GET REAL is the title of a book by John Leonard that will be the focus of a seminar coming to our church later in September (Friday night and Saturday morning, Sept 19 and 20). The book is about “evangelism”, but I have found it pointing to a very different understanding of what that means. He regularly punctures our stereotypical images, but then goes on to reconstruct a much more biblical and practical approach. For example, he begins one chapter with, “Friendship evangelism is not biblical!” (Ch. 6) but then goes on to explain what it means to be more than a friend in our relationships. There is a chapter entitled “Party Evangelism” that turns out to be a wonderful presentation of how our churches need to be places where our unbelieving friends can come, be welcomed, and join in the party. So whether or not we consider ourselves to have the “gift” of evangelism we can and should be part of a welcoming and partying church. “A partying church … has low walls. A partying church doesn’t talk about how evil everyone else is, but how bad we all are. … And you hear the call of the gospel offered to all.” (p. 62)

I just finished the chapter on discipling the unbeliever and evangelizing the believer. That sounds like a reversal of what we think we should do, but not when John explains what he means. He ends with a beautiful story of a woman who came to faith in his congregation after four years. She was nurtured by the love and care of the people as well as the consistent preaching of the Word. When she came to the moment of conversion she had already been learning to follow Christ, so that decision was just another step on the path of walking with Jesus. So in a very real sense she was already Jesus’ disciple leading up to the conscious choice to confess him as Lord and Savior.

I’m looking forward to finishing the book, and I’m looking forward to John coming to present the key themes of the book on the weekend of the 19th. I hope you will make plans to join us. I’m confident John will help relieve you of unnecessary guilt about how you are not “witnessing”, but also convict you to allow yourself to become more involved in lives around you in a way that sharing your faith means getting real. Or, as John puts it bluntly in one chapter, “For Christ’s sake, be normal!”

The author is the pastor of Cresheim Valley Presbyterian Church, meeting in Chestnut Hill. John and his wife, Christie, served for many years in France, reaching out to Muslims. More recently he has served on the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary.