At a time when winsome words and an irenic spirit is so desperately needed, Jonathan Dodson is not afraid to speak truth in love in this little gem of a book. I am not an evangelist and I do not have the gift of evangelism, but Dodson is real and compelling in a way that inspires me to become more evangelistic, and that actually scares me. But that fear is just my own weakness—which Dodson reveals so well.
I think one of my favorite sections is where he shows that evangelism is not proselytizing. Dodson says:
“Proselytizing is motivated by recruitment… Whatever is of greatest value to us motivates our proselytizing. Depending on your values, Christianity may have its strongest expression in a political party, a moral code, a view of the book of Revelation, form or denomination of church, or doctrinal stance. Notice that none of these are focused on Jesus. We all recruit to what we think is most important.”
This is very important to me because over the last eight years or so I’ve seen more proselytizing then actual evangelism. More people interested in getting other people to adopt their way of thinking on an issue then speaking about Jesus and the truths of the gospel. I partook of this myself, so it’s not like I don’t bear part of the blame.
The rest of the book is a great little evangelism primer. Dodson goes through what he calls “five evangelistic concerns.”
- Preachy evangelism
- Impersonal evangelism
- Intolerant evangelism
- Know-it-all evangelism
- Shallow evangelism
I appreciated that Dodson does not get preachy or chastising in his discussion of the above categories, he is tender yet firm with the reader. This is probably what makes him a good evangelist—he joins a pastoral care for people with truths that need to be said at the right time in the right way. In each of the above sections he tells an evangelistic story using the concept of what he calls “gospel metaphors” which illustrate different ways of talking to people about Jesus.
And for timid people like me, Dodson talks about the security we can have in the gospel alone. Although he rightfully encourages evangelists to read apologetics books, he points out that we don’t need to be read up on all the best apologists to evangelize with deep humble gospel dependence and conviction. This really encouraged me:
“However, the gospel alone, acts as a grand apologetic addressing the deepest of life’s questions including: the value of creation, the problem of evil and suffering, the existence of God, the hope of salvation, the nature of God and man, and the role of faith. Through apologetics the gospel has been proven to be intellectually credible and existentially satisfying for many people across many cultures. The gospel provides a coherent, rational view on the world that provides intellectual security. It makes sense of a world where things are not as they are supposed to be.”
Here are some areas where I connected with Dodson on a heart level:
“While we may not have the ability to answer every question, Jesus does give us the ability to always be secure in our faith. Disciples who are humbly secure in Jesus are compelling. That kind of faith is an apologetic in itself. When difficult questions are raised and doubts surface, we need a security deeper than our intellect and stronger than our persecution.”
“You mean an author of two books about the gospel loses faith in the gospel? Oh yes, every single day, which is why I’m so deeply moved by God’s enduring approval and love. I abandon it in a moment for the slavery of human approval, but still he loves me.”
So, if you have the gift of evangelism I recommend this book. If you don’t have the gift of evangelism, I recommend this book. If you know of some young guys on fire for Jesus but who could use the temperance of a cool young pastor, then I recommend this book. If you’re homeschooling a high schooler than I recommend this book. If you’re in a small group that seeks to grow in the area of evangelism then I really recommend this book. Bottom line is: I recommend this book. If you’re interested, Desiring God has a post on 20 Helpful Quotes from The Unbelievable Gospel.