Archive for the ‘“The Gospel and Personal Evangelism”’ Category

Here are five good books on the subject of evangelism:

Out of the Saltshaker & Into the World by Rebecca Manley Pippert. This was one of the first books I read after becoming a Christian. It still packs a positive punch.

Tell the Truth by Will Metzger. The subtitle sums the message up well: “The whole gospel to the whole person by whole people.” The focus is on God-centered evangelism.

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer. A classic that should be read over and over again.

Hell’s Best Kept Secret by Ray Comfort. Have we been preaching a “gospel” that produces false converts? Comfort thinks so and makes a good case for it.

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever. This book has an entire category of its own on this blog – that’s how much I think of it.

What do you think? I’d love to know.

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It’s been a while, but I’m getting back to blogging “The Gospel and Personal Evangelism” by Mark Dever. If you’ve read the other posts, you know I think it’s a great little book.

Chapter 5 is entitled, “What Isn’t Evangelism” (emphasis is the author’s, not mine). Dever states that many of us have mistaken ideas about what constitutes evangelism. I think we tend to put all sorts of things into a category called “evangelism,” and it’s not always a good thing – especially when the Bible calls it something else.

According to Dever, evangelism is not imposition. When we evangelize, we’re not imposing, or forcing, our beliefs upon anyone (although it may seem that way at times). Dever says, “In biblical evangelism, we don’t impose anything. In fact, we really can’t. According to the Bible, evangelism is simply telling the good news. It’s not making sure that the other person responds to it correctly” (p. 70). I’ve heard it put by someone else that we, as Christians, don’t impose, we propose. That’s a good distinction.

Evangelism is not personal testimony, according to Dever. What God has done in our lives contributes to evangelism and certainly adds a personal element, but it is not the Gospel. The core of the Gospel is the perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ on our behalf – in our place. Testimonies can be very powerful, but in the process of telling them, we may not accurately or adequately explain who Jesus is or what He’s done in time and history. I don’t know how many people I’ve heard say something like, “Just give them (the unbeliever) your testimony – they can’t argue with that. Keep doctrine out of it.” People need to now what God has done in our life, but when we tell them we can’t confuse it with proclaiming the Gospel. The Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16); my testimony is not.

According to Dever, evangelism is not social action and public involvement. Social action and public involvement commend the Gospel but they do not communicate the Gospel. We should be involved publicly and politically as Christians, an issue which I think is a settled one. There are obviously many, many problems in our fallen and sinful world and they all deserve our attention. However, we can never confuse anti-abortion activism, for example, with a clear proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. “Preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) does not mean, “Clean up the environment,” or “stop drinking and smoking,” or even “stop human sex trafficking.” By themselves, these causes are not equivalent to the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

Apologetics is not evangelism. We’re commanded to “be ready to give an answer for everyone who asks about the hope” we have (1 Pet. 3:15). We should be able to define and defend what we believe and why we believe it. Defending the faith is crucial to the church. Having said that, though, apologetics is not the same thing as evangelism because it may or may not include a clear presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, we can explain to someone the many reasons to believe that Jesus was actually and literally raised from the dead, but never mention why He did, why it’s important, or what the best response to it is. Apologetics is very useful and helpful – it commends the gospel – but it isn’t evangelism.

Evangelism is not the results of evangelism. The best result of evangelism is the conversion of someone from death to life, from darkness to light, from self and Satan to the Lord Jesus Christ. Evangelism is not simply “seeing others converted.” Dever adds to this misunderstanding by saying that it leads to another misunderstanding of evangelism – namely, that it is within our power to convert someone. That leads to a mistaken focus on results by many churches and ministries, which can easily lead to manipulation and pressure. Evangelism is proclaiming the goood news of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, trusting God for the results.

So, says Dever, once we understand what evangelism actually is – and we’ve done it – what do we do next? That’s in chapter 6.

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“How Should We Evangelize?”

In this chapter, Mark Dever examines the question of how we should proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. He says we need to have a balanced approach.

Honesty is the first aspect of a balanced approach. “First, we tell people with honesty that if they repent and believe, they will be saved. But they will need to repent, and it will be costly. We must be accurate in what we say, not holding any important parts back that seem to us awkward or off-putting” (p. 55). Making people aware of their sinful and lost condition might turn some people off, but if we’re faithful witnesses we have to do it. Turning from our sins (repentance) won’t be easy, but we can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. If we do, we’re manipulating people who desperately need to hear the gospel.

Urgency is the second aspect of a balanced approach. Dever writes that, “we must emphasize the urgency with which people ought to repent and believe if they are to be saved. They must decide now” (p. 57). We don’t have “all the time in the world” to ponder the offer of forgiveness and everlasting life. It’s not a scare tactic to bring up the fact that we aren’t promised another day, or minute for that matter.

Joy is the third aspect of a balanced approach. “The truth of this news of a restored relationship with God brings us great joy. so we should joyfully tell people that if they repent and believe they will be saved. It is all worth it, despite the cost” (p. 59). A sour and dour witness is not attractive. Being “baptized in pickle juice” tends to drive the non-saved away from the gospel and those who proclaim it.

Each of these aspects are important. We need to be honest and not candy-coat the gospel because we think non-believers will respond to it better. Urgency is critical, and, sadly, I’ve paid it very little attention. We also need to be joyful. This is so important, in fact, that we might need to have classes in church on how to do this (or at least to be reminded).

Dever then gives a number of practical tips on how to evangelize.
1. Pray. Ask God to give you opportunities and for lost people to be saved.
2. Use the Bible. God’s Word is a great tool for evangelism. Do a simple study of the Gospel of Mark with a non-believing friend. God uses His Word in incredible ways.
3. Be clear. Use language that anyone can understand. It’s easy for us to speak a language – a jargon – that only other Christians understand. But in evangelism, we need to try to do whatever we can to aviod that. If we use the word “justification” for example, we need to define it. Dever points out that being clear will mean that we may offend people – that comes with the territory.
4. Provoke self-reflection. “Defensiveness is natural to the fallen heart, so we want to do our best to help people hear the good news. We want to live and talk in such a way that we provoke people to reflect on themselves, on their own desires and actions” (p. 65). Ask people good questions. Listen to their answers. Put a rock in their shoe.
5. Use the church. Invite people to whom you’ve been witnessing to a church that clearly proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ. More than that, however, is to bring your non-Christian friends into the company of Christians. Let them both see and hear the truth of the gospel.

Overall, this is an excellent chapter because of the helpful suggestions and reminders.

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“Who Should Evangelize?”

In chapter three of The Gospel & Personal Evangelism,” Mark Dever examines the question of who should evangelize?

At first glance, the answer to that question should be, “Well, every Christian, of course!” That’s the right answer, but it is surprising how many people don’t think it isn’t. Dever says some think that “clergy people” should do all of the evangelizing, after all, they’ve been trained and that’s “their job,” so to speak. Others believe that evangelism is beft left to those who have the spiritual gift of evangelism. For still others, evangelism is reserved for raging extroverts, while the introverts are left to watch the “show,” so to speak.

Dever points out that even though certain things were true of the apostles (see Romans 1:14-15), they are also true of every believer in Jesus Christ. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) was given to every disciple of Jesus, not just the twelve apostles.

He quotes John Stott as saying, “[This] commission…is binding upon every member of the whole church…Every Christian is called to be a witness to Christ in the particular environment in which God has placed him. Further, although the public ministry of the Word is a high office, private witness or personal evangelism has a value which in some respects surpasses even that of preaching, since the message can then be adapted morte personally.” (Personal Evangelism, pp. 3-4).

The early members of the New Testament church evangelized constantly (Acts 5:42; 8:25: 13:32; 14:7, 15, 21; 15:35; 16:10; 17:18). It wasn’t just the apostles, either. After the persecution in Jerusalem, “Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4). In 1 Peter 3:15-16, all Christians are told to “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

We’re commanded to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). According to Dever, the most loving thing we can do for one of our neighbors – whether they are a family member, friend, co-worker, or acquaintance – is to share with them the good news of Jesus Christ.

It is God’s plan, writes Dever, to make Himself known through His people – Israel in the Old Testament and the Church in the New. It is our responsibility to make visible the invisible God. Therefore, the lives of individual Christians and the church as a whole should make God (and His gospel) visible to the world. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Evangelism is pre-eminently dependent upon the quality of the Christian life which is known and enjoyed within the church.”

Dever sums up this excellent chapter by saying, “God calls all Christians to share the good news.”

Don’t think this isn’t an issue in the church today – it is. There has been a strain of “let the professionals do it” in many congregations for years, which hampers successful evangelism. But also, as the consumer mentality spreads in the culture of the church, the “let the professionals do it” mentality becomes even stronger. We hire people to do all kinds of different things today, why not hire people who know the Bible and theology, play music, visit, and evangelize, too? Dever has supplied a strong argument against this kind of faulty thinking.

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This chapter in Mark Dever’s book is called “What is the Gospel?”

The gospel, according to Dever, is “good news.” That’s the basic meaning of the word euangelian in Greek. We, as Christians, have good news to proclaim to the world.

After the opening section of the chapter, Dever focuses his attention on what the gospel is not.

1. The good news is not simply that we are okay.
“Some people seem to think that Christianity is fundamentally a religious therapy session, where we sit around trying to help each other feel good about ourselves,” writes Dever. He comments that Christianity actually deals realistically with human nature (which is fallen, sinful, and totally depraved). No, we are not OK! We are sinful and are in need of a Savior.

2. The good news is not simply that God is love.
Yes, “God is love,” as the Bible says in 1 John 4:8. However, we cannot emphasize God’s love at the expense of all of His other attributes. Dever makes the point that we immediately have a problem when we say this or think about it – we don’t understand love very well at all.

3. The good news is not simply that Jesus wants to be our friend.
It may also be stated that “Jesus wants to be our example,” writes Dever. According to Dever, “The Christian gospel is not a matter of mere self-help or even of a great example or a relationship to be cultivated.” Jesus came to live a life of perfect obedience in our place, to die for our sins as our substitute, and to rise again from the dead on the third day. The Lord Jesus is the “friend who is closer than a brother,” but He’s much more than that and that isn’t the gospel, anyway.

4. The good news is not that we should live rightly.
Of course, we should live rightly – there are way too many verses and passages in the Bible for it to even be questioned. But exhortations to obey God are not good news to non-believers or believers. We live rightly, and in a manner pleasing to the Lord, because we have already believed the good news, not as a substitute.

According to Dever, the right response to the gospel – the authentic gospel – is repentance and belief. In Acts 20:21, Paul says, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”

Dever ends the chapter by proclaiming the gospel in a minute or less: “The good news is that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in his image to know him. But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him. In his great love, God became man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that God’s wrath against us had been exhausted. He now calls us to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God.”

Overall, this was a good chapter, but I would have added several more ideas that are not the gospel.
~ The good news is not believing in Christ. Putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ is our response to the gospel, but it isn’t the gospel.
~ The good news is not a call to follow Jesus. Following Jesus and being His disciple is our response to the gospel, not the gospel itself.
~ The good news is not “come to Jesus and He’ll fix your problems.” Yours and my problems might get fixed, but that can’t be confused with the gospel. This man-centered “gospel” presents Jesus as “the cure for whatever ails you.” Are you lonely? Believe in Christ and He’ll be your friend. Do you lack purpose and meaning in your life? Come to Jesus and He’ll give you purpose and meaning. Do you want success in life? Put your faith in Christ and He’ll bless you with success. The fact is that the Lord Jesus doesn’t always “fix” our problems. Sometimes He gives us more of them (in order to sanctify us), sometimes He fixes them (but in His own way), and He always gives us Himself.

The core of the good news – the gospel – is the perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is an announcement of what actually happened in time, space, and history. It’s not anything else.

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“Why Don’t We Evangelize?”

Dever starts out by making the remark that most of us would flunk Jesus’ call to evangelize. Honestly, I agree with him. I don’t like to, but I have to say I think he’s right. The point of this chapter, writes Dever, is to consider some of the most common excuses we use to justify our lack of evangelism.

1. I don’t know their language.
We may not know someone’s language, but there are things we can do to overcome that obstacle. We could learn their language. We could also get evangelistic material they can understand in their own language – the point is to hear and understand the gospel.

2. Evangelism is illegal.
Yes, proclaiming the gospel is illegal in some countries, but it isn’t in the United States. Very few of us face this obstacle.

3. Evangelism could cause problems at work.
Evangelism might cause problems at work if it isn’t done in a proper and appropriate way. But it doesn’t follow then that evangelism shouldn’t happen. All of us need to work within the guidelines we have at work (which may mean not proclaiming the gospel during work time except on rare occasions). “We don’t want our evangelism to stand in the way of the evangel – the good news” (emphasis in the original).

4. Other things seem more urgent.
If we’re too busy to evangelize, we’re too busy. While there are a multitude of things we can, and should, do during any given day, many of them are not as urgent as the gospel.

5. I don’t know non-Christians.
Dever calls this “the excuse of choice for mature Christians” and the most common excuse for not evangelizing. This justification may have quite a bit of truth to it. As the years go by, many of us who believe in Jesus and follow Him have fewer and fewer non-Christian friends. As a pastor, that’s especially true. Dever thinks one of the answers is for us to determine how we can fulfill our roles in our families, churches, and to those who need to know Christ.

Next, Dever deals with objections we (Christians) think non-Christians will have when we try to evangelize them. “People don’t want to hear.” “They won’t be interested.” “They probably already know the gospel.” “It probably won’t work. I doubt they’ll believe.”

The solution, according to Dever, is to plan to stop not evangelizing. He then offers a twelve-step plan.
1. Pray. We often forget to pray and leave God out of the picture.
2. Plan. We plan for other things, why not evangelism?
3. Accept that evangelism is our job, not someone elses.
4. Understand the fact that evangelism may not be your gift, but it is your duty.
5. Be faithful to God in this area.
6. Risk. Evangelism involves takiing a chance – be willing to do it.
7. Prepare. We need to be ready and equipped for the opportunities God gives us.
8. Look for the opportunities God gives you.
9. Love others in general and specifically those with whom you share the gospel.
10. Fear God, not people.
11. Stop blaming God. We need to stop excusing ourselves from evangelism because God is sovereign. God sovereignly choosed to use us as the means to His ultimate end.
12. Consider what God has done for us in Christ

All in all, this is an excellent chapter. It was convicting in that I’ve probably used most of these excuses myself (and know how wrong they are). The chapter was also encouraging in that Dever provided positive steps to move beyond these excuses to actual evangelism.

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Mark Dever’s introduction is the tale of two evangelists.

The first evangelist is John Harper, born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1872. In 1886, God saved him by His grace, and as a result he began to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ. After serving in the Baptist Pioneer Mission in London, Harper started a church which had five hundred members by the time he left thirteen years later.

Harper was asked to preach at Moody Church in Chicago (for a second time), so he booked passage from Southampton, England to New York on a new passenger ship called Titanic. You know the story after that. Harper’s daughter, Nana, and a cousin who was traveling with them were put in lifeboats and ultimately rescued. Harper went down with the ship, but not before preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen – one man in particular who was Harper’s last convert. As Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

The second evangelist is Dever himself. He readily admits that he is no John Harper. He writes, “If there is a time in the future when God reviews all of our missed evangelistic opportunities, I fear that I could cause more than a minor delay in eternity.” I like that kind of honesty. It will probably get him in trouble with some (he is a pastor after all, and pastors shouldn’t have a problem with that according to some), even though it shouldn’t.

Dever asks why we are so slow to tell others the best news in the world? He asks a question many others ask, “Should I evangelize if I don’t feel like it?” These are a few of the questions he attempts to answer in his book.

Pastor Dever says it is his prayer that a “culture of evangelism” would be developed in the church andthat evangelism would be normal – in our own lives and in the life of the church. That’s a very noble cause which I pray is achieved, too.

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