Keep the Main Thing in View: New Book Helps Us Share the Gospel with Compassion and Conviction
Every solid book on evangelism is a welcomed addition to the table, but Invitation is particularly helpful because it provides both theory and practice.
I am often the target of evangelism.
A few years ago, a Boyce College student shared the gospel with me outside a Reds game in Cincinnati. He had no idea I was a pastor with close ties to the seminary, so I put him through the paces, pretending to be a skeptic, antagonistic to the gospel.
An unwitting pupil, he passed my impromptu test with flying colors.
The student proved unflappable and presented the gospel clearly and powerfully full-on in the face of my curmudgeon-like protest. I commended him heartily after I finally relented and revealed my identity. We shared a good laugh, but I was encouraged that I heard the gospel that day with compassion and conviction. The young evangelist was deeply concerned about my eternal destiny.
I’m always happy when I’m evangelized and the gospel rings clear and powerful from the lips and heart of a fellow clay pot. After all, most of us surrendered to ministry because we ourselves had been transformed by the gospel and viewed proclaiming the good news to a world imprisoned to sin and death as fundamental to our calling.
Though I have the privilege of handling the things of God virtually every day, it’s good for me to be reminded of why I’m doing this in the first place.
During my early years in ministry, there seemed to be a constant stream of new books on evangelism. Some taught us how to share the gospel. Some helped us to overcome fear. Some taught us about faulty evangelism. Some unpacked the gospel, and they did it well. Some made a biblical case for evangelism. Some delved into the history of evangelism and those in particular made my pastor-historian heart beat a little faster.
But none did it all.
But the new book by Timothy K. Beougher, Invitation to Evangelism: Sharing the Gospel with Compassion and Conviction (Kregel), really is the one-stop for Christians seeking to be instructed in evangelism from why you should do it, what the Bible says about it, how it’s been done in the past, to how it may be done faithfully and without anxiety.
Beougher serves as the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth in the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, where he is also associate dean.
Invitation to Evangelism
Invitation to Evangelism is broken into three main sections: Preparing for Evangelism, Practicing Evangelism, and Preserving Evangelism.
Part on is a meaty section that encompasses the book’s first half and defines evangelism, shows the biblical basis of evangelism and provides a theology of evangelism as well as a history of evangelism. The second half of this section is particularly helpful and covers:
• What is the gospel?
• Motivations for evangelism. What does Scripture give as the motivation for gospel proclamation?
• Overcoming barriers to witnessing. Deals with major impediments such as fear, apathy, concerns about lack of training, and developing a heart for lost people.
• Devotional life and evangelism. Here, the author rightly argues that soul winning is a key, if under-emphasized, spiritual discipline.
• Prayer and evangelism. How do we pray evangelistically?
• Concentric circles of concern. What is our mission field? It’s family/relatives, close friends, neighbors, coworkers/classmates, acquaintances, and “Person X.” Writes Beougher of the latter: “We need to always be on alert for divine appointments, when God will lead us to begin a spiritual conversation with a complete stranger. But we also need to open our eyes and see that ‘the fields are white unto harvest.’ God has already placed people in our circles of influence.”
With section two, the book turns to the practice of evangelism. This section is also meaty and take up much of the rest of the book, examining evangelism as a way of life, bridges to the gospel, gospel booklets and tracts, the use of evangelistic Bible studies, personal testimonies, and more, including evangelism via the web and social media.
As I’ve done evangelism and trained others to share the gospel, I’ve found that one of the most intimidating aspects is actually finding an on-ramp that leads to a gospel conversation that’s not awkward, unnatural, or just plain weird. Beougher helpfully provides several different categories to help move our talks from secular to sacred matters. Some of these bridges include:
• The Church Bridge. Ask about their church attendance. Where do they go to church and what does their church believe?
• The Intellectual Bridge. For example, you might ask, “Is there a specific question or concern that is hanging you up in your spiritual journey?” or “Do you consider yourself a seeker of truth?”
• The Personal Opinion Bridge. Ask: “What do you think of Jesus or the Bible or God?”
• Current Issues Bridge. Ask: “The Bible is a remarkably relevant book. Would you like to see what it has to say about his issue?”
• Sports Bridge. Begin the conversation about your favorite team or ask, “Did you know that [name a well-known athlete] is a Christian?”
• Felt Needs Bridge.
• Prayer Bridge. Ask, “Is there something I could pray about for you?”
• Relationship Bridge. After building a relationship over time, ask the new friend if you might share the story about your spiritual pilgrimage.
The final chapters of the second section are immensely practical and include how and when to call for a response, apologetics, witnessing to children, witnessing to family members, witnessing to cult members or other religions, evangelistic preaching, and local church evangelism.
Section three is brief, including only two chapters: the process of making disciples and assurance of salvation.
Every solid book on evangelism is a welcomed addition to the table, but Invitation is particularly helpful because it provides both theory and practice. Much that falls within the category of evangelism training includes one, but not the other.
Invitation is formatted to be used in seminary and Bible college classrooms and no doubt it will receive wide exposure in that arena. But Beougher’s new book is thorough and is down-to-earth in the way it communicates its subject and will prove useful for training among small groups, Sunday school classes, and in various areas within the local church.
Like the best theology books, it ministers to both the head and heart, and provides strong motivation for the hands and legs to obey our Lord’s commission to go and make disciples of all peoples.
And, best of all, I can’t think of an author better fitted to write this book. Beougher has taught evangelism for more than three decades (which he discusses in this author interview) and, best of all, has practiced evangelism for decades as a local church pastor. Getting the salt out of the shaker is the primary task of the local church, and Beougher and his new work give us profound help in accomplishing that vital mission.