Learning Evangelism from Jesus

chd-inside.jpgJerram Barrs has given us a good sequel to his earlier book, The Heart of Evangelism. This book is more focused in dealing with how Jesus approached the subject we would call evangelism. I agree with David Wells. “This is not a book about evangelism technique but about doing evangelism biblically.” In one sense we can say that Jesus did not have a particular methodology in doing evangelism; yet on the other hand, there are certain aspects that are a common thread in his approach. We perhaps should say that Jesus always had an objective in mind, though it was always applied by situation or context.

Barrs points out an approach of Jesus to people that was often followed by the late Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer knew how to learn about people, to ask questions, and to listen before seeking to present Christ to them. Barrs actually quotes Schaeffer, who used to say that “if he had only one hour with someone, he would spend 55 minutes asking them questions and 5 minutes trying to say something that would speak to their situation once he understood a little more about what was going on in their heart and mind.” This is a good summary of Barrs’ approach in this book, using the parables to demonstrate Jesus’ style or method.

Barr even quotes from the observation of Paul Weston, who has counted the number of questions Jesus asked in the Gospels, an overall total of 284. Jesus also told stories and left the audience to respond and conclude His story, such as the famous parables in Luke’s Gospel regarding the two lost sons. Jesus used story form to communicate His message; and He did so in a way that the audience, if they had ears to hear, would know exactly what He was driving at.

The confrontation with the Bible teacher, as Barrs calls it, or the Good Samaritan parable, demonstrates another approach of Jesus. This time, more than telling a story, He asked questions. Jesus met the young lawyer where he was, which not only caught the man off guard with His questions back to him but also revealed something inside this inquisitor.

Here was a lawyer who knew Scripture and could quote at least the key parts but in reality did not know what those Scriptures meant. Through a questioning process, Jesus made it obvious that such was the case.

In witnessing we have to realize, and we soon will if we do not, that simply quoting Scripture does not reveal belief and understanding. Knowing the truth is different from doing the truth. Jesus masterfully demonstrates how to answer questions with questions to make His point. Barr also reminds us that many to whom we witness may not only lack a saving knowledge of God but an understanding of themselves as well. Following Calvin, he reminds us that we can only know ourselves if we know God.

Barr also talks about witnessing or doing evangelism in a way that does not lead to a quick decision where there is no knowledge of sin and the need of forgiveness, which is prevalent in much “evangelism” today. “Many people need to hear the law before they are ready to hear the gospel,” he says.

In this book we see Jesus using different methods, both direct and indirect, stories and questions, to carry out His evangelism. Barr writes, “The theme of this book is that Jesus, the Son of God, shows us the way to be in the world. It is my deep conviction that our evangelism, both in theory and practice, must be shaped not only by the general teaching of Scripture, but also, indeed most of all, by imitating the pattern of Christ.”

While you may not find anything here that you have not already known, it is good to refresh ourselves by studying more about Jesus and His teachings with the desire to learn how to be more like Him. Learning Evangelism from Jesus contains fifteen chapters dealing with different stories from Jesus’ life, and the study guide at the end will be helpful to those wishing to teach or study more on this topic. Obviously, we recommend this book.

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Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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