More Ready Than You Realize, by Brian D. McLaren (Zondervan, 2002, 2006)
Brian McLaren’s aim with More Ready Than You Realize is to remind us that “evangelism” isn’t a dirty word, despite the negative connotations it’s acquired over the years. He also wants to demystify it and show us that, as the title suggests, we’re more ready to get involved than we realize.
He explains, “Good evangelism is the process of being friendly without discrimination and influencing all of one’s friends toward better living, through good deeds and good conversations. For a Christian… [it] means engaging in these conversations in the spirit and example of Christ. … Evangelism in the style of Jesus; evangelism that flows like a dance.” (p. 17)
The book tells the story of his spiritual friendship with April, a young woman considering faith. On one level, it’s an easy read. The conversations pull readers in, and we keep turning pages to see what happens. It’s also a book that requires thought as we apply what he says to our own lives.
A key premise is that Christians need to communicate our faith in a way that those around us will understand. Language, worldviews, even styles of communication have changed significantly in recent years as we’ve moved into the postmodern era.
The word “postmodern” itself raises a barrier to me, yet it’s assumed to be part of the reader’s understanding. Worse is “modern,” which I always thought meant “contemporary or up-to-date”. “Trendy,” even. But these are buzz-words of the new culture and so they’re used.
For me, this is a strong reminder of how important it is that I don’t bombard non-Christians or spiritual folk with Christian jargon. Dr. McLaren illustrates how these holy buzz-words will either be meaningless or mean something far different than intended.
More Ready Than You Realize is a helpful book and despite my struggle with the terminology its message resonated with me (oops, is that another buzz-word?).
The Bible tells us we’re to be ambassadors for Christ, that we’re to be involved in God’s work of reconciliation.
Dr. McLaren encourages us to “engage in spiritual friendship… see evangelism as relational dance rather than conceptual conquest, process rather than event, mutual learning rather than sales pitch…” and I find that far more attractive than some of the previous approaches. (In fairness to some of those modes, the book does point out the different cultures in which they began, so we see how they may have been designed to best meet the needs of the times.)
Integral to this message is the belief that the individuals we befriend (or who befriend us) are of great value, whatever their ultimate decision about God and however long it takes them to make one.
Dr. McLaren challenges us to value the relationships more than the results, and he reminds us that the goal isn’t conversion. The goal is people (ourselves included) loving and serving God and growing in relationship with Him and with each other. The results are up to Him. Our job is simply to serve.
I’d recommend this book to Christians and to those who want to understand them, with the warning that if philosophical language is not your thing, the book may challenge you. The message is clear, and Brian McLaren is an appealing narrator. He speaks to readers as he did to April: openly, non-threatening, and genuinely interested. I look forward to reading some of his other books.
More Ready Than You Realize includes a seven-part Bible study on what it means to be a disciple and to develop others. You can find reviews, a sample chapter and interviews here. To learn more about Brian D. McLaren, his other books and his ministry, check out his website.
Hmm, this certainly seems innocuous enough. Others of his books (of which I’ve only read reviews) not so much. I wonder if his belief system has changed over the years, or if he is simply articulating it more clearly in books like ‘A New Kind of Christianity.’ Or, maybe those buzz-words you speak of are really smokescreens for concepts that, if explained clearly, would get him in trouble with some who hold to a different orthodoxy than he does.
Violet, from this book I sense a God-honouring heart. And the book was recommended by someone I trust spiritually. I know people can get off-course, but I plan to pick up one of Dr. McLaren’s more recent books and I don’t expect to find a problem. But I’ll read prayerfully, as one always should 🙂
I haven’t read any of the reviews, positive or negative. The few glimpses I’ve seen of negative ones had that emotionally-threatened feel that makes me walk away to form my own opinion. Differing orthodoxies I can understand and respect, but alarmist language says more to me about the speaker than the subject matter.
I’m reading up on this current Christian trend as well. It’s being challenging in a good way to the way I do “faith.” I have some concerns about the extent to which we are being encouraged to buy into the postmodern philosophy, but I also realize we need to understand it and discover ways to approach people who come from that mindset (everyone under 40 in western world!).
I totally agree with you that the relational (rather than conversional) attitude toward others is great. I’ve been shifting more away from the “them and us” mentality into the realistic view that all of us human beings are on a spiritual journey. It’s all “us” and God is loving and working with all of us. I love the freedom this thinking gives me to simply love and accept my friends who don’t know Jesus in a personal way yet.
I’ll be checking out this book. Thanks, again, Janet. I learn so much from you.
Ginny, I like how you put this about it being all “us” and God loving and working. Isn’t that what He does? Initiates the love when we’re still in a bad and hostile state?