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Learning Evangelism from Jesus Paperback – May 6, 2009
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"This is not a book about evangelistic technique but about doing evangelism biblically. There is a difference! Beginning with some of the everyday scenes in the gospels and then examining some of the parables, Jerram Barrs shows us that Jesus had no wooden formula which he followed, but rather was about engaging people in the depths of their being. As a result, this is an unusually wise guide to doing evangelism. The great truths of the gospel shine forth undiminished while at the same time the recesses of the human heart are explored with real insight."
—David F. Wells, distinguished senior research professor, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; author, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers and Emergents in the Postmodern World
"I can think of no other living educator who better embodies the gospel's tough love combined with its unconditional acceptance of flawed people than Jerram Barrs. In this wonderfully moving account of Jesus' approach to evangelism, Professor Barrs shows us the ways in which the Lord's message penetrates deep into the human heart, uncovering its darkest secrets, while always defending the dignity of its owner."
—William Edgar, Professor of Apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary
"It is my privilege to have known Jerram Barrs for forty years, first as a student, later as a faculty colleague, always as a friend. In this work, he invites us to follow Jesus' example in seeking the lost, as he himself has done over the course of his life since Jesus found him as a despairing university student. The fruit of those years of evangelistic experience comes to expression here for our benefit as he traces Jesus' interaction in the Gospels with various individuals and groups, as he goes about his business of seeking and saving the lost. Each retelling brims with exegetical insight and existential grasp of what's going on at the time, followed by a section on 'learning from Jesus' that is full of practical wisdom, encouragement, and contemporary challenge. The whole book fairly breathes the Spirit of Christ, which is only to be expected from Jerram (as he is known to one and all) who embodies so well in his own life the example of Jesus."
—David Clyde Jones, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology and Ethics, Covenant Theological Seminary; author, Biblical Christian Ethics
About the Author
Jerram Barrs (MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary) is the founder and resident scholar of the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary, where he is professor of Christian studies and contemporary culture. He and his wife served on staff with L’Abri Fellowship in England for eighteen years. Jerram and his wife, Vicki, have three sons and seven grandchildren.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author says that "the theme of this book is that Jesus, the Son of God, shows the way to be in the world. It is my deep conviction that our evangelism, both in theory and in practice, must be shaped not only by the general teaching of Scripture but also, indeed most of all, by imitating the pattern of Christ." (pp. 14-15). To do this, he takes many of the encounters that Jesus has with people in the Gospels, and takes a closer look at them. In each story, he observes what Jesus did and said, the spiritual state and attitude of the person Jesus spoke with, and then, he gives a summary of what we can learn from each encounter for our own lives and witness to the people we encounter.
I found this to be a wonderful book to read. Not only does this book give great insight into the variety of ways we need to reach different people, but it also reminds us anew of our own need for the Gospel. For example, in his chapter entitled, "Revealing the Pharisee's Heart" (from Matt. 9:9-13 & Luke 18:9-14):
"Once our hearts are in the right place before Jesus, we will begin to think very differently about our fellow sinners who, like ourselves, are trapped in sin of one kind or another. In fact, it may be stated as an absolute principle: if I have a hard heart toward the unbelievers and sinners around me, then it is a certain sign that I do not have a good understanding of my own sin and unbelief, nor of my own need before Jesus for his continual mercy and forgiveness. That is why the Lord's Prayer teaches us to ask for forgiveness for ourselves just as we offer forgiveness to those who have sinned against us. I am to know that I am just like my neighbors. They need forgiveness and so do I. They need the gospel and I do, too." (pp.159).
And another similar example of how the lessons from this book help us both with evangelism and with better understanding our own relationship with the Lord occurs in the chapter about Jesus calling Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10):
Jesus has to make the first move with Zacchaeus if there is going to be any possibility of a relationship with him. Because he is a social and moral outcast, Zacchaeus cannot invite the Lord to his home, or into fellowship. We learn from Jesus in this encounter how necessary it is for believers to take the initiative with those who are outcasts, indeed with any who are despised or looked down on, socially, economically, culturally, racially, or even morally. In truth, in all relationships Christians should be glad to take the first step in seeking to get to know people, for this is what grace is. We did not go looking for the Lord, for no one seeks God. Rather, the Lord came looking for us." (pp. 94).
As you can see, this is more than just a "how to" book on evangelism - it is in fact, a deeper examination of the implications of the Gospel on us, how we see ourselves, how we view others, and how the Lord's grace changes all of our relationships. It also is a book that gives much wisdom for us, as we look at the way Jesus, our model and source of wisdom, dealt with people's hearts. It really fleshes out many of the Gospel stories that we have frequently read by giving the cultural and Biblical backgrounds for those stories to help make their meaning much clearer and more vivid. As you read this (and I hope you will), you will get a greater understanding of your Savior's love for you, patience with you, and mercy to you! It will convict you of your pride, your unbiblical thinking, and your idolatry. But, it will also encourage you that God can even work through you to love those you encounter!
What we find in all of the encounters Jesus had with people and in the stories He told is that there is no set pattern. Every encounter was different. Sometimes He used theological discussions. At other times he only spoke gently and graciously. On a few occasions He actually told people to go away and learn what the law really meant for them. Why was He successful? How, then, do we do what He did?
Jerram Barrs gives us some answers. Like Jesus, there are rarely cookie cutter formulas. Instead, Jerram digs into the stories to discover what is going on. He examines the events, conversations, and reactions of Jesus, the disciples, and the people. Fundamentally, what he shows us is that Jesus related to people as people. Jesus asked questions, told stories, looked at motives. From these interactions with people He was able to lead them to the truth that they needed that would show the kingdom of God to them and what they needed to do to enter it. In every sense Jesus treated people with dignity and grace, often going out of His way and against Jewish customs to do so.
There are many good tools to help us with evangelism. No doubt, each one of these tools has its' place. Certainly the sovereign Lord can use these. But Jerram Barrs takes us to the heart and asks us to emulate Jesus. It is my belief that this kind of attention to where people are at will greatly benefit Christians in there evangelism as well as those we are reaching out to.
I do have to say that I wish there was a little more guidance on how to become the kind of person who can do the things Jesus did. It is one thing to know that we should ask questions of people and listen to them. It is quite another to know how to discern the kinds of questions to ask. In the end there must be some technic and some training for developing those skills that would benefit us. Still, being reminded that it is about relating to people as persons made in the image of God is a good and necessary reminder.