Preaching to Convert

Evangelical Outreach and Performance Activism in a Secular Age
John Fletcher


Preaching to Convert offers an intriguing new perspective on the outreach strategies of U.S. evangelicals. Author John Fletcher frames these activities, from door-to-door proselytizing to the spirited sermons of superstar televangelists, as examples of activist performance, broadly defined here as acts performed before an audience in the hopes of changing hearts and minds. Most writing about activist performance has focused on left-progressive causes, events, and actors, and if evangelicals have appeared at all, they often appear as one-dimensional forces of ignorance or bigotry against which brave (left-leaning) activists must fight. Preaching to Convert argues against such a constricted view of activism and for a more nuanced understanding of U.S. evangelicalism as a movement defined by its desire to win converts and spread the gospel. In other words, evangelicals are activist performers par excellence.

The book positions evangelicals as a diverse, complicated group confronting the loss of conservative Christianity’s default status in twenty-first-century U.S. culture. In the face of an increasingly secular age, evangelicals have been reassessing models of outreach. In acts like handing out Bible tracts to strangers on the street or going door-to-door with a Bible in hand, in elaborately staged horror-themed morality plays or multi-million-dollar creationist discovery centers, in megachurch services beamed to dozens of satellite campuses, and in controversial “ex-gay” ministries striving to return gays and lesbians to the straight and narrow, evangelicals are redefining what it means to be deeply committed in a pluralist world. The book’s engaging style and careful argumentation make it accessible and appealing to scholars and students across a range of fields.

"John Fletcher's juxtaposition of Christian evangelic outreach to activist performance is vibrant and provocative. Preaching to Convert opens new territory for performance studies, and suggests new methods for better understanding the ways religion informs performance."
—Donnalee Dox, Texas A&M University

Photo © Mopic/

John Fletcher is Associate Professor of Theatre, Louisiana State University. 

Praise / Awards

  • "Preaching to Convert is a surprising, refreshing, respectful and almost admiring study of the diverse practices of contemporary American evangelicals."
    Anthropology Review Database
  • "The strength of Fletcher’s work is in his analysis of evangelical outreach and explication of how these programs sustain evangelical identity. His goodfaith approach allows for an in-depth understanding based on the theological community enacting the performances. ...As is the case with his analysis of sexualorientation-change efforts, Fletcher demonstrates his unique ability to explicate foreign ideologies with compassion and rigor, drawing connections rather than divisions through multivalent reading methods and scholarship."
    --Theatre Journal
  • "Fletcher opens new space for the consideration of what performance means and how those other meanings and sources of meaning impact performance events and audiences alike. This work remains important and overdue."
    --Peter Civetta, The Drama Review

  • "Fletcher in Preaching to Convert demonstrates a carefully, methodical, and extensively researched approach to his examination of evangelical outreach efforts."
    --Journal of American Culture
  • "[Preaching to Convert is] a fascinating book. It is well written, engaging, informative, and interesting. Fletcher’s analysis gives an alternative way of understanding evangelical activities."
    --Baptistic Theologies
  • "John Fletcher’s new book provides a landmark survey of contemporary American evangelicalism’s vibrant culture of performance...It deserves to be widely read and debated."
    --Theatre History Studies

Look Inside

Product Details

  • 412 pages.
  • 4 photos.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2013
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02987-7

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

Add to Cart
  • $35.95 U.S.

  • Kindle

Add to Cart

Choosing any of the above format options will take you to the appropriate e-retailer to complete your purchase. Pricing may vary by individual e-retailer. Please see e-retailer site for purchasing information.

For more information about our Digital Products, including reading systems and accessible formats, visit our Digital Products page.

Related Products

Add to Cart
  • $84.95 U.S.

Add to Cart
  • $34.95 U.S.



  • Evangelicalism, evangelical, activism, activist, performance, secular age, evangelism, hell house, Creation Museum, conversion