You need to read Mark Dever’s preposterously good book on evangelism.
This short book gives the who, what and why of evangelism. It’s a short read and a good one. Dever does an excellent job of making important distinctions that aren’t often made in our churches:
- He explains the difference between the gospel and good truths which aren’t themselves the gospel.
- He differentiates between evangelism and the results of evangelism.
Following are a few quotes I highlighted:
What isn’t the gospel?
The Good News is not simply that we are okay… The Good News is not simply that God is love… The Good News is not simply that Jesus wants to be our friend… The Good News is not that we should live rightly.
What is the gospel?
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 himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and 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 our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God.
What’s wrong with theologically liberal Christianity?
When our eyes fall from God to humanity, social ills replace sin, horizontal problems replace the fundamental vertical problem between us and God, winning elections eclipses winning souls.
Is “successful evangelism” measured in converts? No. It’s measured in faithfully proclaiming the message of the good news about Jesus. Conversion is God’s domain.
You and I aren’t called to use our extensive powers to convict and change the sinner while God stands back as a gentleman, quietly waiting for the spiritual corpse, his declared spiritual enemy, to invite God into his heart. Rather, we should resolve to preach the gospel like gentlemen, persuading while knowing we can’t regenerate anyone, and then stand back while God uses all his extensive powers to convict and change the sinner. Then we’ll see clearly who it is that can really call the dead to life, and although he’ll use us in the doing of it, it’s not you and I who are actually doing it.
The one missing element is that Dever doesn’t give much help on how to start evangelistic conversations. In the final chapter he recommends additional resources. Among those resources is Mark Stiles’ book “Speaking of Jesus” which demonstrates some ways Stiles has been successful in initiating gospel conversations.
Guess what’s next on my list…