all.  It’s not about shoving facts down people’s throats.

In sum, if you’ve a sieve-brain like me, and a stack of apologetics books with wrinkles only in the first chapters, this is a quick and useful read.  It may just inspire me to go back to those evidence charts.

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