Brian Biedebach’s chapter, “Equipping the Saints: Training Believers to Win the Lost,” was more designed for a pastor to understand his role in relation to his flock, although it’s always helpful to get a sneak peek into the life of a pastor’s work and understand the weight of his position. Seeing the example laid out in Acts 6, and the importance of the apostles devoting themselves to the Word and prayer, while appointed men would take care of the widows and needy within the church, which in itself became an evangelistic witness. Setting the priorities within the leadership of a church leads to a healthy church with a healthy corporate witness of the Gospel. When the culture of a local church reflects the love of God among one another, it exposes the world of its lack of love and displays a true picture of what real love looks like. This can become a beautiful picture of the Gospel that changes lives, and it also comes out in the preacher’s priorities. When the pastor models evangelism in explaining the Gospel in texts that address it, in giving illustrations from Scripture and his own life, and is enthusiastic about evangelism, the congregation will follow the lead of their shepherd to bring more into the fold, by God’s grace. It’s a joy to honestly see this grow in the context of Lighthouse Bible Church, where genuine love has been shown again and again as I attend, and where the leaders seek to equip the flock they have been placed in charge of by God. It’s reassuring to see this modeled at LBC, and hope this can be more common within local churches all over the world. That’s always a desire of mine to see at Iglesia Biblica Misionera, and something I continue to pray, since that’s what our focus is everytime we go: the evangelization of Tucuman that points to Christ, and continues through the ministry of IBM.
Kurt Gebhards’ chapter, “False Assurance: A Biblical Look at the Sinner’s Prayer” may be the most shocking chapter in this book. The sinner’s prayer is the most common way of “closing” the conversation with a non-Christian, and you cannot help but think that this is the only way of bringing someone to faith in Christ. After you explain the Gospel and the person reveals that they want to know Christ, what else can you say other than having them pray the sinner’s prayer? It is so pervasive in churches across America that to express any hesitancy in using it would bring looks of surprise or confusion among most Christians. What I found most helpful in this chapter is how the Gospel may be hindered from being fully expressed or fully understood if it’s continued to be used in its most common form. Not only can it do that, it can stunt the growth of new believers, when it may be perceived that nothing more is required than praying a prayer and all will be well. No mention of the cost of following Christ, nor the call of repentance is mentioned or highlighted as strongly. If many come to profess faith in Christ under this method, there will be many false professions within the church and can weaken the influence of the church to the world. Following Christ’s Great Commission is most helpful for us to look to and embrace wholeheartedly, that there would be a better understanding of the Gospel among the people in the community, and that people would more clearly accept or reject the true message of the cross.
I think it may hard to express how much I am in agreement with this chapter, since there is much bad fruit that has come about by using the sinner’s prayer as a tool to introduce someone to true faith in Christ. This would probably be the one chapter I would recommend to remove any misunderstandings about evangelizing the lost. There is an uneasiness that I have felt when I get to the end of a conversation with someone (especially when time has run out and we are expected to return to the host home of the people who live in the neighborhood we go to). What do you say to someone who tells you they want to follow Christ after you have explained the Gospel in its entirety to them? When you tell them following Christ means a change of perspective, and a change in living, especially in who you’re living for, and they still tell you they want to believe, how do you move forward? Especially after reading a chapter that essentially denounces the use of the sinner’s prayer without going in depth on an alternative? That might have been the only issue I had with this chapter, although having already read through the book, you aren’t left to your own opinions about what to do. Practical help in this regard is not as forthcoming as the diagnosis of the problem and the proper way of evangelizing. Walking with a new believer is just as much a part of evangelism, since there’s more that we say God does than just bringing people to heaven. There’s work He does while people are still here on this earth, and developing how that looks for Christian workers may be exceeding the scope of this book. However, discipleship under Christ and with the help of older Christians would have been a helpful inclusion in this book. I know other works do address this blind spot, so I’m not one to gripe, especially when Pastor John MacArthur has addressed this in sermons preached at Grace Community Church. (I think of series like “Advice to a Young Disciple,” “Fundamentals of the Faith,” and “A Practical Guide for Disciples.”) Look forward to a post on the topic of discipleship…when I get a chance. =)