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The Sacrament of Evangelism

The Sacrament of Evangelism

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by Jerry Root, Stan Guthrie, Lyle Dorsett (Foreword by)

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A recent statistic suggests that 15% of the churches in America are growing but only 2.2% are growing evangelistically.

Much of the church in America has lost its evangelistic zeal and forgotten how to re-ignite it; this book is an attempt to light the fuse of the powder keg so that the church, long-distracted by so many things, might return to its primary


A recent statistic suggests that 15% of the churches in America are growing but only 2.2% are growing evangelistically.

Much of the church in America has lost its evangelistic zeal and forgotten how to re-ignite it; this book is an attempt to light the fuse of the powder keg so that the church, long-distracted by so many things, might return to its primary mission in the world.

We do not take Christ to anyone; He is already there. We go to make explicit what we see Him doing implicitly. It is not a question of whether God is at work in His world . . . Our hope is to see more of God’s people at work with Him! Learn about why we share our faith, Christ's role in our evangelism, the deep longings in all our hearts, and how to effectively live a sacramentally evangelistic lifestyle.

We are offering a way of looking at life and the world that is open to God’s presence everywhere. This approach is called sacramental. And where better to experience God’s presence than in His workplace? This is the Sacrament of Evangelism.

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Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2011 Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8024-2288-0

Chapter One


We Christians are an active lot.

We serve in many areas of ministry—we staff homeless shelters, produce Christian media, build schools, send missionaries, hold prayer meetings, and sing with worship teams. Some of us, usually a minority with the "gift" of evangelism, even tell others about Jesus. If activity were the standard, we would all hear His commendation, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

But activity alone is not the standard of the Christian life—even good activity. And it never has been. In the ministry of Jesus we encounter an interesting scene:

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."

We suspect that most American Christians would identify with busy, hardworking Martha, not Mary, who has simply chosen to be with Jesus. Though we theoretically know that we too ought to spend time at the feet of Jesus, in practice we feel hurried and hope that He will somehow understand. After all, "the work" has to get done, and there will be time enough to "practice His presence" later. So we resume our busy lives and ministries, and hardly ever encounter Jesus on the way.

For such people, this book will come as good news. Really good news. That's because, while stopping our lives to listen to Jesus can sometimes be extremely helpful, we don't have to cease all activity to hear or see God. We can experience His presence as we serve Him—especially as we do evangelism. And that presence not only will keep us going in the often hard work of evangelism, it will keep us going, period. Brother Lawrence, who washed pots for medieval monks, knew that we can practice God's presence in all of lift's activities, even the most menial. This includes evangelism.


Yes, this book is about evangelism and discipleship, but on an even deeper level it is about the presence of God in the life of the believer. In fact, this volume is about the sacrament of evangelism. Those Christians who hold to certain kinds of sacramental theology believe that God is present in the sacraments. Whatever our doctrine about various sacraments, of course, such an approach prompts us to look for signs of God elsewhere, too.

In this book, however, we are not advocating our own position on any of the sacraments of the Christian church. We are offering a way of looking at life and the world that is open to God's presence everywhere. This approach is called sacramental.

Such an approach has become more accepted among evangelicals in recent years. Many Christians, particularly evangelicals, are fascinated with sacramental and liturgical approaches to faith, even if sometimes we are not too sure how biblical they are. Books on "ancient" Christianity are both common and popular.


But what does sacrament really mean? As the University of Notre Dame's Office of Campus Ministry states, the word "sacrament shares its roots with sacred, meaning 'filled with the presence of God.' Catholics believe that the whole world is filled with God's presence in everything from the majestic to the mundane. Whenever we respond to the gift of God's presence (sometimes also called God's grace), we call that mutual effort—God's grace and our response—sacramental."

Yet there is no biblical reason that Protestants cannot also see the world sacramentally. We too believe that He is omnipresent, or everywhere present at the same time. Those who take a sacramental approach understand that God is always near and ever able to minister His grace, whether we are washing pans or telling others the good news. If we do, like Jacob, we will awake from our sleep of busyness to murmur in awe, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it."

A sacramental approach to life and ministry is solidly biblical. Moses discovered it at the Red Sea with the armies of Egypt read), to attack. David found God was with him when He responded on a dusty battleground to the taunts of Goliath. Daniel found God in the den of lions. Jeremiah, abused and abandoned by men, clung to God's promise of constant companionship. And Peter, witness to the resurrection, preached with boldness on that Pentecost Sunday because he knew the Spirit of Christ was with him.

As with Peter, so with us. Evangelism is a sacrament. Those who practice it find that God is always showing up. Of course, He is already there, but those engaged in this sacrament begin to see Him regularly because their eyes are open to His presence. They practice His presence in their prayers for family, friends, and coworkers—even when those prayers are repeated year after year, seemingly unanswered. Hearts full of concern that others know the love and forgiveness of God keep us mindful of His nearness as we pray. Those concerned that others in their world discover the grace of Christ tend to be alert to the daily evidence of God's activity around them. They see Him when they build a relationship, when they take a risk, and when they are rejected. The), also see Him when a dear friend becomes a new follower of Christ.


When we share the good news, we do not, to borrow a common expression, "take Christ" to anyone. Remember, He is already there. The sacrament of evangelism doesn't "do anything" to God—it does something to us. It opens our eyes to His work and grace. Those unaware of this sacrament, however, miss the opportunity to experience participating with this omnipotent, omnipresent God as He woos others to Himself. It is not a question of whether God is at work in His world. It is a question of whether those who claim to follow Him will participate with Him in this sacrament. This book will encourage you to discover afresh the presence of God in your world and participate in the sacrament of evangelism in ways that fit who you are.

Do you want to live sacramentally, to experience God in this way? The Westminster Catechism reminds us that we are created "to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." In our hearts we know that this glorification and enjoyment are not confined to a couple of hours a week in a church sanctuary. God has told us that He is too big for any temple. His kingdom spreads inexorably, silently, in His wake. We can—indeed, if we are true to how He made us, we must—glorify and enjoy Him in all of life. If we don't, we will miss out on His greatest blessings.

The sacrament of evangelism is not about getting a few more notches in our outreach belts, about following a formula. It's about working with Him, worshiping Him, and knowing Him as we participate with Him in bringing lost, sinful, and hurting people to Himself. The work will go on, with or without you. But if you choose to stand aside, God will still work, but you will be the loser.

How sad life would be if we never noticed the glories of the sky. How regrettable never to notice the hues created by the setting sun: the pinks and oranges, the salmons and peach, the apricot and shrimp all painted against a baby-blue canvas dancing with color at the end of the day. How heartbreaking to have breathed day in and day out on this marvelous planet, whose delicate balances are themselves a gift, and to have missed seeing the moon as it faithfully traces its way across the heavens. And who could adequately describe the diamond likeness of stars twinkling over a desert sky on a clear autumn evening looking like gems gleaming in the roof of an otherwise dark, cavernous universe? Who can grasp the wonder of comets and shooting stars and galaxies? Our lives seem charged with astonishment when we encounter the northern lights—the black firmament coruscating and pulsating in colors of red, blue, and green.

The Scriptures say the heavens declare the glory of God, but many of His works—always present with us—are missed simply because our eyes are closed. Yet He is ever present and ministering grace to us. Even when His creatures rebel, He causes the sun to rise every morning and the stars to adorn the cloudless night skies.

The Bible reminds us that the earth shows God's handiwork. An eye rightly trained cannot help but notice the curling and breaking of a wave onto the beach, the pause midflight of a hummingbird seeming to defy gravity as it draws nectar from a petunia. In fact, the petal of the flower itself—with its subtle, velvety texture and aroma—is glorious. The laughter of a child at Christmas; the soaring of the eagle on high thermal drafts; the fresh, falling snow that clothes the trees after their leaves have been stripped by blustery autumn winds; here too are glories, signs pointing to God's eternal power and divine nature.


There are other works of God in the world, and these too declare His glory. These are works not of creation but of re-creation. God is at work wooing people to Himself. Tragically, judging by our sluggish growth rates, too few churches in America are putting themselves in a place where they can see—and participate in—the work of God in the world. Yet God is too big for His purposes to be thwarted by our inactivity. He can use anyone and He certainly doesn't need us. But we will miss out on the wonder of participating with Him in His workplace.

One day a board member of a certain church invited the pastor to visit his manufacturing plant. The two men knew each other fairly well, but only in church contexts. So the pastor went, not sure what he would see. Once he got there, he saw the board member, whom he considered a solid Christian, in a whole new light. The pastor first of all was amazed at his friend's company, which he had built from scratch. He employed a sizable workforce. The design of the product reflected real genius.

During the visit, employees at the factory came up to their boss and asked complex work questions. The board member answered each one with care and insight. He knew all of his factory workers by name, often pausing to ask questions about the welfare of their children, aging parents, or how the worker's team was doing in the local bowling league. The pastor said he had no clue how kind and brilliant his friend was until he spent that day with him. Then the pastor observed: "I thought I knew my friend because I knew him at church; but I never really knew him until I got to know him in his workplace."

This book will encourage you to get to know God in His workplace, to develop a sense of awe while watching firsthand as He woos people to Himself. Few activities give a sense of meaning and purpose more clearly than the privilege of leading another human being to faith in Christ and discipling that person to lead others to Christ as well.

Further, as you begin to practice the sacrament of evangelism, you will find yourself growing in spiritual maturity. What the church today finds extraordinary will become ordinary in your life—for the glory of God and your own enjoyment.

Let's get started.

Discussion Questions

1. Do you frequently or infrequently observe Christians you know sharing their faith with others? What might be the circumstances that determine the frequency you observe? 2. Do you think it is possible some do not tell others about Christ because they do not seem to experience Him in a vital way in their own daily lives? How might they experience Him more, and how might this result in sharing the gospel with greater ease? 3. Do you think that God is interested in bringing others to Himself? If He is, do you believe He might already be active in wooing others to Himself now? What might you discover about God if you were actively participating with Him in this work? 4. Why do you think so many Christians do not actively share the gospel of Christ with others who live in such proximity to them: coworkers, neighbors, friends, etc.? 5. What could you do to encourage other Christians to participate in the sacrament of evangelism so they could get to know God better in His workplace?

Chapter Two


Every new endeavor comes with a degree of awkwardness. In fact, if you do not feel awkward in some part of your life right now; you are probably not growing. A toddler learning to walk falls down and gets bruised. A six-year-old learning to ride without training wheels crashes into the bushes. A teenager taking up skateboarding may break a wrist or sprain an ankle.

Awkwardness is a normal part of life, but it shouldn't stop us from doing what needs to be done.

Don't read this book thinking, "I will begin to share my faith when I am done." Begin now. It is muddled logic to believe that you will start a task once you have mastered the skill. Life doesn't work that way. No one in this world is fully skilled for what is ahead. Nobody is ever ready to get married; if we waited until we were, we would miss out on the joys and challenges of a lifelong relationship. No one is ever ready to have children; if we waited until we were, the human race would end with this generation.

It is the same thing with the sacrament of evangelism. When Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into the world and proclaim the gospel, they began awkwardly. The book of Acts is the record of the church's first attempts to make Christ known to others. The early Christians only developed some degree of competence through trial and error. They persisted in the knowledge that God called them to this great work and that He was present with them in the process.

The disciples, from the very beginning, practiced the sacrament of evangelism, and the church grew as a result.


We commonly hear well-meaning people say, "If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well." On the other hand, G. K. Chesterton once observed that "if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly." If no one is doing something that should be done, it is better that someone does it poorly than that it not be done at all.

Significant things will never be done perfectly; there is always room for improvement. This is certainly true when it comes to the sacrament of evangelism. Therefore, we are wise to get started and grow in our capacity and competence while actually doing it. Learn all you can, but don't deceive yourself into believing you will begin once you know everything, or once you have acquired perfect skill. Such a time will never come.

With that in mind, this book will encourage anyone attempting to share Christ with others, no matter how feeble you feel your efforts are. We become more proficient not simply by adding knowledge, but by applying it, because we are never more teachable than when we are in the middle of a task for which we lack skill. The insight and coaching in this book will be most valuable for the person actually engaged with the material rather than for the person for whom this subject is a mere intellectual exercise. Evangelism is a matter of the head and the heart, coupled with the practical intention to invest your life in the lives of others.


Yet be assured that if you make a commitment to practice the sacrament of evangelism, you will grow in your knowledge of God. In Philemon 6 (NIV), the apostle Paul wrote to a friend, "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ."

The result of active evangelism, he says, is "full understanding" of our relationship with the Lord. The converse seems to be (echoing chapter 1) that we will miss out on much in our Christian experience if we neglect to share Christ with others. Evangelism is not something extra for super-spiritual saints. It is for all of us, if we desire to grasp what our salvation is all about.


Excerpted from THE SACRAMENT OF EVANGELISM by JERRY ROOT STAN GUTHRIE Copyright © 2011 by Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Back Cover:

“Biblical, passionate and practical – here’s a clarion call for Christians to introduce others to the God who is already present. Jerry and Stan offer a much-needed antidote to the fear many Christians feel about that dreaded word evangelism.”

Lee Strobel, author, The Case for the Real Jesus


Evangelism is cooperating with what God is already doing! That insight is not only liberating but it is laid out beautifully in this timely book by Root and Guthrie. They understand that evangelism means practicing God’s presence as we engage in compassionate, authentic relationship with seekers and skeptics. The stories are inspiring and the discussion questions make this a perfect tool for small groups. I highly recommend it!

Rebecca Manley Pippert, author, Out of the Salt Shaker, Hope Has Its Reasons

Inside Pages:

“Biblical, passionate and practical – here’s a clarion call for Christians to introduce others to the God who is already present. Jerry and Stan offer a much-needed antidote to the fear many Christians feel about that dreaded word evangelism.”

Lee Strobel, author, The Case for the Real Jesus


Having taught evangelism around the world I have discovered that the fears are remarkably the same: What if I offend? What if I’m rejected? What if they ask me a question I can’t answer? However, over time I realized that the deeper, unspoken fear was the assumption that evangelism is ultimately all about us and our skills. We suck up our courage and just hope that God will back us up! But we’ve got it backwards. God always goes before us because He is already there. We follow Him into the world, He doesn’t follow us. Evangelism is cooperating with what God is already doing! That insight is not only liberating but it is laid out beautifully in this timely book by Root and Guthrie. They understand that evangelism means practicing God’s presence as we engage in compassionate, authentic relationship with seekers and skeptics. The stories are inspiring and the discussion questions make this a perfect tool for small groups. I highly recommend it!

Rebecca Manley Pippert, author, Out of the Salt Shaker, Hope Has Its Reasons


"Need confidence in sharing your faith? Let this book encourage you: you are not aloneGod was there before you; He'll be there with you. Reach out boldly—this is God's deal. He is at work, and he wants you to join Him in the all-important sacrament of evangelism."

Mark Mittelberg

author of The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask and The Reason Why, and coauthor (with Bill Hybels) of Becoming a Contagious Christian


What a brilliant book to help us shift our paradigm of evangelism from dry obligation to a vitality of worship and a refreshing experience of God. In a world fearful to share truth Root and Guthrie give us key ingredients for evangelism that have not been fully examined for centuries. The authors have a gift for helping us understand bedrock biblical principles as well as exposing us to tried and tested (“that is so obvious why-didn’t-I-think-of-that”) practical methodology.  I love that the book introduces to a wide variety of interesting people from football players, college students and restaurateurs, to Calvin, Chesterton, Moody, Rousseau, and of course C.S. Lewis.  In sports ministry we say, “Always training, never playing makes athletes stale.” The Sacrament of Evangelism will help get you into the game, revitalize your faith and put some muscle on the dry bones of evangelism. I think I better ask my neighbor out to lunch, right now!

Dr Steve Connor
Director/ Facilitator
Sports Outreach International
International Sports Coalition- North America


If you think there couldn’t be anything new written about evangelism, The Sacrament of Evangelism will shatter that belief. Jerry and Stan do a great job of peeling back the curtain on the universal longings that can only be met by God. By doing so, they help the believer see how we are participating in the work God is already doing when He brings the unsaved to Himself. That is the Sacramental nature of Evangelism.

AJ Rinaldi
Ministry Director, EvanTell Inc.


Meet the Author

DR. JERRY ROOT is an Associate Professor at Wheaton College where he teaches graduate courses in the MA in Evangelism Program as well as courses in the undergraduate Christian Formation and Ministry Department. In addition, Jerry is a visiting professor at Biola University and Talbot Graduate School of Theology in La Mirada, California.Jerry has written many books centered around the teachings of C.S. Lewis. He has lectured on C. S. Lewis at 48 College or University Campuses in 11 countries. He has taught college and graduate courses on C. S. Lewis for 30 consecutive years.Jerry and his wife Claudia have four married children, four grandchildren, and a Welsh Corgi; they live in Wheaton, Illinois.

STAN GUTHRIE is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine. His most recent book, All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, was released by Baker. He is author of Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers.

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The Sacrament of Evangelism 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
LynnLS More than 1 year ago
Review of "The Sacrament of Evangelism" by Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie I grew up in the Catholic faith tradition. I am thus acquainted with the sacredness of "sacrament" in the context of this definition: "an outward sign, instituted by Christ to give grace." The outward sign is visible in the ceremony or prayers said that accompany the 7 sacraments' administrations -- Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction ( Last Rites), Holy Orders, and Matrimony. All of these sacraments symbolize the grace that flows inwardly, the person of God's Spirit strengthening an individual for his life and for his roles in life. I am also a born again Christian who knows the sacredness in affirming that Christ is my Lord and Savior. I heard the title of this book long before it was published. I was immediately taken by the title as the perfect "marriage-merger" of two words, "sacrament- evangelism". They resonated deeply within me. Now, having read Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie's book, that resonating is firmly set. If I were to encapsulate the message they bring, it is about Incarnation. God, the Son ( Jesus Christ ) became flesh entering our world. He bore our sins as Savior dying on the Cross, reconciling us to our Father and our eternal Home. We are filled with His Spirit. Some of us know this experience of being in relationship with Him, having accepted Him as Lord and Savior. For those not yet aware that they are, "pregnant" if you will, with the God we know, we long to bring them the good news of such a relationship so its birth can take place. The longing in them begs to be identified for them. Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie lead their readers through a new path of recognition. "Evangelism" has a connotation among many as Christians Bible thumping and dragging others into the saving relationship with Christ through all kinds of techniques. Not so fast, these authors warn. We are to approach all whom we know or with whom we are in contact knowing their deep longing to be known and to know the living God who is already present within them. We recognize our own brokenness, even as believers. We go to God "unlike Him and receive his grace [sacrament] to be more like Him." From these points ( over and over again ) we are prepared to go out led by His Spirit into our everyday world and workplaces, noticing, engaging, waiting for seed bearing moments, and for new growth to emerge in others. We partner with the God we know. It never has to be forced. We walk the walk and talk the talk as led. Amazing grace. Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie share from their own lives and experiences in ways that encourage we readers. They do give Scriptures and tools, even warnings to be aware of as we engage yet-to-be-believers. They offer follow up directives meant to keep all of us, including new believers, encouraged and growing in our faith. It is a very readable book and helped me to relax as I recognized that, although I do not have the large platform or the same style of a Billy Graham or others when evangelizing, my life path has many a traveler with whom I will engage in the ways I am led on the platform where we meet.