As I pointed out in my last post, the subject of evangelism has been on my mind as of late. Therefore, I am taking the opportunity to reacquaint myself with some of the resources on this topic which find a home in my own personal library. Furthermore, I am being encouraged in this endeavour by the opportunity being a contributor to this site brings by allowing me to share insight into these resources. So my post today will continue in this vein by presenting the book Evangelism; How to Share the Gospel Faithfully. This particular review may be a bit different than most you have read because I am going to primarily share with you how my own thinking has been affected by reading this book.
Evangelism; How to Share the Gospel Faithfully is the fourth installment in The John MacArthur Pastor’s Library series authored by John MacArthur and The Master’s Seminary Faculty. As such it joins Pastoral Ministry; How to Shepherd Biblically, Preaching; How to Preach Biblically and Counseling; How to Counsel Biblically. As a work the volume is written with seasoned pastors, those yet preparing for ministry, and those in the congregation serving in such ministries in mind. Therefore, it addresses each aspect of evangelism in a manner that reminds as well as encourages folks in each of these categories.
In this single volume the reader is offered the opportunity to take advantage of a seminary level course in evangelism taught not by a single professor but rather by a team of a sixteen gifted churchmen. Further, the authors are writing from the perspective of men with experiential pastoral ministry in the local church and not merely from an academic point of view which lends far more than credibility. Rather, it provides insights which are appreciated by the seasoned pastor who recognizes a fellow soldier in God’s army for reaching the lost as well as opening the eyes of the novice to the things which may be being overlooked in current service to the local church.
In reading this volume of the Pastor’s Library series my thinking has been challenged in a number of ways but the three most significant are the idea of evangelism being an introduction of people to Jesus Christ, the role that church disciple plays in evangelism, and the myriad ministries within the local church which should have an evangelistic outlook and plan.
Prior to reading this book (even for a second time) I had always thought of presenting the gospel as explaining the “plan” or “way” of salvation. I now understand that though this is indeed a valid method, it has its own shortcomings which may actually lead to the listener coming to a wrong conclusion of the Gospel and its source. I now wholehearted agree with Holland that effective and biblical evangelism points people “toward a Saviour to behold” (p. 63). Because of this I am convinced that not only do we need to explain the Gospel “plan” but indeed calling upon people to a restored relationship with the incarnate God, Jesus Christ.
I have always considered church disciple to be of a great benefit to the believers being confronted in their sin in order that they repent and be restored in their relationship to God and the fellowship of the saints. However, I had not considered how this dedication to purity within the church could be of benefit to non-believers both those discovered within the church and those on the outside looking in. In reading through the chapter dealing with the purity of the church I learned of dangers involved in allowing sin to go without confrontation within the local body. The chief of which how such actin seems to lend an air of false assurance in the unbeliever because they are falsely lead to believe that they are redeemed without any discernible repentance on their part. Likewise, when the church does not strive to maintain the purity demanded by the Bible those looking in from without are left to wonder why they should listen to our calls of repentance when they perceive us to behave in the same manner we condemn.
The third area my own thinking was informed and expanded was in the multiple ministries within the local church which must necessarily have an evangelistic outlook and action. It is commonly acknowledged that there will be unbelievers within the local assembly (remember the parable of the wheat and the tares?). However it is not always acknowledged that these same folks are likely involved in other ministries within the church outside of the main worship service. Likewise, there are actually some ministries within the church which have a higher ratio of unbelievers than others. These ministries will include all of children’s, youth, student and even special ministries. In the case of these particular ministries which ought to be an active part of church life, there must be an established philosophy of evangelism within each area’s philosophy of ministry. The inclusion of this information will enable the individual ministries to evaluate their participation in this purpose/mission of the church as a whole as well as ensuring that the philosophy of the particular ministry doesn’t undermine the work of a local churches outreach with the Gospel.
In closing, I would like to recommend this book to any and all who would like to see how evangelism is an activity which is not only engaged by individual Christians, but rather how evangelism should be a pervasive attitude of every ministry within the local Church.