Baptize is written by 20 authors and edited by Ivan Williams, NAD Ministerial Association director, and José Cortes, associate director. This book is the second in the series of books that is “a collective vision of pastors, members, and administrators to multiply the kingdom of God in North America through baptizing, equipping, planting, and revitalizing.”
They divided the book into eight sections focusing on different aspects of evangelism, including “Vision for Evangelism,” “Proclamation Presentations That Lead to Decisions,” and “Reconnecting and Reclaiming Former Members.” The chapters were written by a diversity of authors, who bring their experiential journey with evangelism. Each section’s first chapter is a devotional written by Cortes and is an introduction to the section and an admonition for readers to help their congregations process the practical implications of the section’s topic. Each following chapter applies the topic in the local church.
This book is unique compared to other books that I have read on evangelism. First, it does an excellent job going from the 35,000-foot overview of evangelism to homing in on how this looks in a local church. It talks not only about the need for evangelism in the church but also how a local pastor can practically make evangelism a part of his or her church’s ministry.
Second, from the very beginning, the gauntlet is thrown down with the idea that “evangelism needs to stop being just an event or a nonevent, which happens only during a season—in which only some participate—and become the lifestyle of each Adventist in North America, 24/7, 365 days a year. . . .
“It means we must continue to enhance what has worked, abandon what is not working, duplicate what is working for others in our context, find ways to become more innovative and effective in the fulfillment of mission” (12). In every chapter, despite being written by different authors, this truth clearly comes through.
Third, each chapter gives the reader practical steps on how to implement the topic in ministry. For example, the chapters in the section “Appeal and Baptisms” do not just discuss the importance of appeals. Every author, from their own context, shows how a pastor can make appeals and calls for decisions an ongoing part of his or her ministry. This pattern holds true throughout the book.
One section that I was especially excited to see as a part of this book was “Reconnecting and Reclaiming Former Members.” I think for many years, our focus as a church with evangelism has primarily been on the number of baptisms. This is what gets reported and measured to evaluate whether a church is “successful” in evangelism. However, just as important an aspect of evangelism is the retention of members and the reclamation of members who have left the church. Joanne Cortes and Tony Liriano do a great job in their respective chapters on how to not only reconnect with former members but also create a community where members are less apt to disconnect. Liriano gives what I consider an overarching principle of evangelism in the local church when he says, “We need to win those who are outside, but we must not lose those who are inside.” While we are called to baptize, if half of those who are baptized disconnect from the church within the first year, are we really fulfilling the gospel commission?
Overall, this book has done a fantastic job of not only showing the importance of evangelism in the local church but also giving very practical tools on how it can be accomplished. If the books that follow in this series are anything like this book, churches all over the world will be well resourced to fulfill our mission.