Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. Crossway Books, 2007.
Dever founded a substantial network of conservative church leaders, Nine Marks Ministries, which also produces a series of books on church development. As compared to other authors on evangelism, he offers a Reformed Protestant perspective with conservative Evangelical overtones. He joins John Piper, D. A. Carson, and others in the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, whose purpose is “to call the Church, amidst a dying culture, to repent of its worldliness, to recover and confess the truth of God’s Word as did the reformers, and to see that truth embodied in doctrine, worship, and life.”
Dever presents evangelism with an aim toward one’s conversion as the Gospel confronts sin and separation from God, leading to a clear decision of faith and repentance. In this sense, Dever is in the company of popular authors such as Will Metzger (Tell the Truth) and John Piper.
Dever’s orientation and influences aside, what one captures from this volume is a passionate, humble, authentic zeal for evangelism and an undying commitment to engage this in a manner that is unashamedly biblical. He begins by confronting typical excuses for not evangelizing, challenging us to be more preoccupied with God’s mission in even the most mundane and chance encounters. This includes intentionally frequenting the same restaurants and businesses to develop relationships and hopefully create evangelistic opportunities. Next he asks, just what is the Gospel? He says:
[T]he 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 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. (43)
The next question is who should evangelize? Here he underscores the responsibility of each individual Christian in association with a local church. This is followed by a consideration of how we should evangelize, methods, etc. The fifth chapter reflects one of Dever’s strengths where he clearly distinguishes evangelism from other good works such as personal testimony, social and political activism, apologetics, and the results. He deftly challenges the tendency to confuse evangelism with “imposing one’s values,” emphasizing the objective declaration of God’s truth and the response of repentance and faith as obedience to a sovereign God. He also offers seasoned advice on what we should do after we evangelize, and the final chapter presents a number of legitimate motivations for evangelism.
Dever’s proposals are usually placed over what he rejects, with reasoned and irenic polemic. An example is a chapter near the end on “Closing the Sale,” where he deftly challenges the “evangelism as salesmanship” approach, which although rarely commended still lives in the subconscious among both those who practice and those who run from evangelism.
This book is a brief, well-written treatise on evangelism from a biblically conservative standpoint. It challenges the reader’s apathy, fear, and self-centeredness while encouraging those who lack confidence. It is suitable for church leaders, small groups, or Bible classes.
From the Publisher
Evangelism is not only misunderstood, it is often unpracticed. Many Christians want to share the gospel with others, but because those Christians don’t grasp the fundamentals of witnessing, they feel intimidated and incapable of sharing the truth of the gospel.
Yet those believers fail to recognize that God has already established who and how we are to evangelize. In The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, Dr. Mark Dever seeks to answer the four basic questions about evangelism that many Christians ask: Who should we evangelize? How should we evangelize? What is evangelism? Why should we evangelize? In his answers Dever draws on New Testament truths and helps believers apply those truths in practical ways. As readers understand the fundamentals of evangelism, they will begin to develop a culture of evangelism in their lives and their local churches.
About the Author
Mark Dever serves as the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. A Duke graduate, Dr. Dever holds a M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Th.M. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Ecclesiastical History from Cambridge University. He is the president of 9Marks Ministries (www.9marks.org) and has taught at a number of seminaries. Dr. Dever also has authored numerous books and articles. He and his wife Connie live and minister on Capitol Hill. They have two adult children.
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