“Offenses ought to be pardoned, for few offend willingly, but only as led by some excitement”
— Hegesippus, 300 BC.
When a book on evangelism methodology starts with a quote about pardoning offences, I wonder why the author feels the need to start there with his reader.
I finished reading Evangelism in the New testament after writing a response [Evangelism with Strangers] to a review I read of this book.
The author was kind enough to send me a copy for my own review.
The quote from Hegesippus is used to show how one who is overflowing with a love for Christ might unknowingly offend other Christians. If we Christians are offended by an evangelist who is busy sharing their faith, we should excuse them for their excitement.
I’ve been in that place a few times myself – so full of overflow with my relationship with the Lord that I can’t help but share it.
Sometimes, I’ve probably been a little reckless, or even obnoxious, in my enthusiasm.
Sometimes, I know that I’ve made other Christian’s uncomfortable in my enthusiasm.
Where is he coming from?
Jon acknowledges that his material and methodology are influenced by Ray Comfort’s Way of the Master stuff.
Thus I expected a certain theological bent, language, and argument as I read his book. If you are not into Comfort’s stuff as a model for evangelism, this book will likely bother you or frustrate rather than help you.
I enjoyed the quick read. It’s a short booklet, under 50 pages, and reflects some research that the author has done that contributes to the discussion on evangelism.
He even invites reader interaction to study the way he uses Scripture to support his views and communicate to him where he might be exegeting passages incorrectly – a gracious invitation, rarely seen in authors on any topic.
Where is he going?
Jon’s basic premise is explain and demonstrate the value “contact evangelism.”
His stated goal is to
“encourage churches and individuals to reconsider contact evangelism as a serious model of evangelistic ministry. . because contact evangelism has been mostly neglected by otherwise well intentioned Bible preaching churches” (12,11)
What is contact evangelism?
Jon describes contact evangelism simply:
“direct witnessing with strangers.”
In his study He asks:
“When evangelism took place in the Bible, what was the primary method?” (10)
This is where Jon’s work contributes to the discussion on evangelism.
His statistical insight laid out in chapters 2 and 4 is that personal evangelism happened as a conversation that took place between strangers, or recently introduced people who have known each other for a brief time.
- In the Gospels: 86.5% of the 89 encounters he counts are between strangers (14)
- In Acts: 82.6% of the 46 encounters he counts are between strangers (24,25).
Thus he concludes that contact evangelism is the dominant pattern and that contact evangelism should be a model that the church should utilize.
He goes on to cite some great preachers and their reflections on contact evangelism, eventually stating
“No succeeding Scriptural injunction has removed the present day Church from its responsibility to do likewise” (20).
What about Friendship Evangelism?
He doesn’t want to diminish or
“demean those who faithfully share the biblical gospel within the context of friendships” (11).
The friendship evangelists shouldn’t ignore or demean the contact evangelists.
One should not be neglected at the expense of the other.
Jesus talked with strangers, and Jesus did open air-preaching. The apostles did open-air preaching and one to one contact with strangers.
Speed also suggests that contact evangelism will help friendship evangelism. He suggests that if you can practice explaining the gospel with a stranger whom you might never see again, you’ll find greater confidence in talking with your friends.
“But Contact Evangelism is not effective!”
I’ve read the statistics that argue that this method produces little fruit or it’s not effective. Speed expects this objection to contact evangelism.
He argues that effectiveness in contact evangelism is measured on four criteria
- Was the true gospel proclaimed?
- Was the true gospel understood?
- Was Christ glorified?
- Was the attitude of the Christian godly while communicating the gospel?
Effectiveness is measured by a “true gospel,” which sets up his assertion that
“what we communicate about the gospel is of greater importance than how we communicate it.”
To get it wrong produces false converts (which is a big theme in Comfort’s material).
Speed’s criteria for effectiveness is not
- not growing disciples,
- not new members in a church,
- nor any evidence of conversion.
Discussions of how one measures effectiveness leads to a theological discussion way beyond the boundaries of this review.
I admire Speed’s passion for evangelism. That clearly runs through the text.
He and I share a passion to equip churches to do the work of evangelism.
Likewise, Jon is quick to point out that those who do contact evangelism need to do so in partnership with a local church (21-22). They are not to be out there as lone rangers. I teach this to all the short-term mission teams that I work with.
I also admire his respect for trusting the sovereignty of God over the results of every contact, and the sovereignty of God in those whom God might bring before one who does contact evangelism.
It’s clear that Jon is an evangelist who is gifted in this style of evangelism. He does it, lives it, practices it.
In a prior post (see Evangelism with Strangers) I raise the question of seeing one’s own passion in the text.
For example, if my perspective was from the “signs and wonders style” of evangelism, I’d point out that several of those witnessing encounters with Jesus involved healing the sick and or casting out demons.
The apostles healed the sick too, so we should be busy doing the same.
Thus I could make the case that we can do the same as a biblical form of evangelism.
Ultimately, this is why I’m glad Jon wrote that he wants the church to reconsider contact evangelism as “a model” of evangelism.
The implications for training
I don’t dispute that contact evangelism a model of biblical evangelism.
I do it occasionally, and more frequently in a cross cultural and mission context in partnership with a local church.
Contact evangelism remains very scary for a lot of people.
Even after going through the training, I know people who continue to fear this form of evangelism because it doesn’t work for them.
It’s like putting on someone else’s shoes. From the human side, they can’t find the guts to do it. Training them to memorize a ten commandments script and go forth to speak with strangers is just too intimidating.
I know that Ray Comfort’s ministry (and all the influenced ministries) has had great success in helping some people for whom this style is very comfortable. I know people who like this style and am glad that there are other evangelism trainers out there.
As a trainer, how can I help people overcome their fears if this methodology seems to inspire fears (at least in the people that come to my trainings)?
I won’t disregard Jon’s book. It’s very handy if I’m training people in this style of contact evangelism.
But if you know that contact evangelism remains a highly uncomfortable practice for you, this book may not be for you.
Pick up a copy of this booklet over at One Million Tracts.
No matter what your form or methodology is, the encouragement is to grow comfortable in how to talk about your faith and share the gospel.
Let me ask you this?
If contact evangelism doesn’t work for you, what form of evangelism works for you?
Then, how often do you share your faith in that way?
I bought this book a while ago, Would have to say that it is worth having no just on your bookshelf but close by as a reference.
In attempting to encourage pastors, and the church to consider the method described in this book, the issue of “effectiveness” was the one response that tend to leave me discourage in my envanglistic endevors. But as “CHANCE” would have it, this book happen to fall into my hands, leaving me encourage and with a reasonable response to the question of effectiveness.
Thank you for your excellent review of “Evangelism in the New Testament”
I don’t know who you are pesonally but am pleased with the treatment you gave of the book. You have a great feel and balance in your writing.
I wish for one thing, that I could write like you and Jon.
My lack in skills doesn’t stop me from putting in comments throughout our community and beyond.
Here are a few of my comments about your review and other related topics.
Churches in general, equip their congregation how to engage in conversation with either Christians and sinners about the Gospel. One of many reasons is that the pastor himself doesn’t evangelize. He might talk about it in general from the pulpit but that’s it. Sheep are ignorant and only know what they are shown. In the church I attend my brothers and sisters are only doing what they see our pastor and elders, and leaders doing or not doing.
I know you’ll agree that without proper training in a comfortable environment, say a sunday school or a Saturday class few would join real time training of any kind.
After seeing for myself many failed attempts to produce even one evangelism convert including myself most of my life, I thought like most, why try anymore? After the failed attempts I would thinkn that no one else is doing evengelism. Most engage one or two people a year to none at all about the Gospel. Those attempts may have been genuine but more than likely lacked content.
I think this way, 1. most people fear men more than God. 2. Most don’t believe the power in the Gospel to convert sinners. 3. Most have a cavalier attitude, for what ever reason.
Weather it is “contact” evangelism, “friendship” evangelism, or Will Metzgers evangelism, our churches fail to see the importance of evangelism.
That said, if a Christian needs evangelism tools and to be trained how to use the tools, then the tools shouldn’t be complicated to learn.
Many methods out there require memorization of Scripture, fine. These methods require you learn about who you might engage. Then depending on who you engage, the method trys to train you how to change dirctions for each group i.e., kids, adults, cults, non churched.
This is why it was intimidating for me. To memorize what I must say in all situations for all groups was overwhelming.
Here’s a plug for contact evangelism. Once I found a method to keep the same message for all groups of all people and only needing to know a few things from the Sriptures, freedom from the fear of having to be an enyclopedia of knowledge melted off my conscience. I literally became free from the bondage of fear which was nothing but sin.
Way of the Master material is made in such a way that even 5 year olds know how to use it. As I teach the same fearful brothers in their homes, their children listen and do what I teach without my knowing it. I’m sure you could say the same for other methods but there is so much more to learn in the other methods. Use WOTM for getting your “feet wet” until you get comfortable enough to add more material and personalize it. As you aquire the skill needed to confront family or stangers, depth of knowledge is also aquired. With the comfort of knowing there is nothing more powerful than the Gospel message, all other arguments fired at you become easier to deflect.
Because of WOTM, God has enabled me to proclaim His word to anyone. I can now use my own method because WOTM gave me insights on how to evangelize Biblically.
Finally, my concern regarding your concern:
The Scriptures do not command us to do signs and wonders. Because Jesus did those things as He evangelized doesn’t include our utilization of those ministries as obedience to Him. Our only directive is to preach, or evangelize. Paul healed the sick but he was also taken into heavenly realms. We are called to evangelize. We shouldn’t be using the Satanic excuse that men have fear so we need to come up with something that doen’t cause it. The Gospel should cause fear in the sinner who doesn’t repent not fear in the the Christian who wants to obey.
Thank you Ron
From your review above “If contact evangelism doesn’t work for you, what form of evangelism works for you?”
Whether or not the ‘method’ given in the book is correct, I don’t see where your response of what works for you should be a rule for what type of evangelism you practice. The approach of what works for you is very dangerous regarding any teaching from the Bible.
Proper hermeneutics would only allow us to interpret Scripture in one that we could then use for application in our lives. Adding what works for you allows you to take the Scripture to mean whatever you want it to be or whatever is comfortable for you. We can go to Rev 3:20 where misinterpretation is the norm when this verse is brought up and where so many say accept Jesus into your heart. He is standing at the door of your heart knocking.
Are you serious??? We are painting a picture of Jesus as someone pleading you to let Him in. I’m sorry, but that is not consistent with the Jesus of the Bible. Just an example of what using the method of what is comfortable for you. We are not commanded to be comfortable, in fact when Jesus tells the disciples to share the Gospel He tells them many will die because of it.
“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
I do also want to add that I do appreciate this review and it is good to see a review from someone who is not linked to Ray Comfort in regards to evangelism.
One thing I noticed brought up in a comment and in the review was results. I heard Voddie Baucham say something to the effect of “Sometimes we’re too busy counting nickels and noses.”
So too much time counting money given and how many people are in attendance at church. So I do appreciate your comment in regards to trusting in the sovereignty of God:
“I also admire his respect for trusting the sovereignty of God over the results of every contact, and the sovereignty of God in those whom God might bring before one who does contact evangelism.”
What is effective? There is a call to fulfill the great commission to all believers. We should be doing this out of thankfulness to God for the free gift of salvation that was given to all those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ. A measure of our effectiveness is our obedience to God.
I am comfortable using the the Law to convict people of their sin, to tell them of God’s wrath that abides on them presently, and that all liars, and murderers will have their part in the lake of fire.
I am comfortable in telling people if they die in their sin they will perish. I am comfortable in the total suffeciency of God’s word alone to do its’ work within the unregenerated heart.
I am comfortable in telling the sinner that even though we put Christ on the cross and we murdered the great I AM, it was His Father who crushed His only begotten Son. By doing this, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (In one verse Paul explained justification). That if the sinner repents as the publican did, beg God for mercy Christ will save him from His Fathers wrath and forgive his sin as only Christ is able.
I am sure you come at me without knowledge brother but, it is not you that I need to pass an evangelism test, it’s scripture alone. You are comfortable with your methods which may be more friendly than my method I am comfortable with but, my hope is that whatever you have decided to use, it comes from the pages of scripture.
By the way, I am glad to see you have “spirit” when someone out of the “blue” writes on your website.
Thank you again