Book Review: Offer Them Life

Dan DunnHaving read a steady diet of popular church growth books, Dan Dunn’s Offer Them Life: A Life-Based Evangelistic Vision is different academic challenge.

It is not a book to consume in one sitting, but a great book for those who want to think deeply on the biblical theme of Life.

I love Dan’s passion for evangelism and it clearly shows through the book with a mix of scholarly wrestling plus how to make such insights available in practice.  Dan’s cross cultural missions experience (a passion that I share personally) gives him tremendous insight into his study.

This book requires deep thought and this was a welcome refresher in an age of “theology lite” books I’ve read the last few years.

Reading it felt like an appropriate return to seminary.  For me, that was a timely challenge that I appreciated.

Dan has made the effort to survey the scholarship and to synthesize their thoughts plus his own surrounding the biblical metaphor of life.

I appreciated Dunn’s scholarly approach.  Rather than reduce the gospel to 3 propositional statements, Dunn looks throughout the scriptures at the theme of Life.  He takes well-developed steps to map out a comprehensive picture of this metaphor throughout Scripture to show the centrality of this message in Scripture. 

His thoughts would serve missionaries, pastors, and evangelism trainers like myself as they prepare their evangelism habits and teaching materials.

Main points of Offer Them Life

DanDunnThese are the two most important points:

1. A solid case can be made that “full, vibrant life” is the central theme of the Bible.

This is therefore what God calls us to enjoy in relationship with God, others, and creation.  It is not only eternal life, but a full and meaningful life as one lives out God’s purpose and plan for which we have been created.

2.  Portraying the full vibrant life that God intends to non-Christians is a central element of evangelism.

This what we should be inviting non-Christians toward.  Sure, the offer of salvation includes forgiveness of sin, but it also includes the offer of “abundant life” here and now.

We should not stop using other biblical/theological language, such as redemption, forgiveness, salvation.

Dunn only asks that we add full life oriented imagery and vocabulary to our theological/biblical understandings and also our evangelistic communication.

Quotes I liked:

  • Two perspectives underlie the current practice of evangelism in the U.S. American context. The first is one’s understanding of eternal life. The second is basing evangelism on the concept of kingdom.
  • Christians, therefore, must continually discern ways of thinking about and practicing evangelism that honor the strong biblical theme that God wants God’s created humanity to experience life fully (abundantly, according to John 10:10), on this earth, prior to physical death.
  • When evangelism deals with sin, for example, mutual emphasis could be given to the life-forever benefits of being forgiven through Christ (e.g., access to heaven) and to the life-now benefits of Christ’s forgiveness (e.g., freedom from bondage)
  • These examples serve to illustrate that a great deal of material has been written on the theme of the already and not-yet character of the kingdom’s fulfillment. For my purposes, the most important factor to note is how the tension between the already and not-yet dimensions of kingdom fulfillment relates to the biblical theme of life, and then consequently how this relates to the theory and practice of evangelism
  • I would now like to introduce a related yet different concept for you to consider: that we frame the relationship between life and kingdom in reference to ultimate goal or purpose, as distinct from the instruments or means that lead to that ultimate goal or purpose.
  • Thus, Jesus’s primary goal in announcing the kingdom and inviting people to respond to it was not so that they could be counted as citizens of the kingdom for the sake of the king or the kingdom, but for their own sake, because it is through submission to the rule of King Jesus that they would receive new life in him.
  • If creation of and participation in life was God’s original intention for creation, then God’s intention in Jesus is a restoration and re-creation of that same life: teeming, fertile, abundant, and good. This directly and powerfully impacts the theory and practice of evangelism, for it helps shape our understandings of what we are offering in our communication of the good news
  • Evangelism begins with God, but God also intends, invites, and desires that God’s people be active participants in the evangelization process. The Scriptures vividly portray that God’s plan for calling God’s fallen creation back to God’s self includes people as integral ministry partners in this work. From the calling of Abraham to be a blessing to all the families of the earth, to young Mary giving birth to the Son, to the early disciples leading thousands of people to Christ—the Bible makes it clear that God wants to communicate the possibility of new life in Jesus to people through people. Therefore, though evangelism begins with God and is utterly dependent on God, God also envisions a vital role for Christians. Without question, God is the sole source of new life in Christ. However, this does not automatically mean that God is the sole agent in the process that leads us to this new life. God’s sovereignty in evangelism does not cancel out God’s intention for us to be used as God’s agents in evangelism. Rather, it is in God’s sovereignty that God has chosen us as God’s agents.
  • How, therefore, can we portray (and invite persons to) an experience of full life in Jesus that appropriately calls them to center that experience in their commitment to and relationship with God?
  • The answer is, yes, there is very good news for life now, and evangelistic theory and practice must make this a primary emphasis
  • In whatever way we may choose to include the possibility of new life in Christ in our evangelistic vision and ministry, we must include references to experiencing positive benefits in this life, if we want to resonate well with non-believers
  • This is the essential point I am making in relation to creation as the starting point for an evangelistic vision grounded in the biblical theme of life. We begin with God’s good and positive intentions. This provides a more appropriate biblical and theological foundation for theology and evangelism.

This reviewer said it best:

Dr. Dan Dunn has done what few can do. He has written a very academic and scholarly treatise delivered in a language we all can understand. His brilliant mind, disciplined academic pursuit and passion for helping others find life in following Christ has resulted in a book every Christian worker should include in their library, not as another dusty tome, but as a pattern for their life and ministry of evangelism. Every theological school which hopes to actually equip their graduates to do the work of the ministry should include this book in their curriculum.

Dan is a personal friend of mine and I have taught with him in the seminary he has founded in Venezuela.

I have gotten to know him over the last few years as we share passions for personal evangelism and a profound love for Latin America.

Even if I didn’t know Dan personally, I’d still recommend this book for your academic reading.  Let it impact how you practice evangelism.

Order your copy

Order your copy of Offer Them Life: A Life-Based Evangelistic Vision Amazon.  I will receive a small commission.

Are you a Genesis 3 Christian?

I listened to the testimony of an adult woman from Guatemala.  She is 2nd from the left in the image. Her journey to faith brought me to tears, and once again aroused my desire to help other people share the good news of Jesus Christ.  As you read or listen her story, ask yourself this question:  Where would you start with the gospel?  Genesis 3, or Genesis 1? [Read more...]

30 Days of Prayer: Day 22 – Tell of His Love

This entry is part 20 of 23 in the series 30 Days of Prayer

Jesus died for me.My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device nor creed;
I trust the Ever-living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea;
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.
— Hymn, My Faith has found a resting place

 

My hope is in the Lord Who gave Himself for me,
And paid the price of all my sin at Calvary.
For me He died, For me He lives,

And everlasting life and light He freely gives

— Hymn, For me he died, for me he lives

God’s love has worked in your life

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

Jesus died for you.

His death paid the price for the forgiveness of your sins.

His death and resurrection paved the way for you to enjoy fellowship with God forever.

You have been reconciled to the Father and you can now discover the outrageous  love of the Father for you.

It’s the greatest story every told.

But we fail to tell the story

We think we know the story.

But when we are put on the spot, in some random moment in a spiritual conversation, we grasp at fog.

We stumble for words.

We are not sure where to start.

We start off in one direction, and then change direction in the middle of a thought.

Most of us have fallen short in mastering being able to tell the greatest story ever told.

We might be good at telling stories of how the gospel intersected our life and how we converted to being a follower of Jesus.

But telling people the actual gospel leaves us speechless or disorganized.

Tell the story well

I once challenged a teen in my youth group to tell the gospel story to a friend.

She was nervous about it, but because we had reviewed it often in our youth group, she knew the major movements of the gospel story.

  • God loves us, but sin separates us from God
  • God’s love didn’t leave us without a solution.
  • God demonstrated his love in Christ’s death and resurrection.
  • That if we believe and confess, receive him, we become a follower of Christ.

As her gospel sharing conversation proceeded, even with conversational detours, she confidently moved through them and at the end, her friend simply said:

No one has ever shared it so clearly before.  Now I know what it means when they say “Christ died for me.”

Today’s prayer

I want to share Your story today.  I pray that You would open up a conversational door today with some person or one of my friends who would ask me about my faith in Jesus.

Fill me with a new and deeper appreciation of what Jesus has done in my life.

Grant me the skills to tell Your story without shivering in my boots.

Today’s Action

Find one of the gospel scripts and master it.

For a list of gospel scripts read this post.

I like

Video: Dr. Michael Green examines What is the gospel

Dr Michael Green Evangelism and the Early ChurchMichael Green has had a tremendous influence on my ministry through his books that I read while in seminary.

Michael gave the first talk at a recent confidence in the gospel event.  If you have 18 spare minutes, listen to his challenge to us to be faithful to the Apostolic Gospel.

Michael Green provides the keynote address exploring the question, “What is the Gospel?

He explores how the apostles approached the gospel by looking at the three word roots that are found in the New Testament for spreading the Christian message:

  • euangelizō, meaning ‘to tell good news’,
  • kēryssō, meaning ‘to proclaim’, and
  • martyreō meaning ‘to witness’.

The consultation, entitled, “A Faithful Gospel: How should we understand what the gospel is?” is the first in a series of five, taking place as part of the Evangelical Alliance’s ‘Confidence in the Gospel’ initiative.

(Feed readers will need to click through to watch).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

FOR SMALL GROUPS

  1. When we communicate the gospel, is it heard as good news? What can we do to ensure people see that the good news of Jesus is good news for them?
  2. How can we make sure we are staying faithful to the whole of the apostolic gospel, not just the parts that suit us?
  3. 2000 years later, how can we be part of the process of ‘bearing witness to the facts’ of the good news of Jesus?

FOR LEADERSHIP TEAMS

  1. How does the gospel we present compare to the gospel presented by the early Church? What is missing from our presentation of the gospel?
  2. In terms of how we communicate the gospel, what can we learn from Michael’s overview of the early Church’s approach?
  3. The apostles placed great importance on connecting the gospel to the Old Testament. How should we do this, when our audience has a limited understanding of the scriptures?

Free Download for further study on What is the Gospel?

More questions and a synopsis is found at the Evangelical Alliance Website:

 Books by Michael Green:

Video: Evangelism in the 21st Century by Nicky Gumbel

Unashamed of the GospelNicky Gumbel, developer of the Alpha Course, addresses evangelism in the 21st century in this 13 minute video from the Capetown Congress.

He shares his personal testimony about how the process of evangelism worked in his life.

Gumbel grew up as an irreligious person.  But after his roommate in university found Jesus, Gumbel set out to challenge him.  In the process, he discovered Jesus himself.

After sharing his journey to faith, he gives a short 4 point teaching based on Romans 1:16.  I’ve put the bullet points below the video [feed readers may need to click through].

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

One of the key elements in Nicky’s presentation is the experience of Jesus.

The power of God is something that we can experience in our conversion journey.

Description of the gospel

  1. The gospel is true and reasonable
  2. The gospel is powerful and life changing
  3. The gospel is both words and actions.
  4. The gospel is vital and urgent

I appreciate the reminder of the urgency of the gospel that Gumbel gives at the end, particularly using a phrase from Martin Luther King: “the urgency of now.”

Evangelism in the 21st Century

DVD Evangelism Conversations

Evangelism in the 21st century will not be solely dependent on the church.  The growing number of “spiritual but not religious” people means that more people will need to hear the gospel through conversations with Christians.

You’ll need to be able to comfortably talk about your faith in Christ without being obnoxious about it.

I have a DVD set that focuses on a conversational style evangelism that would be effective in:

  • casual conversation between friends
  • causal conversation between strangers

Read more about the Effective Evangelism Conversations in the store.

It is a recording of a live seminar I gave in 2012.