Book Review: The Gospel and Personal Evangelism
Dever, Mark. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. Wheaton: Crossway, 2007
Biographical Sketch of the Author
“Mark has served as the senior pastor of CHBC since 1994 and as president of 9 Marks (a ministry to churches and church leaders) since its founding in 1998. He’s married to Connie and they have two adult children, both married, and one grandchild. Mark has authored a number of books, including 9 Marks of a Healthy Church.”1
Summary of Contents
The main topic of this book is the gospel and personal evangelism. This is explained by answering seven questions: Why don’t we evangelize? What is the gospel? Who should we evangelize? How should we evangelize? What isn’t evangelism? What should we do after we evangelize? Why should we evangelize?
Why don’t we evangelize? The answer is that we justify excuses in our minds. The author says that there are five basic excuses. The first he admits is the most legitimate; “I don’t not know their language.” Language barriers are difficult, but the gospel has gone out by people willing to break culture and language barriers. Second, evangelism is illegal; this is probably the second most legitimate, but the gospel is proclaimed by Christians in places where it is illegal. Third, evangelism could cause problems at work. Fourth, other things seem more urgent. Fifth, I don’t know non-Christians. These are excuses; however, each one can and should be overcome, so pray, plan, accept, understand, be faithful, be willing to risk, prepare, look for opportunities, love, fear God, stop blaming God, and consider how Christ suffered.
He answers what is the gospel by saying what the gospel is not. Not simply that we are ok. Not simply that God is love. Not simply that Jesus wants to be our friend. Not simply that we should live rightly. Everyone should evangelize. It is not for a set group of people, but all Christian’s should evangelize. We should evangelize by preaching the gospel. We should be honest about a need for repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. We should do so with urgency and with joy.
He then tells us what evangelism is not. Evangelism is not imposing one’s personal beliefs on someone else, it is telling them the truth and it is not coercion. While testimonies can be used to preach the gospel, testimonies are not the gospel. Evangelism is not social action or involvement. Apologetics are not evangelism. Evangelism is not the results, evangelism is preaching the word.
There will be negative response to preaching the gospel; indecision, waiting, a not now attitude and a never response. Positively, evangelism should always find its fulfillment in discipleship. He warns that some “Yeses” are fake; therefore, wait for fruit. The reasons given for evangelism are a desire to be obedient to Christ; love for the lost; and a love for God. He concludes by saying that evangelism is not closing the sale; it is God who regenerates, we are only to preach the gospel.
I very much enjoyed reading this book. The seven questions are important ones indeed, and Mark Dever did a very good job of giving short answers to each of these questions. Every one of these questions would make a good book topic; he only scratched the surface on answering these questions, but I think that this was his intention in writing the book.
Yes, it is true that we do not evangelize because we make excuses. We make all kinds of excuses but if the gospel is true then there really is no excuse because it is the life to come in the new heaven and new earth that eternally matters. In answering what is the gospel he pointed out what the gospel is not.
I really appreciate what he said in chapter 3, that everyone who calls Jesus Christ Lord should evangelize. I had a woman yesterday say that her spiritual gift is prophecy because of her bluntness towards people about what she thinks they are doing wrong. I attempted to explain the difference between a dominant personality and prophecy. I said, “Yes, prophecy is being blunt, but it is being blunt with the truth of the gospel.” Attempting to legitimize her bluntness towards others and not preaching the gospel she said; “Evangelism is a different spiritual gift.”
Evangelism is not a spiritual gift like prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving leadership, or mercy. (cf. 1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12) All Christians are to evangelize but all Christians do so with the spiritual giftedness that they have been given. Therefore; we should all evangelize and do so in the way that we have been equipped. Evangelism and discipleship are our purpose for remaining in this world. Mark Dever is correct to say that all who call Jesus Christ as Lord should evangelize. This must be done through the preaching of the word because the gospel is news. It must be done with honestly, with urgency and with joy.
He is correct about what evangelism is not: Evangelism is not imposition or coercion; evangelism is not personal testimony; evangelism is not social action or involvement; evangelism is not apologetics; and evangelism should not be confused with its fruit. There are going to be both negative responses to the gospel and positive response to the gospel, but we must wait for those positive responses to bear fruit before deciding that they are in fact positive responses.
Lastly, he is absolutely correct to say that evangelism is a desire to be obedient, the love of one’s neighbor and the love of God. It is God who gets all the glory for our evangelism. It is not for us to close the “Sale,” it is God’s gospel. It is God who regenerates, we are only to preach the gospel.
1 “Mark Dever.” About. 9Marks. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.9marks.org/about/mark-dever/.