Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"The Gospel & Personal Evangelism" - Chapter 1

"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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