Harvie M. Conn is professor of missions at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, where he has served since 1972. He was a missionary in Korea from 1960 to 1972. His numerous books and articles include The American City and the Evangelical Church and Eternal Word and Changing Worlds: Theology, Missions, and Anthropology in Trialogue; he continues to edit Urban Mission.
Reviews - What do customers think about Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace?
well recommended intro to evangelism vs social action topic Feb 8, 2006
I come to this book as part of a directed study on the topic of Ministries of Mercy in the conservative Presbyterian Church, which ought to result in a Sunday School class in about 8 months. This is probably the most recommended book to me via email or short bibliographies on the topic. Certainly H.Conn is held in high esteem in the Church for his body on work on the topic. Therefore this is simply one of the have-to-read books on my list.
Oftentimes such books are a disappointment and over hyped, this is not that way, but rather is a good introduction to the relationship of evangelism and justice. The author speaks not just from reading other books but from experience, plus incorporates as much 1st hand activism into the book as he can to prove his points. It is written to the level of interested laypeople and is suitable and probably addressed to an adult Church-based class working on these or similiar issues. It is a short quick read, with chapter 4-Prayer: Where Word and Deed come together being the climax of it and therefore the recommended chapter to read while sitting in a bookstore deciding whether to buy the book or not.
The theme of the book is on the first page: "this is an effort to look at the relation between evangelism and social questions as two sides fo the same coin." pg 9 He starts the discussion with an excellent example: "contextualization, the art of planting the gospel seed in a culture's diverse soils without also planting the flower pot". It is this type of writing and thinking that makes the book both enjoyable to read and a pleasure to follow his thinking. Another example in this same vein is pg 29 where he points out that the neighborhood bar is the secular substitute for an intimate experience with other people, what the Church ought to be and is not, all to often.
It is an important book, worthwhile the time to read and digest, rightfully high on the recommended book list for the topic.
Doing Justice and Preaching Grace Apr 8, 2005
I think this is a great book for people who are trying to think biblically about sharing their faith. I recently penned some reflections about this book on See Life Differently: As some of you know, Ryan and I hope to plant a church in Missoula, MT after we finish seminary next year. Of course, that raises a very important question: What exactly is the church? What makes us any different from the Mormons, the JWs, or the local Elks Club?
What really makes a church, a church? If we intend to plant one, we better have a good answer.
Now we're not the first ones to ask this question. In his book, Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace, Harvie Conn lists 4 basic criteria:
proclamation - true churches should be proclaiming God's words (not man's), and that means calling people to repent and believe the gospel (cf. Mk 1:15)
fellowship - true churches should do more than just talk - they should be a community of believers who actually spend time doing stuff together: eating, praying, singing (cf. Acts 2:42)
service - true churches should also serve one another, meeting needs within the body (Acts 6:34)
worship - perhaps most importantly, the church is called to worship God together in unison, corporately (cf. 1 Cor 11)
These are all important. But Conn goes one step further: for the church to really be the church, we must also be concerned with justice.
Now this may sound a little suspicious - especially for us evangelical types who are extremely wary of 'liberals' and 'social justice'. What's interesting, however, is that the OT prophets repeatedly slam Israel's leaders, not just for false worship, but for failing to seek justice for the poor, to care for the fatherless (cf. Is 1:17)!
Fast forward to the NT, and we find Jesus rooting his own messianic claims in the fact that he fulfills Isaiah's prophecy: "the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them" (Mt 11:5, quoting Is 61).
The point here is that Jesus links the preaching of the gospel with the healing and liberation of people who are weak, sick, oppressed (whether by sickness, or the powerful). Maybe this is why James says that "true religion is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep one unstained from the world." (Jms 1:27, cf. 2:14-17).
Conn's point is that the good news of the gospel actually entails 2 distinct realities: grace and justice. If we preach the one without practicing the other, unbelievers will sense the inconsistency and reject the message. And that's because God designed it that way - grace without justice is not the gospel; its religious rhetoric.
A refreshing Look at what it means to be a Christian... Feb 10, 2000
Even though most of this book was written in the 70's and early 80's the message that Prof. Conn imbues in his 112 page text is still perfectly pertinent to Christians today. Addressing both a study of the misguided state of the modern Church and ministry and their inability to reach the sinful and the "sinned" against, Prof. Conn gracefully argues the pertinence and relevance for the kind of "mercy" ministry which Christ exemplified by His life on earth. Prof. Conn's approach calls each and every "Christian" to think of themselves as a missionary who's neither defined by home or foreign missions but simply a missionary to the world.
I had the honor and blessing of meeting Prof. Conn and he was as pleasantly humble, caring and kind in person as he comes across in this book. Sadly though Prof. Conn has since passed away. He was truly an individual who thought outside of the box and he will be greatly missed by many.
Excellent. This book will hurt you. Jan 20, 2000
Dr. Conn presents a stirring and compelling call to holistic evangelism, the presentation of a gospel through "show and tell." His call to an evangelism that embraces the needs of individuals as sinners and as sinned-against is a much needed wake-up call for our church that has tended towards hoarding rather than spreading the good news of the gospel. Conn reminds us that the gospel saves, and saves completely. This book will hurt you.