The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (9Marks)
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
If you want to read a very good book on what evangelism is, why we need to evangelize, and what evangelism is not, then you must purchase this book. Dever has really hit the bullseye in this book when it comes to evangelism and all the implications associated with it. Though every chapter in the book is useful and valuable the better chapters are on the contents of the gospel (chap. 2) and what evangelism is not (chap. 5).

In the chapter on what the true gospel is, Dever makes it clear that the gospel (contrary to many modern evangelicals) is NOT 1) that we are simply okay; 2) that God is simply love; 3) that Jesus just wants to be our friend; and 4) that we should just live rightly. The true gospel, according to Dever, is that we are all sinners, that Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the cross to take our punishment, that he rose from the dead, and that we are all called to repent of our sins and trust Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation. This chapter must be read by ALL evangelical ministers today who are tempted to follow the seeker-friendly or prosperity train.

The chapter on what evangelism is not is also very enlightening. Dever rightly points out that evangelism is NOT 1) imposition of our beliefs on unbelievers; 2) personal testimony of our Christian life; 3) social action or public involvement; 4) and apologetics (this point is especially important to highlight since so many Christians today believe that they can persuade an unbeliever to Christ through clever argumentation). Also, Dever rightly points out that just because we do not see the fruits of our evangelism right away does not mean that our role as God's messengers have failed. In fact, the fruit of conversion may appear many decades later - the time when a sinner comes to Christ is not in our hands but it is in the hands of our wise and sovereign God. Our job is just to be faithful messengers of the gospel and let God do the actual saving.

Finally, I also found Dever's statement that just because a person "accepts" Christ does not mean he or she is a true believer quite helpful. Having led bible studies for quite some time this is an important point that all Christian leaders need to be aware of. There will always be wolves in sheep's clothing in any church (even in solid Calvinistic ones). Many who appear to be Christians at first will later show their true colours as their supposed faith wanes and they go back to their old lifestyle. Dever points this out in his book to remind us that assurance is not an automatic thing and that we need to be careful of automatically considering a person saved just because he or she claims to be a Christian.

Overall, I would highly recommend this short but important book on evangelism. Though Dever is a Calvinist, this book can be very useful for evangelical Christians of all theological persuasions. In an age where evangelism is mostly based on seeker-friendly methods and the gospel is watered-down to meet the carnal desires of the people this book shows what true biblical evangelism is all about and what the gospel gives us and demands from us.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2007
One of my favorite podcasts subscriptions is the Capital Hill Baptist Church sermon audio. Capital Hill is where Mark Dever pastors. One of the reasons why I like Dever so much is (in addition to his biblical fidelity) his ability to communicate grand concepts clearly and with intentional application. So when I heard that Dever was soon releasing a new book on evangelism I was eager to read.

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism is a short book (128 pages) but is filled with helpful, Bible saturated, honesty and exhortation. Dever is writing both as a pastor and a Christian. Therefore he is transparent about his own evangelistic struggles but also clear about the necessity for believers to faithfully herald the gospel.

"My prayer is that because of the time you spend reading this book, more people will hear the good news of Jesus Christ." (p.16)

As someone who teaches a class on evangelism I often cringe when I hear contemporary authors and preachers talk about the motivation and means of evangelism. Far too often emotional and pragmatic sentiments drown out the clear God-centered goal of evangelism as outlined in the Scriptures. Thankfully Dever does not swing and miss on this critical understanding of evangelism:

"According to the Bible, good motives for evangelism are a desire to be obedient, a love for the lost, and a love for God....Ultimately, our motive in evangelism must be a desire to see God glorified. This was the end of all of the Lord Jesus' actions (See John 17)....God is glorified in being known. To see others truly come to know him glorifies God and honors him....The call to evangelism is a cal to turn our lives outward from focusing on ourselves and our needs to focusing on God and on others made in his image who are still at enmity with him, alienated from him, and in need of salvation from sin and guilt. We bring God glory as we speak the truth about him to his creation." (pp. 96, 101)

Dever maintains a steady posture of introspection and exhortation throughout the chapters. I firmly believe that if you are a Christian and you want to grow in the area of evangelism then this book will be helpful. In each of the chapters Dever aims to makes us comfortable with obedience while stirring up discomfort with complacency and the fear of man. Here are the chapters titles, each are about 10 or so pages long:

Why Don't we Evangelize?

What is the Gospel?

Who Should Evangelize?

How Should We Evangelize?

What Isn't Evangelism?

What do we Do After We Evangelize?

Why Should We Evangelize?

In closing I want to highlight some of Dever's recommendations for increasing in our evangelistic faithfulness:

Ask for testimonies

Consider the reality of hell

Consider God's sovereignty

Meditate on the Gospel

Consider the Cross

This book is not exhaustive but it clearly was not intended to be. Dever aims to cultivate faithfulness in evangelism while also exposing some unbiblical practices that regrettably seem to characterize much of evangelicalism's evangel. In this Dever was successful. I suggest picking up the book for yourself or reading it with a friend or small group. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism is a helpful, God-centered shot in the arm for the church.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The Christian life has three ugly step children. They get lots of lip service, and often little action: Consistent Bible Reading, Prayer - and (the BIG one) Evangelism. We all know we ought to to do them. We all WANT to do them - at least on some level. But if one gets shoved aside more than any other - its the last one - evangelism.

Mark Dever has written an invaluable resource to help us out.

In short, Mark's book is:

#1 - Encouraging. Encouraging because he both addresses our universal fears and failings, and because he offers simple, clear, Biblical help.

#2 - Clear. You cannot come away from it missing the need to evangelize; being incited to evangelize; being informed as how to evangelize - and above all - getting the Gospel simply and clearly so AS to evangelize.

#3 - Concise. Short can often mean bereft of content. Not The Gospel & Personal Evangelism. Much more more can be said, and has been said. But what is here is the essential meat. The core. Digest this, and you are well fed.

#4 - Practical. This book is not about theory - though underlying necessary concepts are not ignored. But it is all couched in the practical realm of loving people with the Gospel personally.

#5 - Equipping. I cannot imagine anyone putting this book down and not being immensely more confident they can clearly and accurately share the Gospel with others. Or as he puts it in chapter 4: To share HONESTLY, URGENTLY and JOYFULLY. What a great paradigm.

# 6- Necessary. For whatever reason, the Gospel message needs to be repeated over and over even to those of us who believe it - or it seems to grow nebulous, nondescript and inarticulable in a heartbeat. Thus he repeats it any number of ways throughout the book Helping us see it framed and re-framed a number of different ways. None more beautifully or simply than on page 43:

"The 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 to 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."

And as He closes that section - "Now that's good news". I agree.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Normally I enjoy Mark Dever and his books. His website is one of the best Christian sites on the web ([...] Dever is a man after God's own heart and a man who deeply wants to communicate the truths of Scripture.

However, I didn't really enjoy this book. While the meditations on the gospel were great and it is clear that Dever has a passion for the truth, I felt that something was missing from this book on evangelism. My answer is that I felt that Dever should have spent more time developing the reality of using the Law to bring about the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:19-20; 7:7,14; 1 Timothy 1:8-11) and more time on the true nature of repentance (Matthew 3:8; 2 Corinthians 7:10). While Dever touched briefly on repentance here and there, the Law was never used. Charles Spurgeon correctly noted, "The Law prepares the heart for the gospel."

The exaltation of God, His Son, and His Word are excellent in this book. Dever does a great job of exalting Jesus above men. His message throughout this book is that too often evangelism becomes man-focused and not God-honoring. I agree. But I would love to have seen Dever use the Law and teaching believers how to use the Law to preach the gospel (Acts 28:23).

So while I enjoy Dever, enjoy his ministry, and enjoy his heart - I simply didn't enjoy this book. For more on the Law and using it in evangelism see Ray Comfort's THE WAY OF THE MASTER.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2007
In this small book Dever asks seven basic questions about personal evangelism.

1. Why don't we evangelize?
2. What is the gospel?
3. Who should evangelize?
4. How should we evangelize?
5. What isn't evangelism?
6. What should we do after we evangelize?
7. 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. 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.

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.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Mark Dever writes to help a Christian who is convinced that he or she needs be evangelizing know how to and how not to. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism is a good implementation of that goal. In fact, it is page-for-page the best book on evangelism that I have read written in the last 100 years. Dever's personal friend, C.J. Mahaney, writes in the foreword, "Mark, thank you for writing The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. Thank you even more for your compelling example of compassion for the lost and for your faithfulness to proclaim Jesus Christ and him crucified. May there be many gospel conversations and abundant evangelistic fruit as a result of this book." I echo those sentiments. Thank you, Mark.

Among evangelicals, there are generally two common incorrect responses to Jesus' call to evangelize the nations. One, ignore it. Two, preach something that isn't the gospel, say that we are evangelizing, and then count people as conversions before there is any evidence of faith besides a confession that they want to go to heaven. This book tackles both common errors, rather trying to cultivate a biblically informed, gospel-motivated, Spirit-empowered heart that proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ with a balance of honesty, urgency, and joy.

The chapter titles give a good summary of what the book is about. Each chapter is usually between 10 and 15 pages and would make a good daily reading for personal edification or reading for a group study (I am seriously thinking about going through this book with my church smallgroup):

1. Why Don't We Evangelize?
2. What Is the Gospel?
3. Who Should Evangelize?
4. How Should We Evangelize?
5. What Isn't Evangelism?
6. What Should We Do After We Evangelize?
7. Why Should We Evangelize?
8. Conclusion: Closing the Sale (We are not salesmen)
9. Appendix: Recommended Reading
10. Appendix: Word to Pastors

Mark Dever writes to affect the heart. Evangelism devoid of the correct motivation does not give God the glory, will tend to be legalistic, and doesn't aim for disciples but numbers. I would love to go chapter-by-chapter through the book giving highlights of each, as there is not a weak chapter in the entire book. I have posted and will continue to post some quotes from the book on my blog. Just search for "Dever Evangelism". I will say that two of the most helpful points of the book are (1) Differentiate evangelism from the fruits of evangelism, and (2) We are not salesmen who need to "close the deal" but witnesses.

Dever has effectively engaged my heart and affected the way that I think about evangelism and has begun to affect the way that I have patterned my life in order that I can build a lifestyle of evangelism. I hope and pray that time will tell by my life that this book deserves the 5-star rating that I have given it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2008
In this book, a pastor who personally evangelizes people, tries to get other Christians to do the same. The book consists of seven brief chapters; since the obstacle in evangelism less the knowing and more the doing, the brevity of the book lends to its being used for regular reminder or even as a sort of manual. Here is a very brief summary of the content:

1. Why Don't We Evangelize?
This chapter examines obstacles, imagined and real, and prescribes 12 simple correctives. The first 8 are more concrete, and the last 4 are more compelling.

2. What Is the Gospel?
Most of this chapter is spent debunking what the Gospel is not, before arriving upon a definition that attempts to summarize what the Bible says about how God accomplished the salvation of sinners and applies it to them.

3. Who Should Evangelize?
Although I don't think the case was strongly made from Scripture, I do agree with his conclusion that all Christians should evangelize. This chapter included a helpful example and exhortation that just thinking, speaking, and living in a radically Christian way is often used of God as evangelism.

4. How Should We Evangelize?
This chapter deals with our manner as we evangelize and with some practical suggestions of things to do when we evangelize. The former is too often done poorly; the latter are too often not done at all; so, this is a very helpful and important chapter.

5. What Isn't Evangelism?
This chapter attempts to distinguish evangelism (our duty) from many things that go by its name--things that we would rather do, or things that are not ours to do.

6. What to Do After We Evangelize
This chapter helps us process the various kinds of responses that we get when we tell people the Gospel. It is helpful both to Christians who don't know how to respond to a negative response and who fall short of engaging a new convert in discipleship. Both are important, since evangelism seeks to make disciples and not just converts.

7. Why Should We Evangelize?
This chapter identifies three healthy motives for evangelism: obedience to God, love for others, and love for God and His glory. Recognizing that these are not often our motives for anything in the way they should be, Dever then gives a list of ways to foster such motives in our hearts.

There is also a concluding section reminding us that evangelizing is our job, but converting is God's alone, and we ought not attempt to do it ourselves. This is a slight expansion of some content from chapter 5.

Happily, I believe that Dever accomplished his stated purpose for the book: "It is meant to be an encouragement, a clarification, an instruction, a rebuke, and a challenge all rolled up into several short chapters." (p16)

Because of the importance of the topic, the brevity and accessibility of the writing, and the amount of practical content, I think that if you are a believer you will find this book useful to have and to read and to reread.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2008
Mark Dever says that he does not have the gift of evangelism, and that he often misses opportunities to evangelize. In fact, he even fears that if evangelism was graded, he might get an "F."
This makes him a strange candidate to write a book on evangelism. However, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism is one of the more helpful and encouraging books on the subject. It goes significantly beyond his material on evangelism in his other books, and I am thankful for his labor here.
To be a good book on evangelism the essential elements of motives, message, and method all must be addressed. Dever covers these in a way that is encouraging and not condemning. It is more difficult to be long and convoluted than concise and clear. While it is easy to be comprehensive, it is often more difficult to be direct. This book is just over 100 pages, and yet it is not lacking. It is clear and compelling.
Dever explains what the Gospel is, who should evangelize, why they should, and why they don't. He uses appropriate Scripture and yet does not get bogged down in tangential doctrine. His points are illustrated with experiences from his own life, used as examples of both success and failure.
Dever paints a view of evangelism that is Biblical. He sees evangelism as something you live--that is backed by your lifestyle--as well as something that is spoken. He stresses the importance of clearly proclaiming the essentials of the Gospel, and he also stresses the importance of doing this in a conversation. "Don't tell people something; talk with them. Have a conversation."
One of the most helpful sections is where Dever discusses the contextualization of the Gospel. This is a word that has been recently hijacked by the emergent church movement, but Dever rescues it. He defines "contextualization" as explaining the Gospel "in such a way as to be understood." He adds that rightly understood, contextualization should "give the Gospel more bite, not less."
There is an appendix in the book, a few pages long, that deals with pastors and the particular opportunities and hindrances to evangelism that are unique to their occupation.
All Christians are called to evangelize, even if they are not particularly gifted. Many, if not most, Christians do poorly at this task. This book is an excellent tool to help Christians who recognize their insufficiency to be faithful in our task.
"The call to evangelism is a call to turn our lives outward from focusing on ourselves and our needs to focusing on God and on others made in his image who are still at enmity with him, alienated from him, and in need of salvation from sin and guilt." This book helps us with our calling.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2012
Point: Evangelism is not a duty for only full-time ministers. Evangelism is the privilege and expectation granted to all believers of sharing the good news with others.

Path: Dever asks and answers seven key questions in this short book. 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?
In his questions and answers the author critiques common misunderstandings and malpractices.

Sources: Dever regularly references puritan leaders and influential pastors from the 20th century.

Agreement: This short work was an encouragement and reminder to me. I appreciated his openness, his logic, and his personal love for the glory of God and his fellow man .

Personal App: Am I viewing evangelism as what it truly is, sharing the good news, or just another duty, option, cross to bear, or distraction?

Favorite Quote: "An eternity in relative prosperity without him [Christ] would actually be hell to us." (59)

I enjoyed it, and will read it again. I would also pass this on to another believer, young or old in the faith. It is a good starter and would go well with Packer's Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2014
Mark Dever, pastor of the historic Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., in The Gospel and Personal Evangelism has provided a fresh reminder of the fundamental and crucial realities that come with evangelism. While no evangelical will (or should) deny the necessity, importance, and priority of evangelism, most of these same Christians lack honesty and/or knowledge when it comes to sharing their faith. Many Christians struggle to admit their failure to evangelize and there are not nearly enough conversations about how to begin evangelizing and what that evangelism should look like.

In a very brief and highly readable book where Dever dives into the most crucial elements of personal evangelism, there were a few themes that really spoke to and affected me. Dever addresses a plethora of concerns in evangelism by asking seven crucial questions.

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 soundly and soberly answers each of these questions by keeping the gospel central and the mission of God over the methods of man as the most important concern. I was most directly impacted by two of these discussions: “Why Don’t We Evangelize?” and “What Isn’t Evangelism?”

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

In chapter one, Dever is representatively transparent and honest for all Christians by offering up five basic excuses Christians give for not evangelizing. I can personally identify with the fourth excuse—“Other things seem more urgent” (21). Admittedly, I am hesitant and embarrassed to even confess this, but I was highly convicted by Dever’s words. I find that there are many other things in my life that take priority over evangelism. I can’t go outside and ask my neighbor who comes home for lunch every single day if he would like to eat with me because I am usually working on a paper or project for my blog. I excuse myself from evangelistic opportunities with him because I “don’t have time.” The truth is, I don’t manage time well enough. Evangelism has not been a high enough priority to sacrifice time in other ventures. For example, do I really have to mow our lawn at exactly the same time that I could have gospel conversations with my neighbor? Do I have to bury my face in a book when someone sits close to me at Starbucks?

This thought from Dever especially convicted me: “But do our other commitments sometimes become so numerous—or do we interpret them so—as to leave no time for evangelism? If we are too busy for that, what things are we managing to make time for?” After reading this section, I have begun to actively pray that God remove this kind of thinking from my mind and break my heart for the lost around me, so much so that I will not have time for other things because of evangelism.

Is a Personal Testimony Evangelism?

A second theme that specifically spoke to me came from Dever’s chapter on those things that often are credited as evangelism, but in reality are not. I felt this was Dever’s most important chapter as many church leaders and Christians in general are confused as to what evangelism actually is. A good way to begin defining evangelism is understanding those things we do that are right and good in and of themselves, but are by no means evangelism. Dever mentions five things that he considers to not be evangelism. Among these, he discusses a Christian’s personal testimony. Many people in my local church consider their personal testimony to be evangelism. They teach one another and especially the children and youth that to share the gospel is to share “your story.” This is a common phrase around my church that even my pastor uses from time to time. If you want to share the gospel, the thing to do is to simply share your story.

The testimony of where you were before repentance and faith and where you are now because of the grace of God in Christ is a wonderful thing, but it inherently only describes the results of the gospel rather than the gospel itself. Dever puts it this way, “An account of a changed life is wonderful and inspiring thing, but it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ that explains what it’s all about and how it happened. And it’s the gospel that turns sharing a testimony into evangelism.” This has not only affected the way I share my own testimony, but it has affected the way I encourage others to do the same. The actual content of the gospel, not the result, should ooze from our testimonies. When this is done, we take an encouraging story about us and turn it into the proclamation about the greatest story of them all—the story of God’s redemption of sinners through Jesus.

Gospel-Centrality in Evangelism

The strongest aspect of The Gospel and Personal Evangelism is its gospel-centrality. In approaching a spiritual discipline like evangelism, there can be a tendency to provide pragmatic lists or programs to help introverts speak boldly and extroverts speak wisely with their non-Christian friends. But where many of us seek methods, Dever provides us with the biblical mission. The point is made throughout the book; without the gospel, evangelism is impossible. The infamous quote, “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary” is totally debunked in this work. Dever is adamant: words are always necessary in evangelism and our words must be coated with the gospel and we must explicitly make the good news known.

Conclusion

If you are lackadaisical in your evangelism or confused about how to evangelize, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism is the perfect book for you. Mark Dever tactfully and honestly walks readers through the personal challenges we face in evangelism, the gospel that grounds evangelism, and many tangible ways that we can actually do the one thing we all claim to do, but hardly ever actually do. Whether you are a Christian who has a desire to begin evangelizing or if you are very comfortable and even gifted in evangelism, you will benefit from Dever’s logic and biblical confidence he employs in his exploration of Christian evangelism. No matter what aspect of evangelism you are unsure or confused about, Dever has provided a useful aid as you seek to reach the lost around you with gospel of Jesus.
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