My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

14 December 2005

Book Review - Evangelism

Tell the Truth – The Whole Gospel for the Whole Person

Will Metzger

The back cover calls it a classic. I do find it amusing that a book first published in1991 can already be described as a “classic” – don’t we have some standard for what constitutes a classic, like the author being dead at least?

Anyhow, Will Metzger is quite alive and this is a great book which will hopefully become a classic. This is a thorough, Biblical book on one of our great missions in life, evangelism. Metzger does a fabulous job establishing evangelism Biblically, quoting Martin Lloyd-Jones: “The supreme object of the work of evangelism is to glorify God, not to save souls. The only power that can do this work is the Holy Spirit, not our strength.” Amen. Through examples of evangelistic literature and personal illustrations, Metzger shows (or reminds) us of how thin and man-centered most evangelism is. Recovery of the fullness of the God-centered gospel must be the answer. Tell the Truth stands firmly upon a reformed understanding of salvation, which is essential to God-honoring salvation.

Apparently, this updated version contains larger sections on grace and worship. In the section on worship, Metzger quotes from John Piper’s Let the Nations be Glad: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” From this, he argues well that it is the worship of God which is the only final antidote to the fear of man which cripples so many of us in evangelism, especially yours truly. In addition to worship being the answer for us, it is also the motivation for calling others to Christ.

Metzger believes, quite rightly, that the best evangelists are not necessarily those whose zeal outshines the rest of us, but those who have the best grasp on the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is far more effective and honoring to Christ to understand the gospel thoroughly than to have one or two pre-packaged questions for people. In this way, we become able to show each unique individual how Christ is the atoning answer for their unique sins and despairs.

The author does give us a thorough gospel presentation to learn and use – one which I hope to use and teach others. But he doesn’t just give one or two proof-texts for each point; each point on the presentation is supported theologically, scripturally, and with good illustrations. His gospel presentation includes five main points: Who God is, God-centered living, self-centered living, Jesus Christ: the way back to life, your response: coming home. Included are several very practical and helpful appendices (how to ask good questions, language barriers, saying what you mean, etc.)

The one beef I have with this book is the lack of references to the church; perhaps because of his ministry as a campus minister with InterVarsity, Metzger seems to present evangelism as a Lone Ranger affair. There is much support, power, and gospel context to be had when we do evangelism as members of a church. Certainly we are calling people to repent & believe, not to affiliate denominationally; but the commission tells us to baptize those who we are to disciple. Clearly, Jesus wants the church as His body to take up this great work of evangelism.

Beefs aside, this is book is worthy of your bucks. I plan on using it next semester in training our church planting core group for outreach and evangelism.


Kurt said...

Jared said, "The one beef I have with this book is the lack of references to the church."

I take your use of the word "church" to mean the local Christian assembly working as a unit with ecclesiastical government oversight? If so, why is it necessary for him to explicitly state as such?

When you said, "Clearly, Jesus wants the church as His body to take up this great work of evangelism" you again seem to be referring to a local Christian assembly working in unison, when, to me, Jesus' "church as His body" refers to ALL believers as a called out group. Therefore, local Christian assemblies would be involved in evangelism quid pro quo.

Your beef, then, might not really be a beef after all.

Jared said...

Kurt - I guess I would have liked Metzger to address the question, "What does it look like to do this mission of evangelism within the context of a local church?" The necessity to deal with this comes from the church-nature of the great commission (teaching & baptizing) - not just "all believers" as a called-out group, but the specific local bodies of believers which have the authority to baptize people into the church.

My beef doesn't detract from the high quality of the book - it's just something I would have liked to seen addressed.

Anonymous said...

Just a note. It was originally published by IVP in 1981

Kurt said...

Just received my copy of Tell the Truth. After reading through the Introduction and "Appendix A: Complementary Approaches in Evangelism," first impressions say, " I think I'm going to like this guy!" Here's a couple of quotes:

"Should any tradition, technique or person be beyond our evaluation by scriptural standards? I think not."

"From my own experience I cannot think of an exception to the maxim, 'Growing Christians are reading Christians.' So with non-Christians."

Also, in Appendix A, he provides several great foundational ideas for evangelism that can be conducted within the context of the local Christian assembly.

This book is already a great read. Looking forward to the rest of the book