I have had Aldrich’s book Lifestyle Evangelism so long that I still chuckle when I look at the cover – it has two couples dressed in decidedly 80s fashion visiting together while sitting on a wall. The new cover is much better. I guess Christian publishers have learned to cease putting pictures of folks on the cover of books?
The whole focus of the book is intended to help educate Christians on how to “share their faith” through their relationships. Aldrich’s contribution to this essential Christian discipline and lifestyle is enormous.
The author first of all debunks the idea that evangelism is the work of the Christian. Rather, it is the work of God. God alone convicts of sin, calls people and draws them to Himself. However, Christians are both the medium through which God’s great truths and message of forgiveness are made known AND the means of making God known.
Aldrich continually points out that the church (a gathering a local believers) is the bride of Christ and therefore should be a beauty to behold. He points out Jesus’ words that said that the world would know that He was sent by the Father if his believers loved one another.
When you encounter a bickering group of Christians, it does irreparable harm to the gospel of Christ. That’s why the New Testament apostles were urgent and authoritative in their declarations about how Christians should treat one another.
When Christians and churches live a lifestyle of humility, obedience, and truly put one another’s interests before their own, they become a people through whom God reveals Himself to a lost world. The more sensitive a group of people are to God, the more attractive and beautiful they become to a watching world.
Aldrich points out that Christians cannot simply live “good lives” in front of their communities but rather they must speak and proclaim the truth of the gospel verbally to be an ongoing explanation of why they live the way they do.
Some churches focus on service to the exclusion of gospel proclamation while others focus on proclamation to the exclusion of service. Both are ultimately necessary and focusing exlusively on either extreme leads to imbalance.
Relationship alone is not enough. No one is good enough to let just his life speak for Christ. Words are necessary to point beyond himself to Christ.
I love one of his idioms. He says that in order to portray Christ and faith in Him as beautiful, we must not look like we were weaned on dill pickles.
To some Christians, the very word “evangelism” makes them break out in a cold sweat. They envision memorizing a long presentation and knocking on the door of a stranger to shove rote content down an unwilling neighbor’s throat.
Aldrich redefines evangelism as simply expressing what you possess in Christ.
Personally, I thought the two best chapters in the book were the one on Avoiding Evil Instead of its Appearance in which the author does a magnificent job of explaining how Christians are to relate with non-Christians. How far should we go to establish a relationship with them? Jesus was accused by the religious elite as being a drunkard and a “friend of sinners.” To what extent should we go to befriend those who are living remarkably “unChristian” lifestyles?
Another chapter that I thought was particularly well-written was the one entitled Evangelism and the Church Body which deals with how a church can become more beautiful.
This resource is an excellent one that has been around for a while now (first published in 1981), but its tone and teaching are greatly needed in the church today.