Don’t say I didn’t tell you. My friend J. D. Payne has recently committed another act of literature, Evangelism: A Biblical Response to Today’s Questions. It is worth the read for many reasons, one of which is his desire to provide a theologically-driven treatment of evangelism. He argues that biblical doctrine “is exciting and provides nourishment for the follower of Jesus (1 Timothy 4:6),” and therefore offers biblical-theological responses to 33 of the most pressing questions regarding evangelism.
While the book is indeed a whole, the format is such that each chapter stands on its own, addressing a particular question on evangelism. Questions range from the “theological” to the “practical” although one need not separate the two, as this book implicitly argues. Some of the questions addressed are: “What is evangelism anyway?” “If God is in control, then why do we need to share the gospel?” “What is election?” “What happens to the ‘man on the remote island’ who never hears the gospel?” “How do I transition a conversation from ordinary things to spiritual matters?” “My family member is not a believer; what is the best way to witness to him/her?”
Payne works through such questions in a dialogical fashion by way of the conversation between two fictional characters, Roberto and Mark. As Roberto mentors Mark, a young college student, their conversations focus upon how one ought to live evangelistically. When dealing with the imminently practical question of how one begins conversations about spiritual matters, Payne offers the following advice: pray, look for opportunities, be natural, take the step, share your story, and let people talk.
This book does not seek to engage in the more abstract issues in systematic theology although it touches upon them. Nor does it tell people what to do in certain circumstances, though it provides guidelines from Scripture. What it does, however, is show how evangelism actually works in conversations, with the Bible as the basis for all evangelistic efforts. Evangelism will be helpful to those who want to learn about these efforts and the foundation upon which they stand.