Monday, January 30, 2017

Tactics - A Review

Tactics

Getting into gospel conversations can be daunting. Starting real witnessing conversations with strangers and re-engaging with people we have witnessed to in the past can sometimes be a challenge. Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions may help!

Greg Koukl's book, Tactics, seeks to help Christians make more opportunities in their everyday lives to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a worthwhile goal. Hopefully, we are all seeking to make more opportunities to proclaim the excellencies of our God and Savior.

That being said, I have some qualifications about recommending this book. It has some excellent strengths. But, it also has some significant weaknesses.

Greatest Strengths

1. Straightforward, Simple, and Adaptable

I think that my favorite part of Tactics is that the approach fits for anyone who encounters other human beings at any point in their life. That's almost everybody.

It doesn't require you to be particularly outgoing. It doesn't require you to memorize a method. At it's core essence, Tactics teaches you to use two primary questions to lead almost any conversation toward the end of confronting them with the truth of the gospel.

There are certainly some parts of the book which may require more time to understand and employ. However, the two questions he uses are powerful and will help anyone who uses them to be immediately better equipped to make opportunities to share the gospel during the course of their normal lives.

2. You Don't Need To Be An Apologetics Expert

Some people think they need to know everything before they start talking to people about Jesus. They don't want to be embarrassed because they get asked a question they don't know the answer to. They don't want to engage someone with strong beliefs without studying up first.

Tactics enables you to confidently speak to anyone without being an expert.

Koukl demonstrates persuasively that your time is better spent actually talking to people to find out what they believe rather than reading books about those supposed beliefs. In the real world, very few people hold all the textbook beliefs. Therefore, those who think they need to be experts usually find themselves studying theoretical things that real people may or may not actually believe, no matter what they label themselves as!

3. Logic

God has designed human beings to be rational. We are thinking creatures. We don't all use our thinking skills exactly the same way, but there are certain principles that apply to all rational creatures. Many Christians have never taken the time to think about how we think.

Part of the Christian call is simply to expose people to the truth. Often conversations about religion can become heated arguments. This is not good.

Koukl makes a strong appeal to Christians to never argue while witnessing. This is good counsel. The point of using logic is to help people we are speaking with to conclude on their own that their own beliefs lack foundation.

There is a big difference between me telling someone they are wrong and me helping someone else (through the use of guiding questions) to see that what they believe is foolish. Koukl's questions and short discussion of basic logical principles makes this second approach a possibility without arguing. When done correctly, it is a powerful tool for opening someone's eyes to the error of their current thinking.

When people see that you helped them see the error in their current thinking, they are often open to hearing a new way of thinking. This makes for potentially fertile ground for planting the seed of the gospel.

Greatest Weaknesses

Despite the excellent strengths, this book also has some significant weaknesses.

1. Assumes You Can Faithfully Explain The Gospel

While Tactics presents a quality approach for creating opportunities to share the gospel, it does not equip you to actually share the gospel when the opportunity arises. Therefore, this book should only be used by someone who has already been trained and equipped to faithfully explain the gospel.

Otherwise, the opportunities that are created will not be fully taken.

Some people may think that simply having "God" conversations is enough. The gospel is a specific message. We owe it to people not to hover around the truth or to only provide bits and pieces. Therefore, if you are not equipped to share the whole truth of the gospel then this is not the place for you to start.

2. Can Seem Manipulative

Some readers may find Koukl's approach to be manipulative. It's true that his questions are powerful. It's true that the person who uses them can direct and guide a conversation toward the end of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When used appropriately, these can and should be considered strengths. However, if used inappropriately they can be manipulative. This can be particularly harmful if the person using this approach is ill-equipped to faithfully share the good news of Jesus during the course of conversation.

3. Can Rely Too Much On The Human Element

By focusing so much on how the Christian can use this approach to navigate conversations and completely ignoring an explanation of the gospel, this book can lead people to rely fully on the flesh. I doubt this is Koukl's purpose but it is a real danger.

There is a real responsibility that Christians have to walk in obedience to God. But the power of God for salvation to all who believe is in the gospel. It is not in our approach. It is not in our flesh.

As a result, a book that assumes we know, understand, and can articulate the gospel assumes too much. By focusing only on method this approach takes the same criticism that all methodologies take to a higher level. Not only can this approach become rote and mechanical over time, but for some it may start there!

Concluding Thoughts

I really like Tactics. I know some Christians who really don't. I can't blame them. The weaknesses mentioned in this review are significant. This is the first resource that I've reviewed on this blog that I can only recommend with qualification and some reservation.

This book will not be a good resource for everyone. For some people, it is completely unnecessary.

Here's the person I believe this book is best for:
  1. If you have studied the gospel and are equipped to faithfully share it;
  2. You've shared the gospel with everyone you know (family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.); and
  3. You're looking for new ways to approach and engage people you've already shared with or people who shut you down in the past.
If you can check off each of those three qualifications, then I would recommend Tactics to you. If not, I would recommend starting off with The Way of the Master (reviewed here) or Share Jesus Without Fear (review coming soon) to get equipped. Then, if after sharing with everyone you can you find a need for more equipping give Tactics a read.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Recovering The Gospel - A Review

The Gospel is a Treasure

The most important book in the lives of all Christians is the Bible. The truth of first and foremost importance in the Bible is the gospel. If you're looking for a resource to help you understand the treasure of the gospel, outside of the Scriptures themselves, look no further than Paul Washer's Recovering The Gospel series.

This series includes three separate books:
  1. The Gospel's Power & Message
  2. The Gospel Call & True Conversion
  3. Gospel Assurance & Warnings
I've read a number of books that attempt to describe the glory of the gospel in a paragraph. I've read others that relegate it to a chapter. Paul Washer has been a faithful preacher of the gospel for decades. He gives the gospel the breadth and depth it deserves. Even still, Washer understands that he is only scratching the surface of this glorious truth.


Greatest Strengths

Paul Washer is my favorite modern preacher to listen to. Those who know me know my great fondness for Washer's ministry in my own life. I must resist the urge to go overboard with strengths. Here are my top three.

1. Layout and Approach

Washer takes a massive topic and breaks it into very manageable sections. Each book is divided into two or three major parts. Each section contains several chapters that each contribute to the main section without being overly long.

I've read each book, in their entirety, more than once. I appreciate the short chapters because the depth of information and the glory of what is being discussed make it difficult for me to take more than a chapter or two in any one sitting. This is not a book to breeze through. It is a book to meditate on with your open Bible nearby.

2. Content

Although the layout and overall approach make the books enjoyable to read, the content pulls no punches. Washer dives into topics and aspects of the gospel that many preachers and teachers have either forgotten, never learned, or are unwilling to discuss openly.

This is the reason Washer wrote these books in the first place. Washer states in the preface of the series, "One of the greatest crimes committed by this present Christian generation is its neglect of the gospel, and it is from this neglect that all our other maladies spring forth." I believe that Washer's assessment is correct.

I've met some professing Christians who have been around the church a long time who are angered and sometimes surprised by the content of Washer's books. It is a tragedy that people can be associated with the church for years without ever hearing the full gospel presented in any meaningful way. Washer further states,
"Untold millions walk our streets and sit in our pews unchanged by the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and yet they are convinced of their salvation because one time in their life they raised a hand at an evangelistic campaign or repeated a prayer. This false sense of security creates a great barrier that often insulates such individuals from ever hearing the true gospel."
I know this is true because I have met many of these insulated individuals while sharing the gospel on the streets. This strength leads very naturally into the final one I'll mention.

3. The Encouragement and Warning to Those Who Profess Christ

The Bible commands Christians to examine themselves and see if they are genuinely in the faith. The Bible does not provide the test of church attendance. Neither does it point to a time in the past when you were baptized, raised your hand, or repeated a prayer with some sense of sincerity.

So what does the Bible say? Washer's final book gives both stark warnings to those who claim to follow Christ but whose lives do not match their profession, along with genuine biblical tests for true salvation. For those who are born-again these tests are given by God to be a wonderful assurance of the salvation we have received in Christ. For those who are unregenerate these same tests can serve as a diagnostic and warning to repent while we still have breath.

We who profess the name of Jesus can be sure if we are saved. We must never be so foolish to trust any other evidence other than what the Bible gives us. Washer's third book is a great resource for the Christian who desires to soberly examine themselves in light of biblical standards.

Greatest Weaknesses

I find Washer's three books to be wonderful resources and worthwhile reads. However, if forced to discuss weaknesses I can come up with two.

1. Book Two, Part Three

Of all the parts of the series, I personally found the third section of The Gospel Call & True Conversion to be the weakest in general. If I had to lose an entire section it would be this one. The first two parts of the second book I found to be more edifying and beneficial. However, that's not to say there was nothing edifying in this section.

There were aspects of this section that I found Washer to be interpreting passages in a way that I wasn't sure were completely accurate. There is a good chance that he is correct and I am in error. However, the other sections were built off better exegetical reasoning and explanation.

2. The Assurances Section Was Not Exhaustive

Washer's approach in the assurance section (Book 3, Part 1) is essentially a study of 1 John. This is an excellent place to start. However, this is not the only relevant biblical section to study. As a result, Washer makes an excellent yet incomplete presentation of the topic.

While this is a weakness, I must admit that the tests Washer covers from 1 John are fantastic. He just didn't cover everything. In fact, Washer doesn't even include every test from 1 John. As a result, this stands out to me as a weakness. I would have liked to see this section expanded.

A separate chapter could be added for, at least, these three passages outside of 1 John:
  • the evidence of God's discipline in your life (Hebrews 12:1-13)
  • the leading of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13-14)
  • the presence of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24)
Despite these other tests being absent I believe Washer's goal in writing was achieved. Anyone who claims to follow Christ could genuinely examine themselves with what Washer provides.

Concluding Thoughts

Paul Washer's series, especially the first and third books, come with my highest recommendation. I not only encourage Christians to read this who haven't already but would also encourage those who've read it before to read it again and again.

The material in these books is faithful to the Scriptures. The glorious truth of the gospel is no doubt neglected in our own day. Let us not neglect it ourselves.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Way Of The Master - A Review


Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.

(Galatians 3:24)



Ray Comfort's The Way of the Master is hands-down the evangelism method I've taught and used the most in my personal life and ministry. As time goes on, I am confident that this resource will continue to be part of my teaching ministry and personal evangelism.

Materials


There are many resources available. I am focusing on these three:
  1. The Basic Training Course;
  2. The Way of the Master book by Ray Comfort; and
  3. The School of Biblical Evangelism textbook.

Biggest Strengths


There are many strengths to this method. I'll limit myself to my top three.

1) Recovering the Purpose of God's Law.

The emphasis of The Way of the Master is on recovering the biblical purpose of God's Law in evangelism. Many in the modern church argue over the role and purpose of the Law. This is something we are commanded not to do.

Comfort writes, "I am humbled that God would take a little nobody from the uttermost parts of the earth and trust him with this incredible, forgotten teaching--a teaching that was once proclaimed by some of our greatest Christian forefathers" (WOTM, 4). This forgotten principle is using God's Law for its intended purpose of genuine conversion. Failure to employ this principle has direct correlation to the number of "converts" that come to Christ and fall quickly away when their life does not improve or they begin to face some of the promised persecution and difficulty that comes to all followers of Christ.

The entire method revolves around this forgotten principle. Rightfully so. It is so important yet so neglected in modern evangelism. It is for this reason that The Way of the Master will always have a place in my teaching and equipping ministry.

2) Simple to Implement.

A second strength of this method is that it is simple to understand and can be implemented fairly quickly into the life of the believer. Through the Basic Training Course each student is exposed to several one-on-one witnessing conversations that demonstrate how each individual can faithfully and simply navigate their own conversations using these principles.

3) Showing the Sin of Failure to Evangelize.

A final strength must also be mentioned: the teaching emphasizes the sin of being derelict in our duty to evangelize. Many Christians sit passively by as people they know and love perish under the wrath of God. Comfort calls this what it is: sin. You can't sit through a session of the Basic Training Course without being confronted with your need to take evangelism seriously and pursue the lost with urgency.

Biggest Weakness

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I love The Way of the Master. However, if I have to pick points of weakness there are two that stand out.

1) Examples Sometimes Betray The Method.

Watching the videos of evangelism can begin to betray the method a bit. What I mean is, the actual principle taught throughout the class is that the Christian is to use God's Law to expose sin in the non-believer until they are humbled. Acting on the biblical principle that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, the method officially calls for administering Law until the person is humbled before giving them grace.

However, watch enough videos of the one-on-one witnessing and you'll see a consistent pattern of administering the 9th Commandment, 8th Commandment, 7th Commandment, 6th Commandment, then moving to grace regardless of whether the persons countenance and disposition has changed. Certainly there are some exceptions. But the tendency exists to "just get through" the method without actually applying the excellent principles. This criticism can be leveled at any "methodology" - Way of the Master is not any better or worse in this area.

2) Strong Leadership A Must

The course can be intimidating. Although the approach itself is simple it may not be easy for many to overcome their years of disobedience and/or fears. Strong leadership is important to demonstrate confidence in approaching people and encouraging the timid to actually put this into practice. If the leader of the group is timid it can be very difficult to get things moving or keep them moving for any sustained period of time.

As a result, this teaching can be difficult for people to just pick up and use. This is especially true if the facilitator is going through it for the first time with everyone else.

Concluding Thoughts

The Way of the Master is a resource that I highly recommend. It is not the only evangelism training resource nor should it be the only thing a Christian ever studies to be equipped to share the gospel. However, I could say that it should be the first thing a Christian studies. This forgotten principle is that important.

We have an urgent message to share. We ought to use God's tools appropriately when proclaiming the good news of salvation through Christ alone. The Law is indispensable for leading people to understand their need for the Savior God has provided.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I Am The 85%

Networking

I Am The 85%

I have been a follower of Jesus Christ for 12 and a half years now. I have been teaching in the local church for a decade. Reflecting on that time I noticed that I have taught more classes on evangelism than any other topic.

And it's not even close.

Evangelism has been on my heart ever since the moment of my salvation. The reason for that was not due to sound theological reasoning. It is not because of a great class I took. It was certainly not because I saw it modeled by the majority of other believers.

It's because I am part of the 85%.

I have heard recently that only 15% of those who come to follow Christ do so as a result of being evangelized at an event. Church services, evangelism rallies, and other events do work in peoples lives. People are converted. But this is not where the majority of conversions occur.

The other 85% come to Christ through personal witness. This is when a believer takes the initiative and shares the gospel with a non-believer in their life.

I got saved because a believer loved me enough to tell me the gospel. Even though I was abusing her, mocking her, and making fun of her. She told me the truth. Then she kept praying for me after our conversation ended.

When my heart was changed I was standing alone, in the middle of a rainstorm, smoking a cigarette and watching the sky. I was born again that night because someone in my life shared the gospel faithfully with me.

I immediately wanted everyone I knew to find life and peace with God through Christ, too. So I started telling everyone.

They were not excited to hear.

The more time I spent in church, the less people I encountered who shared the gospel consistently and faithfully. Most simply invited people to events and hoped that people would eventually give their life to Christ through the proclamation of others.

I questioned my own drive to evangelize, especially since so many experienced Christians (less than 2% on some estimates) neglect the command to evangelize, wondering if I was misguided. However, reading the Word of God continued to resound with our responsibility to proclaim His excellencies since He has called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

So I started teaching classes on evangelism.

Over the years, I have taught a lot of different classes on personal evangelism. I've examined a lot of materials and approaches.

Some are excellent.

Others, not so much.

Some are downright ridiculous.

However, I have also noticed that something is even more important than the methods. That's having the right leadership. Without the right leadership evangelism can tend to ebb and flow.

I have taught many groups and individuals to evangelize. Sadly, many of these groups waned over time. Not all, but many. By far the group that endured the longest wasn't a group that I taught myself but a group that was taught by another - someone who was dedicated to remaining with all who were equipped and who didn't have to turn his attention to any other topics like I did in my pastoral ministry.

When the right leadership and the right methods are employed, the body of Christ is capable of proclaiming the gospel far and wide.

As I reflect on the past 10 years, I am so thankful that the Lord has worked to show me the importance of the dedicated leadership that Christ has given for the edification and equipping of His church. I am also thankful for the many resources that are available to train and equip the saints for the important work of evangelism.

I plan to write some reviews of evangelism methods and resources in 2017. I am open to any suggestions that you may have to evaluate teachings and/or methods that you know of or think would be an encouragement to the body to grow in faithfulness to the Great Commission.

The world is perishing, but there is good news! God has sent a Savior so that all who come to Him can be saved from the wrath they deserve on Judgment Day!

For those of us who are saved by the blood of the Lamb and who walk in newness of life - let us not be ashamed of our glorious Lord and Savior. Let's tell the world that Jesus saves.