Matt Mikalatos is an energetic and enthusiastic evangelist who has served with Cru for over 20 years and has experimented with numerous methods of proclaiming the gospel to the lost. In Good News for a Change he shares some of his passion and methods as he encourages his readers to intentionally share the good news of Christ with those the Lord brings in their pathways. “The point of this book,” the author writes, “Is to talk about ways we can more fully participate with God in the beautiful work of bringing human beings back into the loving embrace of the one who made them” (p. xviii). Specifically, he wants “to talk about how to have conversations about Jesus where even people hostile to Christianity thank you afterward and feel loved and excited about the conversation” (p. xviii).
This is a tall order given that in the New Testament reports that the unsaved think the gospel is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18), and Jesus promised that just as the world hated Him they will hate His followers (John 15:18). Ignoring such scriptures, Mikalatos assures us that people are desperately waiting for someone to start a conversation about the good news (p. 29). How can this be? The author’s approach is basically to remove the “foolish” aspect of the good news (what I like to call “unfoolish the gospel”) and present it in a way that is attractive. If millennials are unconcerned about their eternal destiny, tell them that the good news provides a means of making the world a better place to live and fixing their brokenness (pp. 24-25) – who would not want to talk about such a message? And if people stumble over the word and understanding of sin, use terms such as “messed up” or “broken places” (pp. 49, 119-123). If you can craft the gospel in attractive language and promise that Christ came to meet their felt needs, people will pay attention. But of course, that is not the biblical gospel. It is no wonder he can convince a Buddhist in 15 minutes to pray the sinner’s prayer – the Buddhist has been given a false idea of the good news (pp. xix, 95). And the author is convinced that a drugged-out man he met on the beach, who prayed the prayer but the next day didn’t even recall the conversation, is truly saved (pp. 164-165). There is no discussion of repentance in Mikalato’s methodology; he misunderstands why many disapprove of the “Four Spiritual Laws” (p. 23); and believes it is difficult to do evangelism the wrong way“ (p. xvii). Yet, concerning this latter statement the author offers many examples of those who present it in wrong ways (pp. 2, 57, 78, 79, 129). He tells of a bazarre story in which he studies the cartoons of “My Little Pony” in order to connect the storyline to the gospel to witness to a “Bronie” (pp. 60-67). (Bronies are grown men who love this cartoon.)
As can be seen, much of the book is a distortion of the true gospel and should be avoided. However, there are a few methological takeaways that are on target. He cautions concerning the use of Christian jargon that is incomprehensible to the unsaved (pp. 116-123). He suggests five spiritual conversation starters which have merit: ask questions, build a relationship, not an agenda, take your time, put people before presentation and ask permission to go deeper (pp. 35-39). And in discussions with people who have been put off or offended by Christians or Christianity, he advises that, instead of becoming defensive, we relate and ask the individual to “tell me more about that” (p. 141). This is wise counsel. However given the frothy, and even distorted gospel message, I cannot recommend this book.
Good News for a Change, How to Talk to Anyone About Jesus by Matt Mikalatos (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2018) 179pp. + xix, paper $15.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel