Lately, the topic of evangelism has been heavy on my mind and heart especially as I look at the state of the world around me. To that end I decided to go back through my personal library and notes to relearn some of the things I had already forgotten on the subject. What I found was both encouraging and dismaying. The encouragement came in the form of books I not only possess but have also read. The dismay in learning through an examination of my notes that I had also reviewed these books and have forgotten what they had to teach me on this important work which can only be pursued by the Church. Therefore, over the next few weeks I want to offer up a series of book reviews on books I am rediscovering and being encouraged by on the topic of evangelism. I want to start with a book that addresses a fundamental aspect of evangelism and that is to answer the question “What is the Gospel?”
Greg Gilbert does exactly this in his book, What is the Gospel? The importance of this question cannot be undersold as Gilbert ably points out in the introduction to this succinct, easy to read volume. The muddling of the Gospel strips it of its power and confuses not only people but the church as an institution. Therefore, Gilbert sets up four crucial questions in chapter one which he then answers in a chapter length treatment each. Thereafter, he undertakes to address some implications of a positive response to the faithful proclamation of the Gospel. Gilbert accomplishes this in eight short chapters which I believe faithfully answer his question and accomplish the purpose of this book as stated in the introduction, “I want to try in this book to offer a clear answer to the question ‘What is the Gospel?’ that is based on what the Bible says about the Gospel (p. 20).
In this short overview I will give a phrase length synopsis of each of the chapters in the book and following this will address the sections which I will likely incorporate into my own ministry. In chapter 1 Gilbert introduces his four questions. Chapter 2 answers the first question, Who is God? Chapter 3 addresses the problem of man and his sin, while chapter 4 introduces the reader and the target of evangelism to Jesus Christ the solution to man’s problem. Chapter 5 finishes answers the fourth question, How will you respond? Chapter 6 addresses the Kingdom of Christ and its already/not yet aspects with chapter 7 discussing the centrality of the Cross to the Gospel and reiterates the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as THE WAY to salvation. Finally, chapter 8 deals with what I have termed the results of salvation.
The big take-away from this little book as I see it is that the Gospel message of salvation in Christ is not some ethereal idea which cannot be grasped and therefore should not examined or challenged. By this I mean we are not free to reinterpret what the Gospel message is and is not outside of Scripture, and we are free to correct/challenge those who do seek to change the Gospel message. I believe it is a central responsibility of the leaders of the Church to ensure that those with whom they have been entrusted by God, understand the Gospel and are competent to proclaim it. This necessarily includes ensuring that they have a proper understanding of God and His holiness, the problem of man – that he is separated from God because he is a sinner, the answer to man’s problem in Jesus Christ who bore the wrath of God in our place on the Cross, and the fact that this truth requires a response. Furthermore, there are only two responses; acceptance or rejection there is no middle ground in this arena. What’s more it is the responsibility of the leadership that the people not only be able to articulate this truth but to be able support it from Scripture, to include opening the Bible and showing the passages to the one being evangelized instead of merely memorizing everything and then expecting them to take your word for it.
So I close this review with a challenge; Go out this weekend and seek an opportunity to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to someone you know and make sure you bring a Bible with the intention of opening it up to show the source and authority of your message!