Monday, February 11, 2008

Review of Mark Dever--The Gospel and Personal Evangelism

Author: Mark Dever

Pages: 124 pages

Publisher: Crossway

Price: 7.49 USD

Genre: Evangelism/Missions

Quick Summary:

On the back cover J.I. Packer sums up this book the best when he says, “For most of us, personal evangelism is the reverse of easy, and so it becomes a task we evade. Mark Dever writes to shake us up about this, clearing our heads as to just what evangelizing involves and motivating our hearts to go to it realistically and responsibly. This is a word in season that will surely do a great deal of good”.

Dever’s aim in this book is to “connect some of the dots in our thinking”. He does this by asking 7 basic questions: Why Don’t We Evangelize? What is the Gospel? Who Should Evangelize? How Should We Evangelize? What Isn’t Evangelism? What Should We Do After We Evangelize? Why Should We Evangelize? All of these questions serve as the frame for the book. Dever then closes by considering the sovereignty of God in evangelism. Each chapter is concise yet packs a punch.

The greatest book that I have read on evangelism is, by far, Will Metzger’s Tell the Truth. Dever adds little to that work. However it also does not detract from the central message of Metzger’s work. Both exalt the supremacy of God and the ultimate God-centeredness that must mark biblical evangelism. Dever’s book will be appreciated because it is more concise and a little easier read (though Metzger’s is not difficult). One of the easiest ways to sell a book, especially in the Reformed community, is to put the name Mark Dever on it. Because of his growing popularity this important message will find itself in churches than Metzger’s would. Therefore, it is a helpful addition to the corpus of books on evangelism.

What I Liked:

If Dever adds anything to Metzger’s work it would be in the first chapter. He goes much more in depth in his considerations of why we do not evangelize. The reader will be motivated and at the same time unable to hide behind any of our typical paltry excuses. Dever also shines in telling us what evangelism is not. It is a much needed, and hopefully welcome, rebuke to consider the fact that results are not to be confused with evangelism. The concluding chapter might be an offense to some (those not of the “Calvinistic” persuasion), but Dever does a wonderful job, as did J.I. Packer before him, of showing that the sovereignty of God should motivate rather than hinder the cause of evangelism. That is a much appreciated truth. Another positive throughout the book is Dever’s storytelling ability. It keeps the book light-hearted and yet pointed at the same time.

What I Disliked:

My biggest criticism of Dever’s work is that it adds little to the discussion. However, this is a very unfair comment. Dever’s intent is not to be a pioneer. He does not intend to write a landmark work like Metzger’s Tell the Truth. Dever’s aim, as it appears, is to make simple what men like Metzger labored to communicate. Therefore, he succeeds. I personally would rather read Metzger, so I must honestly say in that regard that I got very little out of this work personally. However, I am able to see it’s great value as a launching pad within the church.

Should You Buy It:

I suppose I should ask, what is your intent? If you want an excellent quick read that is going to still pack a weighty theological punch, then buy this. If you want a more detailed exposition and a deep explanation of what the gospel is, along with a compare and contrast of a God-centered and man-centered gospel, then by all means get Metzger’s work. If you desire to start a small group study with your church—buy Metzger for the leader and work through Dever as a church. All in all, I would heartily recommend this book; but especially for new believers.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


  1. I appreciate the criticism you leave upon your own critique of Dever's work. Great reviews, Mike. Your opinions are (thus far) the only reviews I read, but, man, are they good and helpful. Hope all is well, brother.

  2. Thanks Will, I hope they are of service.

    We are doing great. I hear that your family is a little under the weather...? I hope to hear that things are better.

  3. Mike,

    I bought and read Dever when it came out in Sept 07. I liked the work, but think it was much like eating an excellent appetizer before a good meal. Was ready for someone to bring out the MEAT!

    I did get Metzger's work in December, but time has slipped by and I have only begun the work of digging into it.

    Appreciate the review and suggestion. May use your advice down the pike.

  4. Terry,

    Metzger's work will prove to be the meat that you were longing for in Dever's work. Two years ago we used that book for our youth evangelism seminar...I have hopes of taking the adults through it some time soon.



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