Written By Benedict Tan, Malaysia
I don’t think I’m being overly cynical in saying that many Christians, including myself, lack evangelistic zeal. I have noticed that I can talk to my friends about almost any topic except the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I suspect that many of us struggle with evangelism because of these two main reasons: 1) We do not care about evangelism; and 2) We care, but find it extremely difficult to do.
I recently came across a book by Australian preacher and evangelist John Chapman that addresses these issues. Called Know and Tell the Gospel, it serves as a primer on evangelism and is divided into two sections: 1) Knowing why we need to share the gospel; and 2) Knowing how to do it. He starts by explaining the gospel, before showing why evangelism is both the duty and privilege of every person who professes faith in Jesus Christ. He then goes on to offer practical suggestions on how Christians can start talking about the gospel.
John’s flow of thought is easy to understand, yet theologically robust. Having been actively involved in evangelism himself, he writes from experience and with pastoral sensitivity, acknowledging that all Christians struggle with it. Gently yet firmly, he addresses objections to evangelism and shows from the Scriptures why Christians need to be involved in evangelism, while giving examples from his own experiences and those of others that lend the book a tone of honesty and sincerity.
John is also unafraid to admit his own failings and struggles. For example, he shares his fear of taking the first step to broach the subject of God as well as the fear of saying things (or not saying things) which he will later regret. Sometimes I hear so many “successful” conversion stories that when I look at my feeble and unfruitful attempts at evangelism, I get discouraged and at times, even feel guilty and ashamed. Sometimes, this makes me feel unwilling to continue sharing the gospel. So this book is an encouragement to me: It reminds me that God is in charge of causing people to believe in Him, and that our job is simply to truthfully and lovingly tell people about the good news of God’s gift of salvation.
Another great feature of this book is its comprehensiveness in scope. John manages to cover a lot of things, including the doctrine of election, the role of various members of the local church in evangelism, and the importance of personal evangelism. He also spends a good amount of time highlighting the importance of personal growth in godliness, and of a community of Christians to support and encourage each other through prayer and Bible study. As such, this is a great book to read with a friend or a small group, so that experiences, both good and bad, can be shared to build everyone up.
Reading about the different facets of the gospel message was probably what benefited me the most. I was reminded of human rebellion, of God’s grace, mercy and love, of His sovereignty, of His plan for His people whom He redeemed from sin and death, and of His mission on earth. It challenged me to re-examine and re-evaluate my evangelistic efforts, and spurred me on to be bolder as I speak to friends about Jesus.
Still, I know I will continue to struggle with evangelism. I know that I will be discouraged when I do not reap any “harvest”. I know that there will be the temptation to forget what I have read, or to “put aside” evangelism when confronted with an exhausting schedule. So I will find someone to keep me accountable. But more importantly, I’m learning to apply the gospel to myself daily. I need to see the glory of Calvary, and by God’s grace, to reach a point where I know nothing “except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
I encourage you to pick up this book if you want to be captured by the beauty of the gospel. I hope that it will help make you more confident in your knowledge and understanding of the gospel, so that you can share it with certainty and conviction.