Book Review : The Gospel & Personal Evangelism @9MarksOnline

 

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Why don’t we evangelize? What is the gospel? Who should evangelize? What is evangelism? Why should we evangelize? Mark Dever’s book, The Gospel And Personal Evangelism, seeks to answer all of these basic questions about evangelism for the common Christian. In today’s Christian culture, evangelism has fallen by the wayside in terms of priority and is often seen as the one thing that the church always has on their to-do list but never gets around to actually accomplishing it. In The Gospel And Personal Evangelism, Mark Dever desires to answer some of the questions that people have about evangelism, clarify some of the terms that the church uses in evangelism, instruct his readers on how to do evangelism, and challenge all Christians to practice evangelism. Over all, this book aims to discuss the best news there has ever been given and how we should share that news with others.[1]

In order to accomplish this task, Dever’s book consists of answering the common questions by first asking them, and then answering them based on his own, personal experience. Dever also includes quotes from current and past theologians and helpful illustrations. Each chapter is titled as a common question that is asked by many within the Christian church. Then, the content of each chapter discusses the common answers with Dever’s refutations, illustrations, and comments based on the question being discussed. For example, Chapter Two is titled “What is the Gospel?”[2]. In the contents of this chapter, the author explains that there is some confusion among Christians about what constitutes the Gospel message and that a large amount of Christians do not explain clearly what the Gospel is when sharing with others. After this, Dever dives into the common answers or implied answers that non-believers receive when they are witnessed to and what implications those answer have. For this chapter, those assumptions would include; The Good News Is Not Simply That We Are Okay (the gospel is not simply a feel good message)[3], The Good News Is Not Simply That God is Love (the gospel declares that God is more than just love and has many other attributes)[4], The Good New Is Not Simply That Jesus Wants to Be Our Friend (the gospel is more than a relationship that needs to be cultivated)[5], and The Good News Is Not That We Should Live Rightly (the gospel is more than corrective action from sin)[6]. At the end of each chapter Dever concludes by answering the question proposed in the chapter’s title from his own opinion and view on theology. In Chapter Two, Dever writes the following.

 

“Here is what I understand the good news (the gospel) to be: 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 in himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever 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 forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God.”[7]

 

Overall, the author answers his thesis in a clear and consistent manner throughout the book.  Dever tackles all of the questions which he sets out to address in each chapter. However, because the author holds a reformed view of theology, some of his answers to the basic questions may cause some readers to have further questions about his interpretation of evangelism. This specifically plays out when Dever begins to address his application and methodology of evangelism in chapters four, five, and seven. (Ch. 4 – How Should We Evangelize?, Ch. 5 – What Isn’t Evangelism?, Ch. 7 – Closing The Sale) For example, because of Dever’s belief in reform theology, he holds the view that God’s regeneration precedes a person’s profession of faith and therefore presents a weak set of instructions for giving a call for those who are being witnessed to, to accept Christ. We see this in the way that he confirms the statement that accepting the gospel is a “journey” and further explaining that Christians should “Let people find the truth themselves. These days of simple tracts and surefire, sales-presentation evangelism is over.” [8]As a result of statements like this, the reader walks away with the impression that they are to politely talk through a gospel presentation without pleading the urgency of the matter with the receiver of the message and then simply rely on God’s sovereignty to redeem those who are unregenerate.

I find this troubling because, first and foremost, it is not consistent with Scripture. Jesus did not simply have a conversation with Nicodemus[9] or the Woman at the Well[10] and send them on their way to process the message. He challenged them on what they believed and then called them to repent and be born again or to drink of the living water. Jesus presented the message and called the hearers to make a decision. It also does not portray the urgency of the gospel which we see the Apostles use when witnessing to those who formed the early church in Acts. Secondly, these statements disqualify several forms of evangelism that are very effective such as preaching and door to door evangelism. Dever attempts to justify his position in Chapter Seven by explaining that his desire is to avoid any false professions of faith because of the emotional pressure of the moment. However, I would then desire to ask him how many people has he witnessed to that would have made the decision to accept Christ but did not, because he did not ask them to.

It is imperative that we call people to make a decision to accept Christ when sharing the gospel for two reasons. First, that they may have the opportunity to profess their belief in Christ and receive the forgiveness of their sins[11]. Second, if they do or do not profess salvation they are without excuse on the Day of Judgment when asked if they have heard the gospel message[12]. Aside from Dever’s theological position and the implications it has on his evangelism tactics, it should be noted that he did an excellent job of tackling some of the culture’s questions when it comes to evangelism and I would encourage others to read this book.



[1] Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2007). Page 16-17

[2] Ibid. Page 31

[3] Ibid. Page 32-35

[4] Ibid. Page 36-37

[5] Ibid. Page 37-39

[6] Ibid. Page 40-42

[7] Ibid. Page 43, Italics added.

[8] Ibid. Page 64-65

[9] Crossway Bibles., Esv Study Bible : English Standard Version, ESV text ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2008).  John 3

[10] Ibid. John 4

[11] Ibid. Romans 10:9-10

[12] Ibid. John 9:39-41

I am in no way affiliated with the publisher or writer of this book. But I endorse this because it impacted my life and I would like that same blessing for you. Click Here for Other Recommended Reading!If the Author or Publisher has an issue with this post, please let me know and I will remove it.

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