Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 08/02/2009 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. In his hallmark clear style, Chapman explains the gospel and suggests many practical ways to share it with unbelievers.
When it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ, to know it is to love it. And that which we love, we freely and widely broadcast. If one were to coin a new evangelistic method based on this premise, one might call it "Overflow Evangelism." But it’s not new phenomenon – not in the least. Countless unnamed Christians through the ages have discovered that their love for Christ plays out naturally – one might say supernaturally – in their desire to spread the word about the Word.
The overflowing effect of the gospel has already been recognized by authors such as Hank Allen in Evangelism and Discipleship in African-American Churches, Donald Bloesch in A Theology of Word and Spirit (quoted by Rebecca Manley Pippert in the highly influential Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World), Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron in The School of Biblical Evangelism, and Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg in Building a Contagious Church, to name just a few.
In Know and Tell the Gospel, evangelist and author John Chapman goes a step further than other authors of evangelism books. Rather than simply assuming his readers actually know the biblical gospel, Chapman uses the first half of the book to reinforce the gospel's basic truths and provide scriptural proofs for it. Being an Australian, Chapman might call it ‘revising’ the gospel – not in the sense of changing it, but rehearsing it.
Lest you believe Chapman is a natural evangelist, let him disabuse you of that notion with his own words: "I decided that as I found evangelism so difficult, then I obviously did not have the gift…every time I tried, it was so hard that I concluded I did not have the gift." Notwithstanding this early reticence, the nonagenarian Chapman is still active in evangelism after a decades-long ministry career as Director of the Anglican Department of Evangelism in Sydney. This should give us all hope for growing into more natural and confident evangelists.
The first section, focusing on knowing the content and implications of the gospel, is divided into nine chapters. In this span Chapman delivers biblical instruction on the inseparability of evangelism and the evangel itself, explains why every Christian ought to evangelize, and deals with some common objections to the gospel message. For me, the standout chapter in this section is entitled "The gospel and the kingdom of God." In his hallmark succinct writing style, Chapman shows how the Bible uses the terms gospel and kingdom interchangeably - and so should we if we want to be biblically accurate.
The second section, focusing more on method and technique, features only three chapters, but the second chapter, entitled "Training yourself and others," is a 70-page behemoth. Despite its practical focus, theological overlap from the first section is evident, since "A right understanding of the gospel should lead to right methods; an inadequate understanding will inevitably lead to inadequate practices." In this chapter Chapman offers many evangelistic scenarios and a number of conversation starters. I found most of them helpful, but obviously certain cultural contexts will enable some and preclude others.
Finally, there is an appendix in which Chapman earnestly contends for sound exegesis in evangelistic sermons. Fidelity to the once-delivered message is important for Chapman: "Since God has stated the gospel, then care must be taken to make sure I have rightly understood it." Chapman goes so far as to say that we Christians "will have to take full responsibility for the way we tell people the gospel but not [for] the content." In the interests of full disclosure, please note that Chapman and his fellow Sydney Anglicans adhere to a Reformed understanding of Scripture. But Chapman never comes across as dogmatic.
This book is one I would encourage every Christian to read. It may or may not teach you anything new about evangelism, but the read is worth it even "just" to rehearse the message of the wonderful saving gospel of Jesus Christ once again. The book's spotlight shines on Christ, the author and perfecter of our Faith:
It is a truism to say that the gospel is about Jesus, but it must be said...Any other experience I may have of Jesus is not to be put forward as the gospel. My 'experience' of Jesus can and must only be understood in terms of God’s revelation of him in the Scriptures...He is the gospel we preach.