Evangelism in a Skeptical World

Evangelism in a Skeptical World June 16, 2019

Sam Chan
Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus More Believable
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018
Book available at Amazon.com and online course available through Zondervan’s master lectures.

Review by Dr. Chris Porter

Books that aim to extrapolate the Matthean Great Commission in practical terms are a relatively common occurrence in the publisher’s catalogues, and regularly cover the same ground. Occasionally though, one ushers in a new perspective or approach that refreshingly illuminates common practice and brings gentle critique. Sam Chan’s book Evangelism in a Skeptical World does just this. Bringing a unique mix of theoretical insight—drawn primarily from speech act theory and Chan’s PhD—and lived practice, Chan seeks to gently critique gospel presentations and bolster an enlivened practice.

Chan moves through three primary spheres within the book. First, engagement with the theory of evangelism and presenting the Gospel. Here he brings an understanding of speech-act theory to bear on the socio-cognitive processes occurring as people communicate the Gospel message. Second, a consideration of lived practice, and cultural engagement as audiences hear the Gospel message. The core of Chan’s process is an astute cultural analysis that is the engine room for the contextualisation of the Gospel for his context. Finally, Chan puts his lecturing experience to work in assisting readers to craft their own contextualised Gospel message appropriate to their context.

Throughout Chan’s clear and consistent presentation helps to make complex concepts clear and bring lesser noted aspects of evangelism to the fore. At times the contextualisation aspects of the book can appear entirely foreign, although this is likely due to cultural distance, rather than obfuscation. Overall, this is a great book for thinking through how the Gospel message is heard, and to broadly be able to address a variety of contextual audiences with an appropriate Gospel presentation. This book has been helpful for my eQuip ministry trainees as a good middle ground between theory and practice, and excels in this context. However, it is broadly recommended to anyone who wishes to engage with non-Christians and ‘get them to move into the group that checks out Christianity.’ (280).

Watch the trailer to the on-line course:

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