Some of the best quotes from Mark Dever’s The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.
God uses not so much gifts for evangelism (though there is a biblical gift of evangelism) but the faithfulness of thousands and millions of Christians who would never say evangelism is their gift.
We must be willing to risk in order to evangelize.
If we would evangelize more, we must love people more.
if you will realize that conversion always accompanies proclaiming the gospel and the Spirit’s work, then you will stop trying to do the Spirit’s work, and you will give yourself to proclaiming the gospel. Just because we don’t know everything doesn’t mean we don’t know anything!
As Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). How much evangelism do we find flowing out of our mouths? What does that suggest about our love for God?
The news that we, as Christians, have to bring is so great, so tremendous, not only because our depravity is so pervasive and our sin so widespread, but also because God’s plans for us are so different, so wonderful.
To be a Christian is not merely to live in love, or to live by the power of positive thinking, or to do anything that we can do ourselves. The gospel calls for a more radical response than any of these things allow for. The gospel, you see, is not simply an additive that comes to make our already good lives better. No! The gospel is a message of wonderful good news that comes to those who realize their just desperation before God.
We are to rely on God fully, to trust in Christ alone for our salvation. And such a true believing and relying makes a difference and so demands not only faith but also repentance.
As J. C. Ryle said, “There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough – a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice – which costs nothing, and is worth nothing.”3
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.
The outworking of faith through the community of a local church seems to be Jesus’ most basic evangelism plan. And it involves all of us.
There is a certain balance that we want to strive for in our evangelism, a balance of honesty and urgency and joy. Too often we have only one, or at best, two, of these aspects rather than all three. The balance is important.
What is repentance? It is turning from the sins you love to the holy God you’re called to love. It is admitting that you’re not God. It is beginning to value Jesus more than your immediate pleasure. It is giving up those things the Bible calls sin and leaving them to follow Jesus. When we tell the gospel to people, we need to do it with honesty. To hold back important and unpalatable parts of the truth is to begin to manipulate and to try to sell a false bill of goods to the person with whom we are sharing.
Honesty and urgency with no joy gives us a grim determination (read Philippians). Honesty and joy with no urgency gives us a carelessness about time (read 2 Peter). And urgency and joy with no honesty leads us into distorted claims about immediate benefits of the gospel (read 1 Peter).
We can work and witness for the salvation of someone, but only God can finally bring it about. It is his work. So we must pray.
When we are talking to non-Christian friends about the gospel, we want to make sure they understand what we mean. Christians in the Bible had a great concern about this. So it’s often been noted that Paul began with the Old Testament when he was speaking to Jews, but when he spoke to a group of Greeks in Athens (Acts 17) he began by quoting their own sayings. As he wrote to the Corinthians, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. . . . To those not having the law I became like one not having the law . . . so as to win those not having the law” (1 Cor. 9:20-21).
- We must be clear about the fact of sin (Isa. 59:1-2; Hab. 1:13; Rom. 3:22-23; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; 1 John 1:5-6).
- We must be clear about the meaning of the cross (Matt. 26:28; Gal. 3:10-13; 1 Tim. 1:15; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18).
- We must be clear about our need to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ (Matt. 11:28-30; Mark 1:15; 8:34; John 1:12; 3:16; 6:37; Acts 20:21).
- We can even ask them what they think about death, and Jesus, and God, and judgment, and the Bible, and Christianity. But afterward we’ll have to do what some witnessing Christians find very hard to do, something that surprises some of our non-Christian friends – listen to their answers!
To be evangelism, the gospel must be clearly communicated, whether in written or oral form.
Practicing apologetics is a good thing, but it’s not evangelism.
It should also be said that apologetics has its own set of dangers. You might unwittingly confirm someone in their unbelief by your inability to answer questions that are impossible to answer anyway. You can easily leave the impression that if you don’t know how to answer your friends’ questions, then you don’t really know enough to believe that the Christian gospel is true either.
John Stott has said, “To ‘evangelize’ . . . does not mean to win converts . . . but simply to announce the good news, irrespective of the results.” At the Lausanne gathering in 1974, evangelism was defined as follows: To evangelize is to spread the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord he now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gift of the Spirit to all who repent and believe.
The Christian call to evangelism is a call not simply to persuade people to make decisions but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We don’t fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don’t faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn’t converting people; it’s telling them that they need to be converted and telling them how they can be.
Evangelism should find its fulfillment in discipleship.
According to the Bible, good motives for evangelism are a desire to be obedient, a love for the lost, and a love for God.
Love for God is the only sufficient motive for evangelism. Self-love will give way to self-centeredness; love for the lost will fail with those whom we cannot love, and when difficulties seem unsurmountable [sic], only a deep love for God will keep us following his way, declaring his Gospel, when human resources fail.
This is to be our evangelism: a God-given commission and method, a God-centered message, and a God-centered motive. We should all evangelize. Evangelism isn’t all those other things we considered; it is telling the good news about Jesus, and doing it with honesty, urgency, and joy, using the Bible, living a life that backs it up, and praying, and doing it all for the glory of God.
We need to know what kind of sales we can close and what kind we can’t. The redemption of an eternal soul is one sale that we, in our own strength, cannot accomplish. And we need to know it, not so that we won’t preach the gospel, but so that we won’t allow the gospel that is preached to be molded by what finally gets a response!
I pray that we see an end to a wrong, shallow view of evangelism that simply tries to get people to say yes to a question or to make a one-time decision. As David Wells recently said, “We live in a day when it is very easy to make converts, very hard to make disciples.”
We do not fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not subsequently converted; we fail only if we do not faithfully tell the gospel at all.
We should be careful to include a summary of the gospel in every sermon.
Mark Dever on a Biblical Understanding of Evangelism