Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 09/25/2008 by Trevin Wax.
Recommended. Provides a theological and practical guide to evangelism from within the Reformed tradition.
At the 2008 Founders Conference, Ed Stetzer challenged pastors and students of the Reformed persuasion to demonstrate a passion for evangelism and warned them not to become “functional hyper-Calvinists.”
Thankfully, no one in Southern Baptist leadership is promoting the heresy of Hyper-Calvinism (the belief that the gospel should not be offered freely to all). But could it be that many of us (Calvinist or non-Calvinist alike) are “functional Hyper-Calvinists?” We say we believe the gospel should be preached to all, and yet we fail to evangelize!
The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (Crossway, 2007) by Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, represents a passionate plea from one of the leading Calvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention. Dever seeks to inspire his readers to evangelize more often and more faithfully, and he hopes to promote a culture of evangelism within our churches. In order to make his case, he focuses each chapter on answering specific questions like:
- Why don’t we evangelize?
- What is the Gospel?
- Who should evangelize?
- How should we evangelize?
- What isn’t evangelism?
- What should we do after we evangelize?
- Why should we evangelize?
Dever’s book is thoroughly biblical and practical. He warns against certain evangelistic strategies that sound more like sales pitches for a new product. And yet he is equally insistent that we should demonstrate urgency when pleading with people to trust in the mercy of Christ.
Dever believes it is important to back up our gospel proclamation with holy living, but he does not believe that we should substitute evangelistic proclamation with “lifestyle evangelism.” Verbal proclamation is key. Dever urges us to proclaim the gospel, not merely our personal testimonies, apologetic reasoning for Christianity, or the results of Christian faith.
Many books on evangelism devote little time to actually defining “the gospel” and instead jump quickly to practical strategies. Dever does not assume his readers know the message that needs to be shared, so he devotes an entire chapter to the gospel message itself. Dever defines “the gospel” more comprehensively than the New Testament uses the word, but in a book about how to share the gospel (and thereby incorporate the major emphases of the biblical witness regarding our need for salvation), his definition works just fine.
The Gospel and Personal Salvation will probably do for this generation what J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God did for the previous generation - provide a theological and practical guide to evangelism from within the Reformed tradition. I highly recommend you pick up Dever’s book. It has challenged me to become more intentional in my evangelism and to be more aware of the non-Christians I meet day to day.