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The Mystic Way of Evangelism, 2nd Edition

A Contemplative Vision for Christian Outreach

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Elaine Heath brings a fresh perspective to the theory and practice of evangelism by approaching it through contemplative spirituality, offering a corrective to the contemporary American trend of programmatic and consumeristic forms of evangelism. By looking to mystics, saints, and martyrs of church history, she suggests we can discover ways of thinking about God that result in a life of outreach. This thoroughly revised second edition includes a new study guide.


Part One: Purgation
1. Into the Night
Part Two: Illumination
2. Love Is God's Meaning
3. Broken Bread and Poured Out Wine
4. Coming Home to Love
5. Healing the Threefold Wound
6. Redeeming the Earth
Part Three: Union
7. A Hermeneutic of Love
8. Giving Ourselves Away
9. Homing Prayer
10. New Tongues of Fire
11. Your Will Be Done on Earth
Epilogue: Out of the Night
Appendix: Corporate Experiences of the Dark Night
Study Guide


"A refreshing and profound contribution, this revised edition offers even more perceptive insights. Heath wisely and incisively identifies critical issues facing the contemporary church in the West and responds with care and creativity, skillfully recovering the richness of Christian mysticism. This is a must-read for both those who study and those who practice Christian ministry!"

Laceye Warner, associate professor of the practice of evangelism and Methodist Church studies, Duke Divinity School

"The Mystic Way of Evangelism is honest, reflective, intelligent, and rooted in Scripture and tradition. It offers a hopeful vision that Heath has modeled for us through her work of helping others shape communities of faith that are vibrantly living into the future. This book is a must-read for anyone who cares about the current state of Christianity in the West and longs for a healthy way forward."

Johnny Sears, director, Academy for Spiritual Formation, The Upper Room

"Elaine Heath presents an alternative path of Western Christianity that is fully engaged with Christian mystics. Her ideas have sparked a renewed and timely interest in the intersection of the Christian mystics, contemplation, and practical Christianity. I appreciate her genuine love of the church as a theologian but especially as a living practitioner, whispering fullness of life and hope to the church through the lives and teachings of Christian saints and mystics. This book inspires through the richness of traditions while opening readers to divine possibility in the midst of decline and challenge in today's church."

Hee-Soo Jung, resident bishop, Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church

"Have you turned away from common methods of evangelism but struggled to find a way of evangelism you can embrace? Allow Elaine Heath to guide you to alternatives. Rich with narratives from across centuries and theological traditions, this book surprises at every turn. Heath helps us imagine what evangelism might look like in our time. Central to the book is the God of the gospel, and central to the evangelism Heath calls us to is the evangelist's--and the evangelistic community's--experience of this loving God."

Mark D. Baker, professor of mission and theology, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary

"Since discovering the wonderful gift that this book is, I have used it in several contexts, including university courses, seminars, and churches. Here, however, is no simple how-to manual. Heath's challenge is no less than the total makeover of both the individual believer and the church. The goal of Heath's vision is a beautiful church that brings good news in word and deed to God's world. The revision of this powerful volume is now even more helpful to a church that is crying for the very thing this book can help us to become."

Chris Flanders, associate professor of missions, Abilene Christian University

Praise for the First Edition

"Elaine Heath is not afraid to name our demons and release our angels! She shows courage, honesty, and direction for the future in this very readable book. All Christian denominations are sharing common problems today and have a common future--a mystic future or none at all."

Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico

"The Mystic Way of Evangelism is a refreshing and profound contribution. With perceptive insight, Heath identifies issues facing the contemporary church in the West. She then responds to those issues with care and creativity, skillfully recovering the richness of Christian mysticism and its themes of holiness. Not many projects ably bridge the distance that can emerge between the study of evangelism and its practice in communities of faith--Heath's does."

Laceye Warner, associate dean for academic formation and programs, associate professor of evangelism and Methodist studies, Duke University Divinity School

"Elaine Heath provides a narrative by which to understand what is happening within the mainline church, as well as throughout Christendom, through her use of the classic threefold contemplative path from night through illumination to union. Her use of this path provides both insight and hope for those who seek to be faithful to Christ and the church. Other books on evangelism have not always resonated with the 'mystic' within us, nor have they emphasized the importance of justice in evangelism. Heath's challenge to engage in eco-evangelism is essential in regaining the church's moral authority in the present global climate crisis."

Sally Dyck, resident bishop of Minnesota, The United Methodist Church

"Elaine Heath has produced a remarkably creative work, linking the church's missional priority for evangelism with the neglected resources of the church's mystics. To do this, she confronts contemporary issues in ministry by opening a treasure trove of theological insight and mystical practices, including both current innovations and past centuries of Christian devotion. Within these pages are both a vigorous challenge to the church and a way for robust spiritual renewal of the faith to flourish."

William B. Lawrence, dean and professor of American church history, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

"The Mystic Way of Evangelism is about evangelism, which is truly important obviously for our mainline churches that are aging and declining but no less for our evangelical churches that are far less effective in evangelism than they often think. But Elaine Heath's book is about much more than evangelism. It's about a richer, deeper approach to Christian faith. It offers a fresh perspective on church history, and it addresses the relevance of the gospel to contemporary problems. Here's my hunch: for many readers, this will be the most important book they read this year."

Brian McLaren (, author/activist

The Author

  1. Elaine A. Heath
    © Duke Photography

    Elaine A. Heath

    Elaine A. Heath (PhD, Duquesne University) is professor of missional and pastoral theology at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. She previously taught at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, where she directed the Center for...

    Continue reading about Elaine A. Heath


Praise for the First Edition

Outreach Resource of the Year (2009)

"[Heath's] biographies of the mystics are inspiring, and her emphases on suffering and spiritual depth as the antidote to a prepackaged, method-obsessed, consumer-oriented evangelistic approach are refreshing."


"Most would not think of mysticism and evangelism as complementary. . . . Elaine Heath's provocative work not only dissolves this apparent opposition but demonstrates how 'the mystics are the best teachers of evangelism.'. . . Though Heath is clearly conversant with scholarly discussion, her treatment of the Christian mystic tradition is quite accessible, and any church member could readily profit from it. The Mystic Way of Evangelism is an important work that offers a penetrating diagnosis of the contemporary decline of mainline Christianity in North America. Her fruitful vision extends the historic dynamism of the mystic tradition into the life of today's church for faithful witness in a post-Christian North American context. Her proposal is creative, challenging, and compelling. All who are invested in seeing the church embrace its calling both to be and to bring good news to the world would profit from this most illuminating work."

Chris Flanders,

Restoration Quarterly

"Intriguing and unique. . . . [The] vignettes are thoughtfully constructed and movingly presented. They are useful for devotional use and growth in the school of Christ, even though they reflect widely divergent times and Christian traditions. . . . All who predominately think of evangelism in terms of strategies, structures, budgets, numerical goals, and church growth need to think seriously about what the author offers. . . . Many Christians who have led exemplary, loving, serving lives in their walk with the Lord have felt guilty about not being more evangelistic; this book should assure them that their lives have been more widely and deeply evangelistic than they probably thought."

James A. De Jong,

Calvin Theological Journal