Book Review — More Ready Than You Realize

More Ready Than You Realize: Evangelism as Dance in the Postmodern Matrix
Brian McLaren
Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2002

How many of us have come to believe the old adage that it’s not polite to talk about religion or politics? By contrast, Brian McLaren writes in the introduction to his book, More Ready Than You Realize, “…most people want to talk about things that really matter – their sense of God, their experiences of meaning or transcendence, their attempts to cope with their own mortality, their struggles with guilt and goodness, their dreams and hopes and deepest longings. They want to talk about these things because without them, all that is left in life is reruns and shopping, copulation and digestion, earning and spending and saving, culminating in estate sales and probate.”

Evangelism has gotten a bad name over the years because it has been done so non-Christ-like. We can all tell stories of people who tried to “evangelize” us at one time or another – when we were under-valued, judged, manipulated, argued with, and seen as nothing more than a possible convert. Of course, this deserves a bad name – it’s not at all the way Jesus influenced people. Jesus was about relationship building and serving others. McLaren says, “Good evangelism is the process of being friendly without discrimination and influencing all of one’s friends toward better living, through good deeds and good conversation.” He says this type of evangelism in the style of Jesus “flows like a dance.” In this book we get to experience one of those dances.

More Ready Than You Realize is the record of Brian’s conversations with one young woman called Alice. She was the harpist hired by the bookstore for one of his book signings. Because he offered her help in lifting her harp into her vehicle after the event, they began a series of conversations both in person and by email. This book looks at how that friendship developed as they dealt with deep spiritual issues, questions, etc. by using the actual emails gleaned from the conversation. Not only do we get to witness a young woman come to faith, but McLaren effectively analyzes the conversation in light of postmodern culture and understanding.

“If you have grown up with the Bible, you have no idea how difficult the book can be fore the uninitiated – until you enter a spiritual friendship with someone like Alice.” One of the greatest benefits of entering into an evangelism dance with someone is not in watching them come to Christ, but in the additional insight they can bring to your faith. Time and time again, Alice would ask questions which would scare us off, if we thought our role was to get the right answer. But as long as we are intentionally involved in a growing relationship with Christ ourselves, the best answer is our most honest answer. God will use our vulnerability and our searching to bring us both closer to Christ.

This book is easy to read. Brian writes with a very honest, refreshing style, that is easy to understand. Being a witness to his spiritual dance with Alice can empower you to enter into a spiritual conversation of your own with someone God has placed in your life. This book is good not only for personal reading, but it can be used by small groups and Sunday school classes as well.

And, as an added gift, Brian offers a 7 session Bible study on Matthew 28:16-20 – those verses we’ve come to know as the Great Commission – in appendix 1. The Bible Study alone is worth the price of the book.

I was elated, after reading this book a few years ago, to actually meet “Alice” at the Emergent Convention in Nashville last month and to hear her striking and inspiring music. Brian McLaren was also very excited to share with us that she is now attending seminary. It’s nice to know that “Alice” is not a composite or fantasy, that their conversation and friendship is real, and that God is continuing to call them both closer to him and deeper into ministry.

Originally published in Connections, a publication of the Presbytery of New Covenant, Summer 2005