Monday, February 11, 2008

"The Gospel & Personal Evangelism" - Chapter 3

"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] 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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