aka “Lost”

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : October 26, 2006

I just finished reading Jim Henderson’s (he’s from Off the Map) Aka “Lost.”

I really wanted to like this book. I did. I have lots of beefs with conventional evangelism, and this book promised to demystify evangelism and make it part of the natural flow of life. Unfortunately, it achieves this by reducing evangelism to almost any activity that expresses kindness. According to Henderson, even “walking around a lake and praying” is evangelism (p. 95).

I believe that Henderson is right in his effort to deconstruct evangelism as it is currently understood. But his reconstructive proposal doesn?t go far enough. This may be because he never really defines “evangelism” or even “gospel.” In his desire to make evangelism more accessible and less intimidating, he tears it down to much, in my opinion.

Under the surface of Henderson?s writing, I sensed that he was defining “evangelism” as “sharing our life with non-Christians” (who Henderson refers to as “the Missing” instead of “the Lost.” I think that this is a great starting point. But Henderson falls into the common trap of playing to the lowest-common-denominator that is prevalent within the emerging church. For example, the emerging church is quick to challenge the clergy/laity distinction. This unfortunately results in a church filled with lay people instead of a church filled with clergy. This plays out in the sphere of evangelism by making evangelism about authentic attempts at showing kindness, without much concern for content. So instead of talking about how we can foster a deeper understanding and experience of faith among Christians and then encourage them to authentically share all of their life with others as they build open friendships, Henderson plays to the lowest common denominator and says that any authentic sharing of life with others is evangelism.

In spite of my criticism, the book has some great insights. It is a great book to help someone break the ice, to begin to start noticing people, or to help them grow authentically in their friendships with “the missing.” Many Christians are paralyzed by fear when it comes to evangelism because they have been duped into thinking evangelism is about making a sales pitch, winning an argument, or articulating arcane mystical truths. This book takes the pressure off and helps Christians to simply begin to be more open and generous in their interactions with others.

In short, the book offers much in terms of style, but precious little in terms of content. In its effort to take the pressure off, it takes the pressure completely away. To compensate for this book?s weaknesses, I?d recommend that it should be read alongside a book like Brian McLaren?s More Ready Than You Realize-which offers helpful content but shares some of the same sensibilities as a.k.a. Lost.

for further reading . . .

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2 Responses to “aka “Lost””

  1. b-nut on October 26th, 2006 7:59 pm

    Do you think that it is worth saving the concept of evangelism? Wouldn’t the concepts of reconciliation and redemption offer a more holistic approach to union with the Divine and the roles of Christians in human relationships? Maybe ‘evangelism’ is too far abused or tainted to be of much worth.

  2. Van S on October 27th, 2006 10:19 pm

    You’re probably right, b-nut. I think “evangelism” is tainted goods. And one can still talk about the Gospel (ie, the evangel) and reconciliation and redemption and even “witness” without nearly so much baggage.

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