"I feel like a Hospice nurse," I sighed as I set down my bags. I had so many funerals in my small congregation that I had little time for anything other than caring for the dying.
"People need to hear the good news," says Katherine Willis Pershey of First Congregational Church in Western Springs, Illinois. "If the church doesn't take on this mission, I'm afraid—well, that's where that sentence can end. I'm afraid."
I'd like to see this award-winning journalist's book read by all Christians--from evangelicals who believe that their life's calling is to save souls to those Christians who, while denouncing proselytizing, feel called to offer compassionate, practical aid to those who need help. For either of the above missionary types, Griswold dispels illusions. She is fearless in following a story into the most remote village, and wise in her understanding of how religions collide and inflame and exacerbate volatile situations.
The questions started coming as soon as Billy Graham left the spotlight following his last crusade in 2005 in New York. Can anyone take his place as a galvanizing figure in American Christianity? What is the future of his style of evangelism—and, more specifically, of the organization he founded, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association? All that son Franklin Graham knows about the future of the organization that he now runs is this: “If I’m around 20 years from now, I’ll be doing the same thing—telling people about Jesus Christ.”The question is how many will be listening.
“How do we do effective evangelism? All our ‘outreach’ events are just another excuse for fellowship!” Our new associate pastor looked around at the outreach committee, but nobody answered him. He pressed his point. “I mean, how do we actually reach nonbelievers, not just believers?” Eventually a discussion got under way, and finally one idea stuck. Our town was known as a “jazz town,” with a couple of jazz venues that were always crowded. We hatched the idea of Jazz Night. We’d hire a name-brand jazz artist to play at the church, convert the sanctuary into a coffee shop atmosphere, put church brochures on the tables, be ready to greet people and then “let it rip.” What could go wrong?