Can a book published 40 years ago speak with relevance to our situation in a post-Christian COVID-obsessed world riddled with violence and injustice? It depends, but it is likely that if the book is part of the Multnomah Press, “CRITICAL CONCERN” series, that the answer is yes. Yesterday, I was in a conversation with a couple of pastors and remembered a concept from one of those books but blanked on both the title and author. (I guess I am getting old but maybe I just needed more coffee!) By the end of the conversation, I had remembered the name but wanted to get the quote right for the pastors.
A search of my shelves yesterday evening yielded the book and I began to read until I could find the quote. It didn’t take long. Joe Aldrich’s book, Life-Style Evangelism: Crossing Traditional Boundaries to Reach the Unbelieving World, was ground-breaking 40 years ago and it is easy to see why. The writing is crisp, well edited and straight to the point. In the introduction, Aldrich lays out five challenges to gospel witness and evangelism in particular that American Christians face and the principles he shares continue to ring true in September of 2021. Here’s the first:
“First, the need to relate to the ever-increasing number of people in our daily experience has crippled our ability to relate effectively to even one person. Excessive relational demands have crippled our relational capacities. There are simply too many people. A casual stroll down the street brings me face to face with dozens of people every minute. I must pass by them and treat them as indifferently as parts of machinery moving down an assembly line. To make matters worse, population densities of most metropolitan areas reinforce alienation and indifference.
This attitude of isolation becomes a way of life. I don’t want to bother you, and I don’t want you to bother me. Am I my brother’s keeper? By all means—No! Unable to relate to hordes of people, my mind concludes that there are no people. Asia’s teeming millions don’t exist. ‘What people? I don’t see any people.’ One million people become zero.”
(p. 16, blue emphasis added)
I recommend the book, if you want to increase your evangelistic effectiveness.
Oh, and I am definitely getting old. What I quoted to the pastors as a quote from the book isn’t in the book. Turns out for years, when I have quoted the book from memory I was quoting myself rather than Joe Aldrich. Opps!
In the margin I have written these words next to the quote above.
“In a world where I know I can’t care for everyone,
I begin to not care for anyone.” mps
Let’s not let that happen. Let’s keep reminding ourselves that people need the gospel and the preaching of the gospel is the means of their salvation. Let’s be faithful to improve our skills while trusting the Lord to move according to His sovereign will in the lives of the people we meet.