I’ll confess, I bought this book for two reasons.
The first and biggest –
It was released at the Spiritual Leadership Conference this summer in Lancaster, California, by the man at the helm, Pastor Paul Chappell. For a large subset of unaffiliated Baptists, this is the conference to attend. The place to recharge. The place to reconnect with scattered ministry friends. The place for inspiration. For networkers and platform-builders, the place to see and be seen.
So, when Paul Chappell speaks, thousands of ministry influencers listen.
What would they hear?
This is a Great Commission book, an evangelism book, a “soul-winning” book. What would he say about the theme often credited for making his church one of the largest, most influential unaffiliated Baptist churches in the world?
Would he offer a mechanical, do-it-like-this guarantee for instant church growth?
Would he throw gas on the smoldering conflict with the brothers from Geneva?
Would he artificially (legalistically?) divide Christians into do-ers and don’t-ers?
I’m happy to report that in each of these cases, the answer is no.
I mean, of course he talks about the likely results of an effective evangelism program, and he gives helpful examples from the ministry in Lancaster. And he relates evangelism to Christian obedience. But overall, Chappell has written a simple, encouraging book to help Christians evangelize more consistently and effectively.
Which brings me to my second reason –
I find that I need my evangelistic fires stoked from time to time. I know people who seem to radiate soul-winning fervor, but I’m not one of them. I also know there are ministries that are veritable evangelism volcanoes, but that’s not where I am right now. As a pastor, who spends his time on theology, finances, counseling, training, teaching, building relationships, community involvement, and a hundred other things in an over-churched culture where almost everyone has their own church and their own profession of faith, I find it easy to neglect evangelism.
To be fair, more evangelism means less of something else, and evangelistic churches often lack some other aspect of a healthy, biblical ministry. It’s why I’m not drawn to books like these: they’re often not very deep theologically, and they don’t often draw from robust Scriptural exposition. In fact, I’ve read more than one that tended to deprecate these things in favor of “keeping the main thing the main thing.” Evangelistic ministries – and the books they produce – run the risk of becoming just as unbalanced as the audience they propose to help.
However, books like Out of Commission can help to restore the balance, too. Chappell resists an appeal to guilt and chooses instead to advance Spirit-filled, compassionate witness for the sake of souls. I was both pleased and encouraged.
The book does not dwell on a deep explanation of the Gospel. It doesn’t spend much time on the Gospel-driven sanctification that produces evangelistic Christians. It doesn’t offer much in the way of either attractional or incarnational evangelistic methods.
But it does show the necessity of repentance for salvation. It encourages biblical usage beyond the well-traveled “Romans Road.” It broadens the approach to loving acts of community service. It establishes priorities and programs them into the life of the church. It answers the question, “Yes, but how?” Then, it leaves salvation in the hands of God, leaving the Christian to prayer and faithful witness.
Make no mistake, this is not a Reformed approach to personal evangelism. But Chappell doesn’t throw stones. He is far more God-centered than most non-Reformed works in this genre, and he faithfully offers biblical applications that many Reformed works are prone to neglect. Conflict is not his goal; conversion of lost souls for the name of Christ is.
And he’s absolutely right when he says, “Too many Christians are content to treat evangelism like a football game – in which they are the spectators.”
That’s why he wrote this book. Because, “Mobilizing ourselves back to full engagement in the Great Commission isn’t going to be easy. The cost will involve repentance, faith, risks, prayer, reordered priorities, and time.”
Yes to all!
And now I’m encouraged. This little book has fueled the fire for me as a Christian and as a pastor. I’ll be recommending it to people in our church as a simple, straightforward, well-written shot-in-the-arm for where we ought to be.
Read it out of curiosity – you’ll see what the leaders of unaffiliated Baptists are all about.
Read it for combustion – I think you’ll be blessed.