This is going to be one of the best books I read this year. I just know it.
A year or so ago, I encountered Hugh Halter and his concept of "whimsical holiness" through his book "Flesh: Learning to Be Human Like Jesus." Hugh provided a fresh, Gospel-driven direction for our Christian living and witnessing. It was such a simple, beautiful notion: The Gospel, presented rightly, draws and woos. It doesn't repel. So, we can speak plain truth about Jesus while keeping our current friends, and maybe we'll even make some new friends.
Now, Mary Schaller and John Crilly have come out with this incredible little volume "The Nine Arts of Spiritual Conversations." If you've ever wanted to share your faith, ever wanted to give somebody something that matters so much to you, then this is the book you've been waiting for. I wish it could be packaged as a double feature with "Flesh," because it explores all the questions that Hugh's book raised.
Mary and Crilly know that the Gospel is truly good news, and they both want to spread that good news. We all know the word for this activity. It's evangelism. We also know that evangelism is a wonderful thing that's been used in a bad way. We've all been burned by an ill-timed and insensitive application of the Gospel. Sometimes we were the ones playing with fire, sometimes someone else was juggling flames in our vicinity. Either way, it hurts.
Mary and Crilly have a vision- to replace "ready, aim, fire" evangelism with humane and honest engagement. Simple, essential, revolutionary. We'd match God's truth to the situation in front of us; we'd dispense God's love to this particular human being; and we'd recognizing that this person has an individual story that's a part of the ongoing Gospel story.
Crilly and Mary do a fabulous job showing that converting a soul is God's work, and that calling out to a soul is our work. We can be the ones who notice and listen and welcome somebody in. God will do the inner transformation, he will impart his Spirit.
"The Nine Arts of Spiritual Conversations" is a pleasure to read. First because the ideas presented are so vital, and second because it's packed full of good quotes. I really enjoy books where the authors quote widely, because it's like sitting in on a conversation between multiple thinkers.
So. Don't let the simple cover and title of this book fool you. It's an undiscovered gem. If you're ready to hit the street and the office and the dinner table with the message of Jesus, then bring this book with you.
Thank you to Tyndale Momentum for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest opinion.