Mark Dever, The Gospel & Personal Evangelism
(By the by, the RTS-Charlotte Bookstore has this book for cheaper than Amazon. I’m just saying.)
Mark Dever is one of my favorite pastor/authors. Best known for his book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, he is an influential advocate of biblical preaching, gospel-centered churches, and theologically-informed passion for Jesus. He also has a reputation among those who know him well as a committed evangelist. C. J. Mahaney, another well-known pastor and author, tells a story in the foreword to this book about going to lunch for the first time with Dever and finding out he knew the entire staff of the local Subway by name, that he had had conversations about the gospel with all of them. Apparently Mahaney has been urging Dever to write this book for years, and I’m glad he did.
In this small book Dever asks seven basic questions about personal evangelism.
- 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?
Each of these is unpacked in a chapter of about 10 pages. His answers and explanations are simple but powerful. The book is designed to briefly encourage believers to share their faith, and it does that job very well. I myself am a lousy evangelist, often racked with guilt over my failure to interact with nonbelievers. Reading books on evangelism has often piled on to that guilty feeling, but this one made me excited to be more intentional in pursuing non-Christians. Dever shows that our excuses are illegitimate, that the gospel is great news, and that our love for God, desire to obey him and love for the lost should make us eager to preach the gospel. He also exposes ideas, even good ones, that are mistakenly viewed as the gospel (social action, “God is love,” moral reform) and shows how they fail to carry water when cut off from the true gospel.
A couple of minor flaws hinder the effectiveness of the book. One is the number and manner of Dever’s Scripture citations. He refers to Scripture often, which is of course a good thing, but frequently just lists several references at the end of a sentence, rather than quoting one or two relevant passages and explaining them. I appreciate his command of Scripture, but I think most readers are less likely to grab a Bible and look up seven verses than they are to pay attention to an explanation of how one or two verses support the point he’s making. There are also awkward transitions, abrupt endings, and even editorial mistakes that give the book, especially the last two chapters, a feel of having been hurried through. These aren’t dealbreakers by any means, but hey, this is a book review.
The greatest thing about this book is its honesty. Dever does not claim to give a foolproof method of evangelism; in fact, he is careful to distinguish between evangelism and the fruit of evangelism. The gospel produces a fragrance of life to some and death to others (2 Cor 2:15-16). But we should nonetheless be confident that God will bless our efforts to spread the good news. Believing that conversion is his work, not ours, frees us to be faithful and entrust the results to him. This book encouraged me to be more intentional about sharing my faith. Pick it up if you need that kind of encouragement too.