Mainline Evangelism … Unbinding the Gospel

I always thought I should write a book, “Evangelism for Liberals”.  I actually have a very basic outline for one based on Luke 10:1-11, the sending of the seventy.  The problem with most mainline churches is that we just don’t have the same urgency about evangelism as our more evangelical sisters and brothers.  Not only is Evangelism not a priority, but we have a very distasteful image of evangelists.  Knocking on doors, bad toupees, fear and guilt, and intolerance.

Martha Grace Reese conducted the largest study of mainline congregations and evangelism.  Her research showed — we don’t do evangelism very well — surprise, surprise.  But, here’s the thing … of the mainline congregations that were growing there were three very basic commonalities … so basic, she says, that you might miss them at first.

  1. Members have a deep and personal spiritual life.
  2. Members talk about and can articulate their faith in everyday language.
  3. Members and pastoral leadership of the congregation have a very palpable compassion for the people who are yet to join the congregation.

Martha Grace has written a series of books based on her research and follow-up research of mainline congregations called the “Unbinding” series.  She begins with Unbinding the Gospel, which is the first book (the one with the red ribbon on the cover); it details the findings of her research and asks congregations to begin by developing a prayer life and community and thinking about who is still longing for a spiritual life with Christ.

Last week 27 pastors from the two presbyteries (Monmouth and New Brunswick) joined me and Martha Grace on one of two telephone conference calls to discuss the possibility of using Unbinding the Gospel in their congregations.   Most of these pastors have committed to beginning a test study of the book with a small group of leaders this spring to see if the book might have traction in their congregations.  These leaders will not only read the book together, but join in a 40 day prayer journey together.  If the book seems to be a good fit with them and their congregations, they will move on to an all-church study and evangelism emphasis over the next two years.  Let’s pray together for our pastors and congregations who are using Unbinding the Gospel.  Please leave a comment here, if you want specific prayers for your congregation as we move forward in this together.

Other books in the Unbinding series:

All of the books are available through the links above at at a decent discount.  For the best price on the books, visit Martha Grace’s website and they will share the cheapest options.  There are many other resources, too, at

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