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Evangelism in the Small Membership Church

Author: Royal Speidel
Published By: Abingdon Press (Nashville)
Pages: 142
Price: £7.99
ISBN: 978 0 687 33579 4

Reviewed by Davd Faulkner.

I have mixed feelings on this book. Royal Speidel, a retired minister of the United Methodist Church in the USA, brings the wisdom gleaned from decades in ministry to his writing. He shares both successes and failures. His section containing questions to help church members articulate their own faith story (p.42f) is priceless. So too is what he has to say about the rôle of passion in ministry, especially when your passion does not fit the job you are in (pp.52ff), and his chapter on excelling - both in our strengths and in our weaknesses.

Yet I also have reservations, and they can mostly be explained by reference to the book’s title. First, this is not a book purely about evangelism, as you might expect. Speidel includes much wisdom about ministry itself. This is not a bad thing, and I shall file my copy in the ‘leadership’ section of my books. However, the title means you might miss many of the gems he has to offer. Second, this being an American book, there is inevitably a different understanding of what constitutes a small church. The working definition here is of a congreagation under one hundred members. Thus for the British context he covers ground that would also be useful for what we would understand as medium-sized churches. Again, the title would mean people might miss a valuable book.

However, my third and final reservation is the most serious. Speidel works with a model of evangelism and church life that is fast passing away in our culture, and probably will in the States, too. It is the concept that evangelism can purely be done by an ‘attractional’ model - that, with a few changes, many people can be brought into congregations as we know them. That constituency is shrinking fast in the UK, and this reviewer is more committed to the ‘missional’ model that seeks to place God’s people in the world, reaching people for Christ and then shaping church accordingly. This book in that respect reads like a time capsule from twenty to thirty years ago. I recommend it, then, with reservations.

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You are reading Issue 50 of Ministry Today, published in November 2010.

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