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The Invitation
A Theology of Evangelism
PAPERBACK; Published: 10/12/2021
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7622-5
Price: $ 24.99
295 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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Moving beyond conversionism 

Many Christians today are uncomfortable with older, simpler notions about evangelism as conversionism but see as insufficient the more progressive model of evangelism as hospitality. Transcending that dichotomy, Richard Osmer advances a theology of evangelism as a multifaceted act of invitation into Christ-following community. 

Osmer begins by exploring references to evangelism in the New Testament—both in the Gospels and in the letters of Paul. He then enters into dialogue with Karl Barth to work through ideas of church witness and the relationship of evangelism to salvation. Finally, with lucid explanations and illustrative case studies, he offers guidance for pastors, laity, and students to use as they reimagine how evangelism might best happen in their churches and missional organizations. Osmer’s approach mirrors the conviction, stated in his introduction, that our concept of evangelism must be formed and constantly reformed by keeping the Bible, church doctrine, and practical theology in conversation.

Foundational to Osmer’s rendering of evangelism as invitation is the essential truth that it is Christ and the Holy Spirit who calls converts and makes disciples—not Christians. Thus, we can invite our neighbors to the wedding feast while remaining reassured that the table is already set.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Evangelism as Invitation
Part One: Evangelism in Dialogue with Scripture
          1. Evangelism and the Apostle Paul
          2. Evangelism and the Gospel according to Mark
          3. Evangelism and the Gospel of John
Part Two: Evangelism in Dialogue with Karl Barth
          4. Evangelization and the Church as Witness
          5. Evangelization and Salvation
Part Three: The New Evangelization
          6. Evangelization as a Ministry of the Church
          7. Teaching Evangelization as Practical Theology
Appendix 1: The Motif of “The Jews” and the Theme of Conflict in John
Appendix 2: Sample Cases
Appendix 3: Guidelines for Evangelization

The Academy of Parish Clergy Top Ten Book List for Parish Ministry (2022)
“Richard Osmer has written the definitive book on evangelism today and likely for years to come. It is biblically rigorous, theologically erudite, lucidly written, and often quite moving. His remarkable students at Princeton Seminary have taught him how to think about the good news in ways that are full of profound hope. And now that crucible of learning is available to us between these covers. This is essential reading for anyone in practical theology, Scripture, Barth studies, soteriology, or anyone who wants to share good news with their neighbor without coming off as a creep, or just to be a human being in love with God and others.”
— Jason Byassee
coauthor of Following: Embodied Discipleship in a Digital Age
“In this significant, scholarly, and accessible study, Richard Osmer unpacks the inherited church’s practice of evangelism as conversionism, with its accompanying limitations. He then offers a robust theology of evangelism as invitation, grounded in Scripture and theology. This volume offers a timely and deeply thoughtful contribution to the study and practice of evangelism. Highly recommended for seminary students and ministry practitioners.”
— Elaine A. Heath
author of The Mystic Way of Evangelism: A Contemplative Vision for Christian Outreach
“Richard Osmer has done Christians a great service by examining the cultural and theological toolkits with which conversionist approaches to evangelism operate, placing them in dialogue with the gospels and the theology of Karl Barth. While respectful of conversionist approaches, he demonstrates the way they rely heavily on cultural ideas and habits, such as individualism, that are incongruous with the scriptural witness and the church’s calling by Christ to be a missional community in the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Osmer’s use of case studies gives to his examination a concreteness and liveliness from which readers will gain insight, clarity, and motivation.”
— Bryan Stone
author of Evangelism after Pluralism: The Ethics of Christian Witness
“Evangelism has long been a topic that causes Christians to squirm. Varying understandings and practices tend to be murky if not conflicting. Osmer provides a beautiful reimagining of evangelism that is deeply rooted in theology and Scripture. He manages to untangle the complexities found in various traditions and provides the reader with a hope-filled understanding of this invitation to the gospel message. It can be difficult to appeal to both the academic guild and the local church, but Osmer does this brilliantly. This is practical theology at its very best.”
— Amanda J. Drury
associate professor of practical theology at Indiana Wesleyan University
“With biblical and theological depth, pastoral sensitivity, and attentiveness to real contexts where Christian faith is lived out, Osmer takes on the hallowed American tradition of ‘evangelism as conversionism.’ Bringing his students’ case studies into nuanced conversation with Scripture and the theology of Karl Barth, Osmer exposes the many weaknesses attending approaches to evangelism centered in human agency, i.e., ‘making a decision for Christ.’ As one of the leading practical theologians of our time, Osmer reconstructs evangelism around Barth’s theme of ‘Christ in our place,’ encouraging a recentering of the church’s evangelical calling in divine agency and the startling invitation of God, who, in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, accomplishes for us what we can never accomplish for ourselves.”
— Thomas John Hastings
executive director of the Overseas Ministries Study Center at Princeton Theological Seminary