The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (9marks) Paperback – 21 Oct 2007
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About the Author
Mark Dever (PhD, Cambridge University) is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and president of 9Marks (9Marks.org). Dever has authored over a dozen books and speaks at conferences nationwide.
C. J. Mahaney is the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. He has written, edited and contributed to numerous books, including Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology; Don't Waste Your Sports; and Sex, Romance and the Glory of God. C. J. and his wife, Carolyn, are the parents of three married daughters and one son, and the happy grandparents to twelve grandchildren.
Top Customer Reviews
"The good news is not simply that God is love"
Being a christian comes at a cost and Dever emphasises the need for honesty, urgency and joy.
"We are not to put forward on,y positives that we imagine our non christian friends presently value and present God as simply the means by which prey can meet their own ends"
We are challenged here not to dilute the gospel to make it more attractive and people more likely to come it church. Instead Dever in the book points out Romans 10:1 saying;
"We can work and witness for the salvation of someone but only God can finally bring it about. It is his work so we must pray."
Once agin it is encouraging to remember that God is in control and He calls people to Himself. Our job is to declare the good news of the gospel and pray. Lots more packed into this book. Well worth a read.
No, not at all - this book addresses the many common concerns we have about talking to others about our faith in Christ.
This book is tremendously encouraging, drawing from the bible to put personal evangelism into a perspective that can help even the most timid.
A really super book - evangelism can be part of ordinary life, and doesn't have to be a "strange" activity that we do because we feel we ought to (but through gritted teeth). Sharing the good news also changes us - we benefit and are built up.
We just need to remain true and tell the gospel - it is God who imparts the gift of faith, the Holy Spirit who brings spiritual life.
I shall re-read this book in the near future to help retain it's great message. 5 stars
Dever encourages us and refreshes us not with a methodology or how to but with examining the reasons why we fail to engage in evangelism, and how and why we must engage in evangelism. I found his appendix to Pastors particularly helpful in the encouragement to get out of the office and meetings and engage in evangelism.
The first chapter brilliantly exposes the excuses we make for not engaging in evangelism and seeing them in black and white shows us how pathetic and vacuous they are, in many wasy it was the highlight of the book.
He then also goes on to suggest 12 steps to overcome our non-evangelising, all are good and challenging encompaasing the obvious which we will easily recognise on ourselves and others which may catch us with our guard down.
It is not a book for the evangelist but for each and every person who claims to follow Jesus and wants to engage with the world around them for God's glory.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In the chapter on what the true gospel is, Dever makes it clear that the gospel (contrary to many modern evangelicals) is NOT 1) that we are simply okay; 2) that God is simply love; 3) that Jesus just wants to be our friend; and 4) that we should just live rightly. The true gospel, according to Dever, is that we are all sinners, that Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the cross to take our punishment, that he rose from the dead, and that we are all called to repent of our sins and trust Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation. This chapter must be read by ALL evangelical ministers today who are tempted to follow the seeker-friendly or prosperity train.
The chapter on what evangelism is not is also very enlightening. Dever rightly points out that evangelism is NOT 1) imposition of our beliefs on unbelievers; 2) personal testimony of our Christian life; 3) social action or public involvement; 4) and apologetics (this point is especially important to highlight since so many Christians today believe that they can persuade an unbeliever to Christ through clever argumentation). Also, Dever rightly points out that just because we do not see the fruits of our evangelism right away does not mean that our role as God's messengers have failed. In fact, the fruit of conversion may appear many decades later - the time when a sinner comes to Christ is not in our hands but it is in the hands of our wise and sovereign God. Our job is just to be faithful messengers of the gospel and let God do the actual saving.
Finally, I also found Dever's statement that just because a person "accepts" Christ does not mean he or she is a true believer quite helpful. Having led bible studies for quite some time this is an important point that all Christian leaders need to be aware of. There will always be wolves in sheep's clothing in any church (even in solid Calvinistic ones). Many who appear to be Christians at first will later show their true colours as their supposed faith wanes and they go back to their old lifestyle. Dever points this out in his book to remind us that assurance is not an automatic thing and that we need to be careful of automatically considering a person saved just because he or she claims to be a Christian.
Overall, I would highly recommend this short but important book on evangelism. Though Dever is a Calvinist, this book can be very useful for evangelical Christians of all theological persuasions. In an age where evangelism is mostly based on seeker-friendly methods and the gospel is watered-down to meet the carnal desires of the people this book shows what true biblical evangelism is all about and what the gospel gives us and demands from us.
The Gospel and Personal Evangelism is a short book (128 pages) but is filled with helpful, Bible saturated, honesty and exhortation. Dever is writing both as a pastor and a Christian. Therefore he is transparent about his own evangelistic struggles but also clear about the necessity for believers to faithfully herald the gospel.
"My prayer is that because of the time you spend reading this book, more people will hear the good news of Jesus Christ." (p.16)
As someone who teaches a class on evangelism I often cringe when I hear contemporary authors and preachers talk about the motivation and means of evangelism. Far too often emotional and pragmatic sentiments drown out the clear God-centered goal of evangelism as outlined in the Scriptures. Thankfully Dever does not swing and miss on this critical understanding of evangelism:
"According to the Bible, good motives for evangelism are a desire to be obedient, a love for the lost, and a love for God....Ultimately, our motive in evangelism must be a desire to see God glorified. This was the end of all of the Lord Jesus' actions (See John 17)....God is glorified in being known. To see others truly come to know him glorifies God and honors him....The call to evangelism is a cal to turn our lives outward from focusing on ourselves and our needs to focusing on God and on others made in his image who are still at enmity with him, alienated from him, and in need of salvation from sin and guilt. We bring God glory as we speak the truth about him to his creation." (pp. 96, 101)
Dever maintains a steady posture of introspection and exhortation throughout the chapters. I firmly believe that if you are a Christian and you want to grow in the area of evangelism then this book will be helpful. In each of the chapters Dever aims to makes us comfortable with obedience while stirring up discomfort with complacency and the fear of man. Here are the chapters titles, each are about 10 or so pages long:
Why Don't we Evangelize?
What is the Gospel?
Who Should Evangelize?
How Should We Evangelize?
What Isn't Evangelism?
What do we Do After We Evangelize?
Why Should We Evangelize?
In closing I want to highlight some of Dever's recommendations for increasing in our evangelistic faithfulness:
Ask for testimonies
Consider the reality of hell
Consider God's sovereignty
Meditate on the Gospel
Consider the Cross
This book is not exhaustive but it clearly was not intended to be. Dever aims to cultivate faithfulness in evangelism while also exposing some unbiblical practices that regrettably seem to characterize much of evangelicalism's evangel. In this Dever was successful. I suggest picking up the book for yourself or reading it with a friend or small group. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism is a helpful, God-centered shot in the arm for the church.
Mark Dever has written an invaluable resource to help us out.
In short, Mark's book is:
#1 - Encouraging. Encouraging because he both addresses our universal fears and failings, and because he offers simple, clear, Biblical help.
#2 - Clear. You cannot come away from it missing the need to evangelize; being incited to evangelize; being informed as how to evangelize - and above all - getting the Gospel simply and clearly so AS to evangelize.
#3 - Concise. Short can often mean bereft of content. Not The Gospel & Personal Evangelism. Much more more can be said, and has been said. But what is here is the essential meat. The core. Digest this, and you are well fed.
#4 - Practical. This book is not about theory - though underlying necessary concepts are not ignored. But it is all couched in the practical realm of loving people with the Gospel personally.
#5 - Equipping. I cannot imagine anyone putting this book down and not being immensely more confident they can clearly and accurately share the Gospel with others. Or as he puts it in chapter 4: To share HONESTLY, URGENTLY and JOYFULLY. What a great paradigm.
# 6- Necessary. For whatever reason, the Gospel message needs to be repeated over and over even to those of us who believe it - or it seems to grow nebulous, nondescript and inarticulable in a heartbeat. Thus he repeats it any number of ways throughout the book Helping us see it framed and re-framed a number of different ways. None more beautifully or simply than on page 43:
"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 a 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."
And as He closes that section - "Now that's good news". I agree.
In a very brief and highly readable book where Dever dives into the most crucial elements of personal evangelism, there were a few themes that really spoke to and affected me. Dever addresses a plethora of concerns in evangelism by asking seven crucial questions.
Why Don’t We Evangelize?
What Is the Gospel?
Who Should Evangelize?
How Should We Evangelize?
What Isn’t Evangelism?
What Should We Do After We Evangelize?
Why Should We Evangelize?
Dever soundly and soberly answers each of these questions by keeping the gospel central and the mission of God over the methods of man as the most important concern. I was most directly impacted by two of these discussions: “Why Don’t We Evangelize?” and “What Isn’t Evangelism?”
Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
In chapter one, Dever is representatively transparent and honest for all Christians by offering up five basic excuses Christians give for not evangelizing. I can personally identify with the fourth excuse—“Other things seem more urgent” (21). Admittedly, I am hesitant and embarrassed to even confess this, but I was highly convicted by Dever’s words. I find that there are many other things in my life that take priority over evangelism. I can’t go outside and ask my neighbor who comes home for lunch every single day if he would like to eat with me because I am usually working on a paper or project for my blog. I excuse myself from evangelistic opportunities with him because I “don’t have time.” The truth is, I don’t manage time well enough. Evangelism has not been a high enough priority to sacrifice time in other ventures. For example, do I really have to mow our lawn at exactly the same time that I could have gospel conversations with my neighbor? Do I have to bury my face in a book when someone sits close to me at Starbucks?
This thought from Dever especially convicted me: “But do our other commitments sometimes become so numerous—or do we interpret them so—as to leave no time for evangelism? If we are too busy for that, what things are we managing to make time for?” After reading this section, I have begun to actively pray that God remove this kind of thinking from my mind and break my heart for the lost around me, so much so that I will not have time for other things because of evangelism.
Is a Personal Testimony Evangelism?
A second theme that specifically spoke to me came from Dever’s chapter on those things that often are credited as evangelism, but in reality are not. I felt this was Dever’s most important chapter as many church leaders and Christians in general are confused as to what evangelism actually is. A good way to begin defining evangelism is understanding those things we do that are right and good in and of themselves, but are by no means evangelism. Dever mentions five things that he considers to not be evangelism. Among these, he discusses a Christian’s personal testimony. Many people in my local church consider their personal testimony to be evangelism. They teach one another and especially the children and youth that to share the gospel is to share “your story.” This is a common phrase around my church that even my pastor uses from time to time. If you want to share the gospel, the thing to do is to simply share your story.
The testimony of where you were before repentance and faith and where you are now because of the grace of God in Christ is a wonderful thing, but it inherently only describes the results of the gospel rather than the gospel itself. Dever puts it this way, “An account of a changed life is wonderful and inspiring thing, but it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ that explains what it’s all about and how it happened. And it’s the gospel that turns sharing a testimony into evangelism.” This has not only affected the way I share my own testimony, but it has affected the way I encourage others to do the same. The actual content of the gospel, not the result, should ooze from our testimonies. When this is done, we take an encouraging story about us and turn it into the proclamation about the greatest story of them all—the story of God’s redemption of sinners through Jesus.
Gospel-Centrality in Evangelism
The strongest aspect of The Gospel and Personal Evangelism is its gospel-centrality. In approaching a spiritual discipline like evangelism, there can be a tendency to provide pragmatic lists or programs to help introverts speak boldly and extroverts speak wisely with their non-Christian friends. But where many of us seek methods, Dever provides us with the biblical mission. The point is made throughout the book; without the gospel, evangelism is impossible. The infamous quote, “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary” is totally debunked in this work. Dever is adamant: words are always necessary in evangelism and our words must be coated with the gospel and we must explicitly make the good news known.
If you are lackadaisical in your evangelism or confused about how to evangelize, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism is the perfect book for you. Mark Dever tactfully and honestly walks readers through the personal challenges we face in evangelism, the gospel that grounds evangelism, and many tangible ways that we can actually do the one thing we all claim to do, but hardly ever actually do. Whether you are a Christian who has a desire to begin evangelizing or if you are very comfortable and even gifted in evangelism, you will benefit from Dever’s logic and biblical confidence he employs in his exploration of Christian evangelism. No matter what aspect of evangelism you are unsure or confused about, Dever has provided a useful aid as you seek to reach the lost around you with gospel of Jesus.
The book’s seven chapters answers different questions pertaining to evangelism such as “Why don’t We Evangelize?” “What is the Gospel?” and “How Should We Evaangelize?” I think the way the chapters were organized was helpful for the sake of the book’s logical flow. Since someone reading this book might be struggling to engage in personal evangelism it makes sense that the first chapter evaluate the excuses of why Christians don’t evangelize. I thought it was helpful to have a heart check based upon this chapter and have oneself identify what is one’s frequent excuse one might have in saying no to evangelism. I love the second chapter that went over “What is the Gospel?” especially with how the author hit on what the Gospel is not. One needs to be clear what the Gospel is, and sometimes it is not the popular mantra and one-liners you hear from Evangelical circles. By far my favorite section of the book were the chapters on how should we evangelize, what isn’t evangelism and what should we do after we evangelize. There are many books on evangelism out there and it’s always good to see the differences different guys have with their mechanics of evangelism and pick up what is good. I think the author was really good in showing Christian principles rather than exact tactical “methods.” All readers shouldn’t miss Mark Dever’s recommended reading lists. Pastors shouldn’t miss Dever’s practical word to pastors on how to be more faithful in fulfilling the work of an evangelist which I took to heart from knowing how much of an evangelistic heart Pastor Dever has both in and out of the pulpit.
Again I think this is excellent for a Christian personal reading and also for discipleship.