Evangelism Study Bible: a Study Bible review

I self identify as an evangelical Christian. Among other things, evangelicals think that studying the Bible and evangelism are really, really important. So it was only a matter of time before someone published the Evangelism Study Bible.  Kregel Publications, in cooperation with Evantell and ThomasNelson (the publishers of the NKJV) have published a Study Bible designed to help Christians be a more ‘confident, joyful witness for Christ.’

This Bible seeks to be a tool which will aid us in evangelism, but it is also a Bible with cross references, a concordance and full-color maps. The rest of the resources in this book relate directly to Evangelism. This includes: book introductions highlighting evangelistic themes, 2,600 study-notes, articles which give you evangelistic tips, training in apologetics, discipleship or contextualization, ‘how-to-features,’ and devotions. Larry Moyer, founder and CEO of Evantell, hopes that this resource ‘will provide you with the training to explain and make clear the good news of the gospel. (Introduction p. v). 

Because of the focus on Evangelism, the study notes are not comprehensive in their treatment of all the Bible’s themes. Creation is treated briefly in two or three study notes. The first feature article is on the first sin (4).  The study notes are sparse in much of the Pentateuch or the Old Testament historical books. Only when the implications for evangelism can be seen (directly or indirectly) are there notes, leaving some difficult material (i.e. genealogies, sacrifices, etc) without comment.This  isn’t so much a criticism, but a recognition that a volume like this comes with certain limitations.

The articles themselves have helpful material, sometimes imparting knowledge and skills, at other times taking a look at the heart of the evangelist (the best way to share a compelling vibrant faith is to have one yourself). I had three questions  as I surveyed the notes and articles: (1) What is the content of the gospel that this Study Bible commends? (2) How does it handle the gospel-go-to passages? (3) What about other passages?

What is the Content of the Gospel?

The gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). The study note on the Romans passage says, ” When people place their faith in Christ, they are delivered from the wrath of God and declared righteous in his sight.” In general, the gospel that this Study Bible proclaims tells you about how to go to heaven when you die (escape God’s wrath and live at peace with him for all eternity). Dallas Willard would call this ‘the gospel of sin management.’ I think the notes and articles do a good job of talking about personal salvation, bringing people into the realm of God’s grace by helping them to deal with their sin problem; however there is more to the gospel than just the personal transformation narrative. The gospel is nothing less than the proclamation that Jesus is King and the reign of Christ is here. This captures the revivalist salvation narrative (described here) and  places it in a wider frame. If the gospel is about a King and its Kingdom than we sense social and political implications. The ‘evangel’ of this Study Bible is perhaps one aspect of the ‘Good news’ but it is not the whole story described in the text,

How does it handle the Go-to-passages?

Evangelicals have long had their go-to-texts for Eeangelism. Think John 3:16, the ‘Romans Road’ passages, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Ephesians 2:4-10 etc. These passages focus on what Christ did through His cross and resurrection to bring us in the way of salvation, and our role in accepting Christ through faith. As mentioned above, the focus of the notes are on our personal, eternal destiny. Little is said about the abundant life in Christ now (John 10:10, Luke 18:30) or passages that relate to gospel justice. The good-news-proclamation in the Synoptic gospels was the announcement that God’s kingdom was at hand (Matt. 4:17, Mark 1:14-15). These passages are referenced in the notes but the concept of kingdom is not really unpacked in relation to gospel proclamation. Again this is all good in as far as it goes but more could be said!

Other passages?

I have already hinted at an approved canon with in the cannon that this Study Bible focuses on for Evangelism and the gospel. There are other passages which are full of good news which the notes fail to engage substantively. Related to this season (and my Sunday sermon text), I think of Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Despite the way this passage announces and proclaims God’s saving action and looks joyfully at the wonder of Christ’s Incarnation, the notes treat only three verses of her song. For verse 48, the notes make clear that contrary to Mary’s claim of blessedness, Christ alone is our Redeemer (1117)  and that those experience God are those who fear him (verse 50).  There is a brief note on Abraham’s seed and how God is a promise keeper (vs. 55). Fair points, but this fails to wrestle with Mary’s message about how God should be praised for his action in her life—how the proud and the powerful were being brought down while the humble were being lifted up. This is a gospel word and the notes fail to engage her song and its implications for Evangelism.

The brief introductions to each book of the Bible, and the fact that there are notes through out train our eyes to see the Good News in each book of the Bible, Old and New Testament.  There are limitations in the notes, but there is also a lot here that is good and helpful. I give this Study Bible three stars and recommend it for anyone wishing to sharpen their witness for Christ. My caution is that I think the gospel proclamation is bigger, more robust and wonderful than these notes, with their narrower focus make it out to be. ★★★ ☆☆

Thank you to Kregel Academic for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Death Bed Evangelism: a book review

Evangelism has fallen on hard times. There are reasons for this. Good Christians do not want to come across as judgmental. There is a widespread reaction to ‘bad evangelism’ where non-Christians were beat over the head with insensitive witnessing attempts. This is particularly true of evangelism to the dying. Are people ever more vulnerable than in the hours and days they rage against the dying of light? Is it manipulative for Christ followers to hoist their ideas of God and salvation on a bedridden soul who can’t escape their pitch? On the other hand, Christians believe that our eternal destiny is bound up with our response to Jesus. If we don’t tell people about Jesus we’ve failed to love well and to hold out the hope of heaven for the dying. So many of us ‘bad evangelists’ vacillate between our discomfort with evangelistic methods and feelings of shame for our failure to ‘evangelize.’

Thankfully Melody Rossi does not advocate manipulative dehumanizing strategies. Nor does she make us feel guilty for not sharing our faith. In Sharing Christ with the Dying: Bringing Hope to Those Near the End of Life she discusses how to make the most of every opportunity to share the hope that is within us. This is no abstract exercise.  Having recovered from a near-fatal surgical error herself, she also has walked along side others suffering serious illness, the suffering and the dying. This includes a family friend and her parents (mother, father and step-mom) and discovering ways to share her faith in gentle ways. This book is full of insights from her own experience.

Rossi also has a lot of practical advice. Ministry to the dying is hard. She talks about the need for adequate support networks, reliance on the Holy Spirit, attentiveness and  the importance of helping people with their emergency information (i.e. Will, emergency info etc). Loving the dying is hard work, and those who are watching a parent, a child or a loved one dye will find Rossi’s words encouraging. She does not give us a formula for evangelism but shares how she shared with each of her parents the love of Christ in ways that were meaningful to them.

It is refreshing reading an Evangelism book which is not manipulative but also dispenses practical advice on how to love well. If you have loved ones suffering and are unsure how to share your faith, Rossi is a good guide. But she will not give you a formula on how to bring your loved ones to faith. In each case she learned how to respond to what God was doing and tailored her evangelism. I give this book four stars.

Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Hell No!: a book review

Why Be A Christian (If No One Goes to Hell?) by Daniel Meeter

Non-Christians don’t like hell. Some Christians like hell and want to tell all heathens, pagans and democrats why they are going there, but there has been a move in biblical scholarship to question the traditional belief in hell.  Scholars like N.T. Wright posit that the immortality of the soul is not a Biblical idea but a Greek one. Likewise, it was the Greeks that posited a division between the soul and the body. The Hebrew understanding when your body is dead, your soul is dead. The resurrection and is the promise to God’s people (Jews and Christians). If you want eternal life, you need resurrection.  So while some Christian evangelists still want to dangle non-Christians like spiders over an open flame, and defend hell like it was a central Christian doctrine, others  have raised questions (Rob Bell’s Love Wins was good at raising questions).

In Why Be A Christian (If No One Goes to Hell)?  Daniel Meeter argues that the traditional view of Hell is wrong but that there are still lots of incentives for becoming a Christian.  Becoming a Christian opens the way for us to be spiritual, to prayer, to being fully human, to knowing God and his story, to dealing with guilt and experiencing the reality of grace,  to love God and know Christ, to love our neighbors, to be transformed into the image of Christ and yes, to go to heaven when we die (in the Resurrection).

 

Meeter wrote this book with apologetic/evangelistic intent to help non-Christians who have been put off by the doctrine of hell and judgmental Christians understand what the Christian faith had to offer.  He is no stranger to ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue and he writes in a way that is respectful of other world faiths but labors to show the uniquely Christian vision of the world.

This book is available in a variety of ebook formats from Shookfoil Books. Some Christian readers will find Meeter provocative; however I think he does a good job at articulating Christianity in accessible ways for non-Christians.  There are places where I disagree with Rev. Meeter but he still presents the faith in ways which are in keeping with the ancient creeds (the Apostles’ Creed frames his reflections).  This is a good book for those who are exploring the Christian tradition or a primer for those who need a refresher for what God in Christ has on offer for all of us not going to hell.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

 

A Look Inside the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization: a book review

Christ Our Reconciler: Gospel/Church/World from the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, edited by Julia Cameron.

In 1974, Billy Graham convened the first Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland. The historic meeting brought together 2700 religious leaders from 150 different nations and out of it came the Lausanne covenant (drafted by a committee chaired by the late John Stott). That historic meeting set the trajectory for unity and partnership in mission for Evangelicals across the globe.

In 2010, the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization was held in Capetown, South Africa (the second was in Manila, 1989).  Like the earlier congresses evangelicals across the globe gathered, some 4,000 participants from a 198 countries, for the purpose of seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they advance God’s mission in the world.   From this historic meeting  the Cape Town Commitment was drafted providing a confession of faith for Evangelicals worldwide across denominational, cultural and ethnic lines and issuing a call to action. Graham and Stott, the movers behind the original Lausanne Congress, were unable to attend due to age and poor health (Stott has since passed on); however they each sent their greetings which were read as the congress was convened and their influence was felt throughout the proceedings.  For those who were privileged to attend this meeting (I know a few people who were there), they heard testimonies, expository meetings and papers delivered which addressed the priority of evangelism and holistic mission and the unity of the global church.

In Christ Our Reconciler, Julia Cameron has edited together each of the speeches and addresses which happened over the six days of Lausanne.  The six themes which formed the basis of the Cape Town Commitment’s call to action were discussed over the course of the six days of the third Lausanne and were based on an exposition of Ephesians (another way in which Stott’s abiding influence was felt at the Third Congress). Each day began with a testimony from the global church, a message from Ephesians and presentations based on the day’s themes.  These messages spoke passionately about the need for the church:

  1. To uphold Truth is a pluralistic age
  2. To carry on the ministry of Reconciliation and build peace in a world that is broken
  3. To bear witness to the love of Christ among various World Faiths
  4. To set Priorities for Evangelization in the next century
  5. To call the church back to integrity, humility and simplicity
  6. Partnership between Evangelicals across the globe in mission and evangelism.

The force of the essays collected here from more than thirty contributors are challenging and inspiring. Rather than give you a detailed analysis of all that was said, let me give you several reasons why you should read this book for yourself:

First, the Lausanne movement has set the trajectory for evangelical mission across the globe for the last 38 years. The significance of the Cape Town Commitment and the Third Congress have yet to be seen, but it is a historic meeting which will impact Christian witness across the world and the themes of Christ’s reconciliation and mutual partnership in mission will bear fruit.

Secondly, American Christians like me are sometimes tempted towards a form of nationalism or ethnocentricity which prevents us from appreciating the experience of Christians in the two-thirds world.  Half of the attendees of the Cape Town Congress were from the majority world and bring a fresh experience to mission, the need for reconciliation, and perspective on  the way the prosperity gospel affects the world’s poor.  They also have had to navigate mission in culture’s which are antagonistic to the Christian faith, or lack basic literacy. If the mission of the church is to succeed we need their wisdom and experience. Thankfully these essays reveal some of the exciting things happening in the global church.

Thirdly, these essays are not short on prophetic challenge. By reading these essays we become more aware of the ways the church worldwide faces persecution and navigates ethnic and economic tensions. See for example the testimony of Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Nigeria  who miraculously was delivered by God from thirty people intent  on killing him, or Nour Armagan (not his real name) who courageously share’s his faith in the Muslim world,  pr  Tim Keller’s essay which challenges Christian’s across the globe to center their missional efforts in urban centers, or Nigel Cameron and John Wyatt’s challenge evangelicals to consider how new bio- technologies challenge the dignity of human beings, or Calisto Odede and Chris Wright both challenge Christians to live lives of integrity, or . . . . I think it is impossible to read these or any of the other essays in this book and not feel called to grow in our commitment to Christ and his church.

Fourth, the Third Lausanne is a powerful testimony to the ways in which Christ is Reconciler.  This a gathering of Christians from different cultures across the globe from different cultural, ethnic and denominational heritages. Not all the participants (or presenters) agree with one another on every point of doctrine or theology but they are committed to the historic Christian faith, the priority of holistic world mission and to being gracious with one another (For example the Cape Town Commitment’s statement on Men and Women in partnership accommodates both complementarian and biblical egalitarianism).

I for one am energized by what I have read here, am grateful for the thoughtfulness of the Cape Town Commitment and upon reading these essays have a better sense of how I can prayerfully support God’s mission and the global church.

 

Here is a  a full look at the contents of this book:

 

The Lausanne Movement
Foreword
Greetings from Billy Graham and John Stott to the Congress

Day 1
Truth: Making the case for the truth of Christ in our pluralistic and globalized world

Testimony: ‘I know the gospel is true’
Gyeong Ju Son (North Korea)
Ephesians 1
Ajith Fernando (Sri Lanka)
Truth matters
Carver T. Yu (Hong Kong)
Why we need a high view of truth
Os Guinness (UK)
Truth in the workplace: Equipping the whole church
Willy Kotiuga (Canada)
Sharing the irresistible, true Christ
Rebecca Manley Pippert (USA)

Day 2
Reconciliation: Building the peace of Christ in our divided and broken world

Testimony: Palestinian-Jewish reconciliation
Shadia Qubti and Dan Sered
Ephesians 2
Ruth Padilla DeBorst (Argentina/Costa Rica)
Our gospel of reconciliation
Antoine Rutayisire (Rwanda)
Ethnicity in the mission of God
Dewi Hughes (UK)

Day 3
World Faiths: Bearing witness to the love of Christ among people of other faiths

Testimony: Costly witness and the God who protects
Archbishop Ben Kwashi (Nigeria)
Ephesians 3:1-21
John Piper (USA)
The gospel, the global church and the world of Islam
Nour Armagan (Middle East)
Bearing witness to Christ’s love among those of other faiths
Michael Ramsden (UK)
Discipleship and mission in the age of globalization
Os Guinness (UK) and David Wells (USA)

Day 4
Priorities: Discerning the will of God for evangelization in our century

Testimony: Sharing stories, sharing truth
Steve Evans (US/South Africa)
Ephesians 4:1-16
Vaughan Roberts (UK)
What is God’s global urban mission?
Tim Keller (USA)
Ethics, emerging technologies and the human future
Nigel Cameron (UK/USA) and John Wyatt (UK)

Day 5
Integrity: Calling the church of Christ back to humility, integrity and simplicity

Testimony: Shaking salt, shining light in national life
Paul Batchelor (UK)
Ephesians 4:17 — 6:9
Calisto Odede (Kenya)
Calling the church back to Humility, Integrity, Simplicity
Chris Wright (UK)
The prosperity gospel
Femi Adeleye (Nigeria)
Human sexuality, by God’s design
Cape Town Commitment

Day 6
Partnership: Partnering in the body of Christ towards a new global equilibrium

Testimony: Transformation in the garbage village
Rebecca Atallah (Egypt)
Ephesians 6:10-24
Ramez Atallah (Egypt)
Unreached and unengaged peoples
Strategy Working Group
Working towards a new global equilibrium
Patrick Fung (Singapore)
Scripture in mission
Scripture in Mission Resource Team
Men and women in partnership
Cape Town Commitment

Closing Address
We have a gospel to proclaim
Lindsay Brown

Appendix: The Lausanne Global Conversation
Embracing suffering in service
Ajith Fernando (Sri Lanka)
A small version of the grand narrative: A response to Ajith Fernando
Elizabeth Little

Notes
Recommended Reading

Thank you to InterVarsity Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review

Show and EvanTell: a couple of book reviews

Thanks to Kregel Publications for providing me with copies of Larry Moyer’s books–Show Me How to Preach Evangelistic Sermons, Show Me How to Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons–in exchange for this blog post and review. I am passionate about preaching and want to grow in my ability to preach sermons that are impactful. I particularly want to be used by God to bring people into his Kingdom. Both of these books offer some sound advice about how to engage non-Christians with life-giving Good News.

Larry Moyer is the founder and CEO of EvanTell, Inc., a ministry which trains people in evangelism. He has a Masters of Divinity from Dallas Theological Seminary and a D.Min from Gordon Conwell and is sought after as a speaker in evangelistic outreaches and training seminars across the country. He has written several other books but all are on the theme of Evangelism and books to aid new Christians.

Speaking from his passion and expertise Moyer has a lot of positive things to say which are instructive and we can learn from. Let us take a look at each of these books and explore what they have to offer:

Show Me How to Preaching Evangelistic Sermons

Show Me How To Preach Evangelistic SermonsIn Show Me How to Preach Evangelistic Sermons, Moyer addresses both the exciting opportunity available in Evangelistic preaching (part 1) and the content and delivery of our message (part 2).

In part 1, Moyer begins by telling his own story of being called as an Evangelist (as a youth with a speech impediment) gives reasons for evangelistic preaching and commends and describes expository evangelistic preaching. His method of Evangelistic preaching is rooted in particular biblical texts. Moyer commends especially the gospel of John as the one New Testament book written with non-Christian’s as it’s explicit audience. Nevertheless peculiar challenges arise from preaching Evangelistically from a text. Chief among them is the reality that few passages proclaim the complete plan of salvation, “1) We are Sinners; 2) Christ died for us and rose again; 3) We must trust in Christ. (43). So while Moyer advocates preaching from a text, he encourages preachers to shore up what is missing from a text by explaining the whole plan of salvation when we preach with Evangelistic intent. The rest of part 1 describes how to make the most of the opportunities for evangelism: How do we develop our Evangelistic speaking skills?; how can we pay attention to and speak to non Christians?; when are good times to deliver an evangelistic message? what false assumptions should we avoid?; and how do you make the most out of the setting for your message?

In part 2 Moyer addresses both the content of our message (i.e. the meaning of sin, the nature of repentance, what we are asking non-Christians to do, what is the nature of belief) and our method of delivery. He advocates short, well illustrated messages with judicious use of humor, pedagogically repetitious and aimed at the heart. He gives practical advice about how to craft an expositional evangelistic message and the different forms of invitation and follow-up.

If you have read more than a few of my reviews, you know that one area of sustained critique I have against many Christian authors is their reduction of the gospel to what Dallas Willard calls ‘Sin Management.’ Certainly I agree with Moyer about the importance of personal salvation and the necessity of trusting Jesus for your eternal security, but I find that his definition of this as ‘the gospel’ is reductionist (which isn’t to say it isn’t still very important!). The gospel is nothing less than the proclamation that Jesus fulfills all of Israel’s hopes and that he is King (and by extension Caesar is not). This would paint the gospel, in much more politically challenging, holistic and compelling terms. I hear what Moyer is saying and I want more. As Scot McKnight has demonstrated, not every Evangelistic message we are given in scripture emphasizes our sinfulness, but they all emphasize Jesus.

Nevertheless there is some helpful advice here in crafting messages which speak to non-Christians about their need for a savior (most of his expositional advice is rooted in Haddon Robinson’s approach). I certainly found enough meat here to help me grow as a preacher and help me aim my message at those who do not yet know Jesus.

Show Me How to Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons

How to Illustrate As the companion volume to Show Me How to Preach Evangelistic Sermons this book endeavors to help preacher’s messages connect with non-Christians. Moyer begins by outlining the usefulness of illustrations and gives advice for finding illustrations and the use of humor. Moyer contends that a well illustrated evangelistic sermon has at least fifteen illustrations (for a 30 minute sermon).

Most of this book provides examples of illustrations and advice for their use under three headings: Sin, Substitution and Saving Faith. These correspond to the three essential elements of Evangelistic messages which Moyer describes in the previous volume.

What I like about this book is its discussion on the use of illustrations. I enjoyed reading a number of his examples, but personally would not make much use of them. There are quotes, jokes and stories that illustrate different aspects of Evangelistic messages. While many of these are good, I find my best illustrations have been ones that I have personally gathered. I do not harvest illustrations from books of illustrations because they are less compelling to me, and therefore to my audience. So I read with an eye toward Moyer’s practical advice.

In the end, I find Show Me How to Preach Evangelistic Messages the more helpful book. Both books have good things to say, but if you just get one, get the other one.