A while back I received a book from Jim Woodell called, “Heaven’s Star: Check this Ancient GPS“. This book came to me at a time when I was looking into more resources on how people were evangelizing and what seemed to be working. One reason I was interested in Jim’s perspective on evangelism is because of the amount of respect I have for the congregation that the Woodell’s have been a part of in years past, the Bay Area Church of Christ in Tampa. I have been blessed to know several people from that congregation and I always get the impression that they are in the game. They don’t just talk about evangelism. They do it and do it very well.
I want to say that I don’t want to appear to be critical at all in critiquing someone else’s evangelism approach. Sometimes we fail to appreciate a certain approach because it doesn’t suit our style when, in fact, it is an entirely appropriate and effective strategy. So I am going to offer some critique of the book but I want to make sure that in doing so you don’t hear me slamming this book or Jim’s approach because that would be entirely inappropriate.
First, I think this book starts in the right place. It starts with Jesus Christ. It starts with who Jesus is, what he came to do, what he taught and his mission/commission to us. He move from Jesus to Christians. Here Jim reminds us that God expects His people to be a part of the great commission and that God is a God who sends people to do His work. He does this through some powerful testimonies as well as scripture.
Second, this book is very, very practical. That is the number one thing I liked about this book. Jim knows what you might run into and addresses it in advance. He turns to the actual conversation with a lost person and what it takes to get someone’s attention and engage them in a dialog about Jesus and faith. This is the strength of the book. It is real. It is practical and you can tell it comes from repeated experiences of trial and error from over a long period of time. It is easy to see that Jim has a heart for people and a passion for Jesus Christ.
Third, Jim turns our attention to his specific approach to sharing the Gospel with lost people. He calls it the Romans Approach (also called “Reaping with Romans” on p.26 – I wasn’t sure if this was the same study or something else. Assuming it is the same thing.). Chapter 5 is titled, “Sharing the Gospel from Romans The Romans Approach”. This is about the only real issue that I have with the study…again, not fault finding, just a difference in perspective and preference. If I am going to present the Gospel, I am usually going to go to the Gospels to do it. That is exactly what Jim does in the opening chapters of the book until he gets to the actual approach, then he goes to Romans. Now, I have to say in all fairness that the Romans approach can and will work and I don’t mean to demean it whatsoever, just stating a difference in preference. I will also say that if you are going to use Romans to present the Gospel then you should read this book because this is about as good a presentation of that approach as you are going to find.
The Romans Approach (as presented in this book and outlined in the addendum) is a textual and evangelistic study of Romans 4-8. In those chapters we learn that we are sinful. We learn that God is offering us salvation as a free gift in response to our faith in Christ. We learn about who Jesus is, what he has done and what that means for us (how he gives us eternal life). Jim goes further by sharing from his experience on what this conversation can look like, what to avoid, what to emphasize and what not to emphasize and how to overcome potential objections. He reminds us that we study with people about a who (Jesus) and not a what (baptism) while still recognizing the vitally important role baptism has in this process.
Last, Jim shares his thoughts on discipleship. He does that because that is what Jesus actually told us to do in the Great Commission (Matt 28:19f). It felt to me like the discipleship section got split in half by chapter 12 (addressing potential objections). He talks about how to care for new Christians because, after all, discipleship is about more than baptism.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. It was one more piece in the puzzle for me of figuring out my own voice in evangelism. I would probably be more inclined to use this approach with someone who is in their mid 40s or older and stick with a Gospel (say Luke-Acts 2) for a person younger than that who is probably more in tune with narrative. Thanks to Jim Woodell for sharing from his heart and from his experience and wisdom. Thanks also for raising up Wes to be the minister and man he is as well.