Brian D. McLaren, Speaker and Author
Todd Hunter, National Director, Alpha USA; Former Director, Vineyard Churches USA
George G. Hunter, III Distinguished Professor of Evangelization, Asbury Theological Seminary
Becky Garrison, Senior Contributing Editor, Wittenburg Door
Jim Griffith, President, Griffith Coaching Network
Belva Brown Jordan, Assistant Director of Student Life, Harvard Divinity School
Richard Peace, UCC, Robert Boyd Munger Professor of Evangelism and Spiritual Formation at Fuller Theological Seminary
David Schoen, Evangelism Minister and Team Leader, United Church of Christ
Heads of Denominations
Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary, Reformed Church in America
Richard L. Hamm, former Disciples General Minister and President, currently Executive Administrator, Christian Churches Together
Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Robert Lee Hill, Senior Minister, Community Christian Church, Kansas City, MO
Bruce Humphrey, Senior Pastor, Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church, San Diego, California
Yolanda Villa, Executive Pastor of Congregational Care, The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kansas
Unbinding the Gospel is a power pack! Based on the extensive and authoritative research of Martha Grace Reese, and rooted in her passionate love for God and respect for the mainline church, this book provides the most competent guide I know to mainline evangelism. Unbinding the Gospel, like Reese, is the rarest of gifts: it give us authoritative facts that arm us for real change rather than simply being alarming; it provides data that moves one to action rather than further depressing those of us who care about mainline churches.
Reese does the extraordinary: she removes guilt and lack of confidence regarding evangelism with the whole story, honest interpretation and with fresh, non-judgmental and kind insights for change. Unbinding the Gospel is realistic, clear and direct; but also hopeful, humble and genuinely spiritual. Anyone who cares about and works in the cause of mainline evangelism will find this book a treasure." Todd Hunter, National Director, Alpha USA; Former Director, Vineyard Churches USA
"This new interesting book on the "E word" (Evangelism), based on studies of 150 churches and interviews with over 1000 people, will be a breath of fresh air in thousands of congregations who have not (at least within memory) had their "apostolic act" together. As I read it, other "E" words came to mind--like engaging, encouraging, energetic, and even entrepreneurial and exhilarating. The book makes the relevant statistics interesting, while telling us the stories of people who were reached, the churches that learned relevant ways to reach them, and the principles they learned. The book even tells churches how to get started!" George G. Hunter, Distinguished Professor of Evangelization, Asbury Theological Seminary
“Martha Grace Reese gently but persistently lures the Mainline back to the ministry of evangelism that is the heart of the church. Based on careful research and extensive listening, Unbinding the Gospel avoids gimmicks and the trap of the latest church growth fad, inviting pastors and members instead to a relationship with Christ that overflows the banks of our often cautious and reserved congregations. Filled with helpful suggestions for getting started, this book can convert even the most "evangelism-cautious" Christians into eager disciples who love others enough to tell them why Jesus is the answer.” John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Martha Grace Reese had written an interactive exciting work on Evangelism....It is practical, biblical, hospitable, it answers rudimentary questions. It is convicting and filled with grace. The exercises were simple yet engaging. I found myself laughing, and having moments of profound insight as I answered questions, and engaged the exercises. This book will be a great resource for small groups, chuches, pastors who are ready to be instruments of unleashing God's awesome Spirit in the world. Yolanda Villa, Executive Pastor of Congregational Care. The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kansas
"There is nothing quite like solid research to dispel the sort of misconceptions and self-serving biases and attitudes we of mainline churches have harbored for so long. Solid research is what Martha Grace Reese gives us, along with clear, thoughtful analysis and concrete prescriptions for how we can move forward in faithful and effective evangelism. She manages to do all this in a book that is completely accessible to both clergy and lay people and fun to read! It is an amazing and timely accomplishment!" Richard L. Hamm, former Disciples General Minister and President, currently President of The Columbia Partnership
With Martha Grace Reese's Unbinding the Gospel, we may well be welcoming a significant moment in the unbinding of the Church in North America, particularly among those who call themselves "mainliners." In her keen-eyed, level-headed, and big-hearted approach to evangelism there is a palpable sense of God's presence (and availability) in her life and in the lives of the congregations she has studied. She poses the empowering possibilities of new life for congregations and their leaders, with style, verve, and an abounding sense of joy and trust in God. In a time when it is so easy to beat up on churches, she offers warm encouragement and glad thanks for the holy healing and hope they bring to the world every day. In a time when clergy are encountering unprecedented difficulties in their attempts to abide in the embrace of the Church, she proffers wise guidance for enjoying the deep riches of congregational life and its blessings for those seeking authentic relationships with God and neighbors. In short, I want to jump into what will undoubtedly be a long line of congregation leaders who will want to convey one simple statement to Gay Reese: Thanks for writing your book! Robert Lee Hill, Senior Pastor, Community Christian Church, Kansas City, MO
"Mainline churches, like the Red Sox, have not won any evangelism series for a long time. Unbinding Your Heart breaks the curse by knocking one out of the park! Reese equips mainline church leaders with prayerful and practical tools needed to change the church through the power of Christ's redeeming love."
Becky Garrison, Senior Contributing Editor, Wittenburg Door, Author of Rising from the Ashes: Rethinking Church
"The Real LIfe Evangelism Series is a great resource for congregations! It is inspirational, motivational, and a great model and companion for congregrations as they seek to be faithful stewards of the Gospel." Belva Brown Jordan, Assistant Dean, Philips Theological Seminary, formerly Harvard Divinity School
“This book combines research and hard data with warm stories of real people growing their churches in healthy ways. The anecdotal material inspires each of us as followers of Jesus to grow more comfortable in sharing our faith. But as important is the research that informs our church leaders about congregational dynamics that impact the growth or stagnation of our churches. Reese has put together an approach to sharing the gospel that works in main line denominational churches. We are using this book as the primary resource for our elders in an upcoming leadership retreat.” Bruce Humphrey, Senior Pastor, Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church, San Diego, California
" I am delighted with the publication of Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism by Martha Grace Reese. It is just the kind of challenge we need in the mainline Protestant churches today! God is calling us to a deeper relationship to Jesus Christ and a fresh passion to share our faith with others. This book is a marvelous resource for mainline Christians and congregations to gain fresh perspectives on sharing the Good News and building the church in our time! I heartily recommend this book!" Clifton Kirkpatrick , Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
"Written with intelligence, heart and a sense of humor, this book is brimming with love for God and for God’s children. Unbinding the Gospel reads like a prayer for mainline churches and for the people God intends to reach through those churches. It is equally inspiration, motivation and “how to.” This is Real life evangelism for real life Christians. Let the praying and the telling of faith stories begin! Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
"Unbinding the Gospel" looks at the 'brutal facts' of evangelism in the mainline churches with a passionate and inspiring vision of how churches can nurture evangelistic engagement in the culture today. The real stories it tells deepen a credible hope. We long today for a missional, relational, incarnational expression of the church's life in our society. This book helps to identify the pathways toward that future. It's a book that teaches us how to re-learn the practice of evangelism, published at a teachable moment. Don't just read this book--use it! Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary, Reformed Church in America
Unbinding the Gospel is a must-read for those of us in the progressive mainstream church that are trying to reclaim the e.word." David Schoen, Evangelism Minister and Team Leader, United Church of Christ.
"Martha Grace Reese loves the Church. Remember that, as you digest her study of American mainline churches and their seeming impotence over the “E” word. Necessarily citing statistics to the point of shock and awe, Gay doesn’t leave the reader there. Hope for the mainline church abounds in these pages. She carefully demythologizes evangelism and then reconstructs it through common sense practices." Jim Griffith, President, Griffith Coaching.
".... that's why Martha Grace Reese’s book is so important. That’s why when you turn the last page, you can’t just let this be another book you read. You need to let her message affect you, and your faith community, and through you, people like my doctor.
Her image of the pitcher being filled to overflowing is worth the price of the book. Her insight that there can be many sources of motivation and inspiration for faith sharing – many ways to fill the pitcher to the brim – rings very true to me. The statistics she gives sober me, and they motivate me too. And her stories of vibrant congregations give me hope." Brian D. McLaren, speaker and author (excerpt from afterword)
"This is the study that the mainline church has been waiting for: a sober but optimistic look at the state of the mainline church in America in the new millennium with realistic (and faith-filled) recommendations for what we can do about it. This is a research-based study that gives us a fascinating window into what is really happening across the country in our churches—and the news is not very good!
Unbinding the Gospel is filled with truth-telling: in relation to the population, the percentage of mainline church membership has decreased almost 50% in 40 years. Of 30,000 primarily Caucasian mainline congregations located outside the South, fewer than one half of 1% (150 congregations) baptized 5 adults or more over a 3 year period! We are not reaching outsiders with the gospel.
Unbinding the Gospel is filled with surprising insights: great evangelism exists in churches all along the theological spectrum; long established congregations do as well at new congregations at reaching people; the vast majority of growing mainline churches are in the south (with its still “churched” culture) and are non-Caucasian. We need to start listening to our brothers and sisters from all racial and ethnic groups.
Unbinding the Gospel is filled with optimism: God is doing something new in the mainline church; signs of grace and growth are found everywhere; being a Christian is the most real real there is. We have something to say to this culture that is so fascinated by spirituality.
Unbinding the Gospel is filled with practical recommendations: a vivid relationship with God lies at the heart of effective evangelism, so start praying; we can learn from Christians of all backgrounds so start asking, start connecting, start working together. The mainline church does not have to die. We just have to open a window to God and listen and respond.
Martha Grace Reese has done a great service to the church by creating the Mainline Evangelism Research Project and then reporting on it in such an engaging, faith-filled, readable way. This should be required reading in all mainline churches. Our continuing existence may depend upon it. Richard Peace, ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, Robert Boyd Munger Professor of Evangelism and Spiritual Formation at Fuller Theological Seminary