Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"The Gospel & Personal Evangelism" - Chapter 4

"How Should We Evangelize?"

In this chapter, Mark Dever examines the question of how we should proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. He says we need to have a balanced approach.

Honesty is the first aspect of a balanced approach. "First, we tell people with honesty that if they repent and believe, they will be saved. But they will need to repent, and it will be costly. We must be accurate in what we say, not holding any important parts back that seem to us awkward or off-putting" (p. 55). Making people aware of their sinful and lost condition might turn some people off, but if we're faithful witnesses we have to do it. Turning from our sins (repentance) won't be easy, but we can't pretend it doesn't exist. If we do, we're manipulating people who desperately need to hear the gospel.

Urgency is the second aspect of a balanced approach. Dever writes that, "we must emphasize the urgency with which people ought to repent and believe if they are to be saved. They must decide now" (p. 57). We don't have "all the time in the world" to ponder the offer of forgiveness and everlasting life. It's not a scare tactic to bring up the fact that we aren't promised another day, or minute for that matter.

Joy is the third aspect of a balanced approach. "The truth of this news of a restored relationship with God brings us great joy. so we should joyfully tell people that if they repent and believe they will be saved. It is all worth it, despite the cost" (p. 59). A sour and dour witness is not attractive. Being "baptized in pickle juice" tends to drive the non-saved away from the gospel and those who proclaim it.

Each of these aspects are important. We need to be honest and not candy-coat the gospel because we think non-believers will respond to it better. Urgency is critical, and, sadly, I've paid it very little attention. We also need to be joyful. This is so important, in fact, that we might need to have classes in church on how to do this (or at least to be reminded).

Dever then gives a number of practical tips on how to evangelize.
1. Pray. Ask God to give you opportunities and for lost people to be saved.
2. Use the Bible. God's Word is a great tool for evangelism. Do a simple study of the Gospel of Mark with a non-believing friend. God uses His Word in incredible ways.
3. Be clear. Use language that anyone can understand. It's easy for us to speak a language - a jargon - that only other Christians understand. But in evangelism, we need to try to do whatever we can to aviod that. If we use the word "justification" for example, we need to define it. Dever points out that being clear will mean that we may offend people - that comes with the territory.
4. Provoke self-reflection. "Defensiveness is natural to the fallen heart, so we want to do our best to help people hear the good news. We want to live and talk in such a way that we provoke people to reflect on themselves, on their own desires and actions" (p. 65). Ask people good questions. Listen to their answers. Put a rock in their shoe.
5. Use the church. Invite people to whom you've been witnessing to a church that clearly proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ. More than that, however, is to bring your non-Christian friends into the company of Christians. Let them both see and hear the truth of the gospel.

Overall, this is an excellent chapter because of the helpful suggestions and reminders.

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