Book review: 'Big-Hearted' by Chris Duffett and Simon Goddard

Where do we start when we talk about sharing our faith? We could start from the message. The root of the word 'evangelism' is good news, so we could begin with the content of our faith. Or we could start from those who need to hear. We speak about 'saving the lost', so maybe that could be our launch point – the millions who need to know Christ.

In “Big-Hearted”, Chris Duffett and Simon Goddard start with God. They start from the foundational fact of our faith – that God loves us. And they ram it home hard. God, they say, is big-hearted, kind, loving, and generous; He’s God who reaches out, who gives and forgives, who accepts us as we are. It’s the most basic message of all, and one we are inclined to forget.

The book is in three parts. Parts one and three are written by Chris Duffett. The first part lays the foundations of the book, introducing us to a big-hearted God. Part two by Simon Goddard is the story of his experience of leading a “big-hearted” church plant in Cambridgeshire. Part three is the nuts and bolts of big-hearted evangelism. This final section is helpfully practical, full of ideas and support.

Chris Duffett is the current President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the first full-time evangelist to hold that position. This book accompanies his year as president and Chris is currently engaged in a year-long tour of Britain training churches in the themes of the book and leading them in practical street evangelism. Chris is one of the most gifted and imaginative street evangelists in the country. He combines preaching with the exercise of gifts of knowledge on the street and innovative ways of making connections with people.

Theologically this book presents us with a generous God. It is in the same territory as Brian McLaren’s “A Generous Orthodoxy” and Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”, but is not as liberal as either of those. It bears a closer resemblance to Philip Yancey’s “What's so amazing about grace?”, except that it’s more down to earth and practical.

We all have a lot to learn from this book. One lesson that has stuck with me is that God’s grace is about giving away what we have, not aiming to gain more. Church leaders are usually more interested in church growth strategies than in big-hearted evangelism. Church growth focusses on getting more people in and making my ministry more successful. But the challenge of “Big Hearted” is that we are called to give what we have. We are called to model our love for others on the perfect love that our Father has for all people. Showing such love will grow God’s Kingdom even when it doesn’t fill the seats in my church.

If you can’t get to meet Chris Duffett personally or hear his generous teaching, then “Big-hearted” is the next best thing. It’s timely and timeless and a reminder of what really matters as we seek to serve and share our generous God.

"Big Hearted" is out now from Gilead Books