Monday, January 28, 2008

Review: The Gospel and Personal Evangelism

This is a really helpful little book on evangelism by Mark Dever. At 128 pages it is brief and that inevitably means it's both frustrating (you want more) and challenging (you have to think more). Above all the brevity of the book helps to make it accessible. The first Christian book I read was Bill Hybels & Mark Mittelberg's Becoming a Contagious Christian. That's a good book but Dever provides a more concise primer. It lacks the detail of John Chapman's Know & Tell the Gospel or Will Metzger's Telling the truth but that is more than compensated for by its quality.

Dever works through the general issues of evangelism from why we don't do it. This was particularly challenging to me since, like Dever, I find myself in the kind of job where regular relational non-Christian contact is difficult. Dever is known for his intentional patterns of living to help him develop relationships - I know I need to think more about how to work that into my irregular life. He wisely suggests talking with others about this. I would have liked more detail on this area of his life.

There is helpful clarity about the content of the gospel and motivation to evangelism. Very useful is the chapter on what to do next, about how people respond. A particularly striking story is from Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said that he was confronted by a listener who complained the next day that he'd not given opportunity to respond publicly. Lloyd-Jones invited him to come and meet with him but the man declined the offer. The doctor replied: Whatever affected you last night was only temporary and passing, you still do not see your need of Christ. How true. This echoes Sam Storms interpretation of Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections (Signs of the Spirit). Dever identifies negative responses hopefully before dealing with positive responses, still warning of false yeses. The approach is cautious but wise. What he says here would be helpful to any missions context, local church or otherwise.

Motivation is outlined in terms of obedience, love for the lost, love for God before giving helpful ideas to encourage evangelism. The previous Dever book I read was on church, similarly clear and concise. Given his record of producing short booklets and expanding them to small books and on to more substantial books I wonder whether we'll see a bigger version of this in due course. For now, it worth having on your shelf.

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