I am writing this on January 1st of 2012. As we begin this new year, I can think of no better area of our lives to have a renewed focus than that of Personal Evangelism. As we renew our focus on Personal Evangelism, I can think of no better book to assist us than this one by Mark Dever. Mark Dever is the long-time Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, VA. The book itself is relatively short and very readable. Pastor Dever takes a very balanced approach to the subject of Evangelism.
He begins in chapter 1 with where most of us are…”Why Don’t we Evangelize?”. He goes through the most common excuses he has heard for not evangelizing. He breifly shows why they don’t really hold any water and then asserts that we “Plan to Stop Not Evangelizing”. The point he goes on to make is that regular, real, struggeling to be Christlike people can effective witnesses for Christ. He gives us 12 steps we can take to get us back to evangelizing: “Pray, Plan, Accept, Understand, Be Faithful, Risk, Prepare, Look, Love, Fear, Stop, and Consider.” Wrapping up this chapter, he gives us these potent words. “Maybe my neglect of opportunities is more habitual. Maybe I’m lazy, caring more that I not be hassled or hurried than this person hears the gospel. Maybe, when it comes right down to it, I’m simply selfish. I don’t see the opportunities because I’m unwilling to be inconvenienced. I guess that means that I am finally, apathetic. My blindness to God’s provision is voluntary. I don’t consider the reality and finality of death, judgement,and hell. So I don’t notice the reality of the person and their plight before me.”
The chapter entitled “What is the Gospel?” is both simple and profound. It is simple because he consistently brings us back to the basics of the Gospel message. It is profound because of how he compares the true Gospel to the alternative messages that so many are espousing today. For Example, he states that “The Good News is Not Simply that We are Okay” He continues, “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.” He then brings the readers back to the truth; “We have crossed over the bounds that God has rightly set for our lives. We have contradicted him in both the letter and the spirit of his instructions to us. And so we not only feel guilt, but we actually are guilty before God. We are not only conflicted in oursleves, we are actually in conflict with God. We break God’s laws again and again; and we do this because we are, says Ephesians 2, dead in our sins and transgressions.” He makes another point in this chapter, “Other times the gospel message is represented to us rather simply as ‘Jesus wants to be your friend’…But the Christian gospel is not a matter of mere self-help or even of a great example or a relationship to be cultivated. There is a real past to be dealt with. Real sins have been committed. Real guilt has been incurred.” Once again, Pastor Dever gets us back to the heart of the Gospel. “The gospel, you see, is not simply an additive that comes to make our already good lives better. No! The gospel is a message of wonderful good news that comes to those who realize their just desperation before God…God calls us to repent of our sins and to rely on Christ alone.”
In part 2 of our review, we will look at “How Should We Evangelize?”, “What Isn’t Evangelism?”, and “What We Should do After Evangelism?”.