Book Review: Evangelism Without Additives

Book Review by Mark Tidsworth

Evangelism Without Additives, Jim Henderson. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2005, 2007.

When was the last time you read a good, helpful book on evangelism? Or better yet, when was the last time you read any book on evangelism? Or even more, perhaps you determined to never read a book on evangelism again. Being in a similar boat, I surprised myself by reading this one – only to prepare to do coach training with a class of Lutherans who were completing a class based on this book. Given that strange combination of bedfellows (Lutherans, an evangelism class, and coach training), my curiosity was stoked.

When it comes to evangelism, many Christians are experts on what we don’t want to do – on the kind of Christians we don’t want to be. We are largely fed-up with the kind of evangelism which does more harm than good to the good news of the gospel. The result – many of us throw the evangelism baby out with the bath water.

But finally, here is a fresh approach. If Brian McLaren writes the Foreword, then surely it has something to offer, right? And then this tag line on the front cover sealed the deal for opening and reading, “What if sharing your faith meant just being yourself?” Witty humor, pithy statements, plus good stories had me laughing and actually enjoying a book on evangelism (who would have thunk it?).

Allow me to share some of the deconstructing this Baptist pastor turned consultant/trainer offers.

“Let’s face it, traditional evangelism is simply too hard for normal Christians. It’s really designed for extroverts, those with the gift of evangelism, and the few who were created to be salespeople. That leaves us ordinary types out of the game.”

“I resigned from witnessing in 1996. I knew I could never go back to the same old programs, the contrived joviality, or the fake evangelistic caring. But what would I replace them with?”

What refreshing honesty from an insider in the Christian evangelism game. Thank you Jim Henderson!

But where to from here? The bulk of this book is about learning to love people. That’s the bottom line for Henderson – ordinary attempts to love others – this is the essence of our faith, and of evangelism in this new understanding.

One example is the “Free Attention Giveaway.” This is just what you might think, an attempt by an ordinary person to give attention to someone. One’s motivation is love, along with a desire to nudge them toward Jesus who loves them. The action is paying attention, asking about them, listening, and caring. That’s it. It’s not the preamble to the sales pitch. Instead one trusts the person into God’s care. This is the beginning of a more authentic and genuine evangelism…simply loving people.

Take a look at Evangelism Without Additives. I was surprised. I’m hoping to find a group with whom to engage the discussion guide at the book’s end. Perhaps we are finally moving toward something good and positive, out of the ashes of a worn-out deceased paradigm.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA