Greg Laurie, Mortimer Adler, and the gospel

Maybe the problem isn’t that we haven’t learned how to present the gospel but that we haven’t learned to prize it.

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As a powerful member of the clergy class I receive promos for new books and Bible studies from various publishers. True, the hoi polloi could get all the previews that I receive but they would need to ask for it. I get mine unsolicited. #blessed

005776124Tell Someone is a new book on personal evangelism from which Lifeway has developed a small group Bible study. The author is Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship (CA) and founder of Harvest Crusades. According to the back of his book, “more than 439,900 have registered professions of faith” at his crusades so he’s an experienced coach. From the Lifeway email blast:

 

Sharing your faith can be terrifying. But starting just takes one courageous step. In this new six-session Bible study, Greg Laurie will show you how to share your faith—simply by using your personal testimony. Once you begin telling the story of your own faith journey, you might find that you actually enjoy evangelism.

Laurie doesn’t really break any new ground unless you’ve never been exposed to the casual/conversational/relational/testimonial model of evangelism touted by previous authors here, here, here, and here. On the plus side the book–I haven’t seen the small group version–articulates the gospel clearly and accurately. And that brings me to my point.

In both the book (10 chapters) and small group curriculum (six sessions) “What Is the Gospel?” comes as the penultimate chapter/session which means the reader/participant hears why,

Tell-Someone-Sample_CONTENTS
Tell Someone table of contents (small group curriculum)

where, when, and how to share the gospel before they’re even told what the gospel is. What is the rationale behind this ordering? I imagine the forthcoming companion study, Marry Someone, in which the unwitting man-child is snookered (by the female author) into marrying his long-time girlfriend:

  • Session 1: Why Propose Marriage?
  • Session 2: When & Where to Propose Marriage
  • Session 3: How to Propose Marriage
  • Session 4: The Power of Romance
  • Session 5: What Is Marriage?
  • Session 6: Close the Deal

What then? Are we overreacting to the table of contents? May it never be! For it is written:

Study the table of contents to obtain a general sense of the book’s structure; use it as you would a road map before taking a trip. It is astonishing how many people never even glance at a book’s table of contents unless they wish to look something up in it. In fact, many authors spend a considerable amount of time in creating the table of contents, and it is sad to think their efforts are often wasted. . . a table of contents can be valuable, and you should read it carefully before going on to the rest of the book. -Mortimer Adler, How to Read a Book, 33.

And if the table of contents is by design then certain authorial implications follow. In the case of Tell Someone I take it that Laurie (et al) believes the enthusiasm gap in evangelism can be addressed by better methodology. For my part I think prioritizing methodology will, in most cases, end up perpetuating that gap. Lewis once said “just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it.”

Maybe the problem isn’t that we haven’t learned how to present the gospel but that we haven’t learned to prize it. I don’t know how that changes when the gospel is relegated to one chapter near the end of the book.

Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

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