John Calvin Meets Martha Stewart: Doing Presbyterian Evangelism in an Age of Cell Phones, Survivor and the Super Wal-Mart

In recent months, we’ve had the privilege of selling books at several
different events. Over recent years, we have come to appreciate our friends
in the Penn South East Conference of the UCC, and it was great to be with
them at their annual gathering. The next week, I was pleased, as always,
to hang out with the CCO new staff for a day; I challenged them to think
about campus ministry in light of the Old Testament exile and the need
to navigate fidelity like Daniel did in Babylon.

The Jonathan Edwards Institute annual conference in Annapolis is an amazing
and significant event, with important authors like T.M. Moore, Os Guinness,
David Wells and Bryan Chappell and workshops by good friends (who are
also good authors), Drew Trotter, Steve Garber, Denis Haack and Bill Edgar.

The Synod of the Trinity of the Presbyterian Church (USA) had its 50th
anniversary, week-long Synod School at Juniata College, and it was my
honor not only to sell books, but to do one of the plenary convocation
addresses. Synod School is a low-key, intergenerational community that
means more and more to me each year.

At Synod School I spoke on a topic which is important to — and intentionally
discussed at — each of the aforementioned events. In broadest terms,
it is the question of the relation of Christ and culture. (Interestingly,
both the evangelical and mainline flagship magazines, Christianity
and The Christian Century respectively, had very helpful
articles in recent months about R. Niehbur’s important book, Christ
and Culture
, which has recently been reissued in a 50th anniversary
edition. And, happily, Richard Mouw’s fabulous He Shines in
All That’s Fair: Culture & Common Grace
continues to
garner rave reviews… )

My topic was more than my routine take on Christ and culture, text and
context, reading the Word and the world, though. It was quite specifically
about evangelism. And how to share the gospel of sovereign grace in a
time such as ours, in the milieu of materialism and consumerism, individualism
and self-reliance, of fast-paced change, hyperchoice and status. Hence,
the title: “John Calvin Meets Martha Stewart: Doing Presbyterian
Evangelism in an Age of Cell Phones, Survivor and the Super Wal-Mart.”

The bibliographies that follow were designed for this fairly typical
mainstream denominational setting. But I dedicate it here to the new staff
of the CCO. May they, of all people, reflect upon, study, and enact creative
and faithful ways to embody the Kingdom reign of God, erecting signposts
pointing towards the New Earth, and regularly inviting others to the community
of the King. A whole-life Christian worldview, of course, leads to bold
initiatives for Christian witness in every sector of life and society.
May such a vision also provide a framework for doing fruitful evangelism.
May these books remind you of those who have done good work before us,
giving us the insight and tips we need, and may we all find our place
as winsome agents of reconciliation, ambassadors of the Spirit-movement
called the Kingdom of God.

Before you click on the annotated listings of my favorite recommendations
on evangelism and cultural criticism, let me note one wonderful, wonderful
book that just came in and didn’t make the orginal lists. It is a
perfect starter for anyone considering creating a home environment which
is open for hospitality and creating a lifestyle that exudes care, kindness,
purpose and vision. It is a simple, well-written and altogether lovely
book by Andi Ashworth (wife and partner with Christian musician, producer
and author, Charlie Peacock-Ashworth) entitled Real Love for Real
Life: The Art and Work of Caring
(Shaw, $10.99). This beautiful
paperback is an invitation to serve God in the daily chores of home-making
and life-making, of offering care for others, of learning to love God,
place, calling and, of course, people. What a creative and joy-filled
art such service can be for those who use imagination and caring to create
space for ministry. This is an intelligent and good defense of deeply
human ways of being and a warm antidote to the harsh speed of postmodern
culture. A very, very good book!

Now, to the bibliographies: