After a brief hiatus we will return to our discussion on The Deliberate Church. As always If you are just joining the discussion (that as of yet has not been much of a discussion) then please check out the foreword, intro, and chapter one. You can catch up pretty easily. If you have yet to buy the book I would suggest buying it for a paltry 9 bucks, here.
This chapter is one that holds a very passionate place in my heart. I have had to counsel a decent amount of teenagers that are confused because of irresponsible evangelism. I have been to conferences, children’s ministry events, motorcycle evangelism shows, etc. where a good number of students “accepted Christ” but had absolutely no clue what that meant nor had a passion to follow the biblical Christ. I have seen from experience the importance of heeding what Dever is saying in this chapter.
On the positive side of things, Dever encourages two over-arching principles: Be God-centered and be certain to include the essentials. What are the essentials? Dever makes it easy for us God—man—Christ—response. For a very great extended discussion on this check out Dever’s book, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.
In this chapter Dever also talks a couple examples of irresponsible evangelism: extending invitations (at least in an irresponsible way), entertainment-centered evangelism, manipulation. This first one is probably the most controversial in Southern Baptist circles. It is important to understand that Dever is not saying that it is irresponsible to, “invite people to repent and believe the Gospel” (52).
What Dever is cautioning against is the “no evidence required” assurance. Allow me to give you an example of this from my own personal ministry. A few years back our church had previously committed to be a part of this motorcycle (X-games type) evangelism event. They had drama, music, and a cool motorcycle guy that did tricks that shared his testimony. At the very end of the event the speaker did one of those bow your head and close your eyes moments. He had people come forward, he prayed for them, assured them, and invited them to speak to a counselor.
After the event I found out that our youth group had somewhere around 20 “decisions for Christ”. I began the process of counseling these youngsters that were, keep in mind, assured of their salvation by this speaker and probably a fair amount of counselors that had prayed with them. As I began talking to these teens it was apparent that the only thing that really had happened was emotional manipulation and shoddy evangelism. Only one of these students actually had a helpful experience with Jesus. The others were assured of salvation and yet wanted little to nothing to do with Jesus or other believers.
This is what Dever is talking about: Draw a crowd with entertainment--sneak the gospel in the back door, have some heart tugging music, the preacher using his voice in a mellow way, etc. to manipulate people into decisions and then assuring them after those decisions are made that they are absolutely saved. That is not responsible evangelism, and our 16 million with only around 40% in attendance SBC is sadly a testimony to the effects of such evangelism.
The evangelism that we are to be engaged in is the whole church presenting the whole gospel to the whole person. Another great resource for this is Will Metzger’s excellent book Tell the Truth.
“If we’re not getting the evangel (gospel) right according to the Word, then whatever we are doing, it can’t be called evangelism.” (51)
“The only external evidence that the Bible tells us to use in discerning whether or not a person is converted is the fruit of obedience.” (53)
“The Gospel is inherently and irreducibly confrontational. It cuts against our perceived righteousness and self-sufficiency, demanding that we forsake cherished sin and trust in someone else to justify us.” (55)
“Churches are most healthy when the gospel is most clear; and the gospel is most clear when our evangelistic methods are most plain.” (55)
- Dever mentions things that we confuse as saving responses with the only thing that is a saving response (repentance and faith). What are some of these things that we confuse with a saving response?
- When speaking of a “public profession of faith” Dever seems to be saying that baptism and not altar calls are to serve as that. What do you think?
- Have you been guilty of or had any experiences with irresponsible evangelism?
- These are Dever’s questions: Are there elements in your churches evangelism that are more entertainment than informative? Are there ways in which your churches evangelism strategy is more like a marketing strategy? Could your churches evangelism method be perceived as emotionally manipulative? If yes to any of these, how might you pursue change?