A few years ago for a personal evangelism class, we had to pick a book about evangelism (from a list of book options), to read and write a brief review. I chose the old classic How to Give Away your Faith by Paul Little, essentially because I already owned this book, but had not read it, and I’d not have to spend money on a new book. Since I wrote this in 2012, the book is not fresh in my mind. However, one thing I still remember – I was genuinely surprised how a book from 1966 still seemed relevant and not “dated” in its approach or suggestions. Here is the brief review I wrote then, with some new thoughts in brackets.
How to Give Away Your Faith by Paul Little
I wish I’d read this book sooner in my Christian life because I learned a great deal from Little’s down-to-earth and practical approach. It is hard to believe the book was published in 1966 because it seems relevant to our modern day. Many of the issues and concerns people have about faith (and sharing it) are timeless.
Little says that Christians too often isolate themselves from non-Christians, and need to look for opportunities to have social contact with them. I particularly agreed with this statement: “The art of friendship has been lost by many Christians because they feel their time is being wasted when it’s not invested in a specific religious activity.” [This is certainly not true of all Christians but definitely a problem for some.] I’ve had many international students live in my home and it takes time and commitment to form relationships with them. In spending time with students regularly, opportunities to share the Gospel come up naturally instead of being forced. However, besides this work with students, I have otherwise not been good at forming social contacts with non-Christians in my community. I am convicted and challenged to form more social contacts with non-believers. [Update: Since 2012, I have improved with this.]
At several points in the book Little emphasizes that we shouldn’t impose our behavior patterns on non-Christians. The chapter called “Hurdling Social Barriers” gives practical ideas for handling people who smoke or use foul language, how to gracefully bow out of an inappropriate activity, and has thoughts on handling prayer before you eat a meal. I thought this advice was valid and helpful. Too often we expect non-Christians to have Christian standards, and turn them off as a result.
[Today I think some Christians have become too lax in their personal behavior standards and can sadly look little different from non-believers. There would not even be an “inappropriate activity” for them. Not that I am encouraging legalism or rigid rule keeping either!]
I thought the “Why We Believe” chapter was exceptional. Little addresses seven common questions (objections) people have to Christian faith and how to handle them. We can make things easier for ourselves if we are prepared ahead of time, instead of being dumbfounded. I like a general point he makes that the best defense is a good offense. We don’t want to be answering questions all the time, and we should ask questions in order to direct the conversation and challenge the unbeliever to think.
Little’s book has many great thoughts on practical Christian living. At first, this may seem off topic as it is not directly about evangelism. Yet, it is about evangelism! I think Christians often fail in sharing their faith because they are failing in their Christian life.
I also appreciated Little’s encouraging tone throughout the book. What if we have really messed up in our evangelism? Even if we have, it is not too late to turn things around. Overall this was an exceptional book that I would recommend to others.