The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: The Pastor-Evangelist (The Pastor's Role in Evangelism)

Below is a rough draft of a paper on evangelism that I wrote for seminary.



Thomas Booher
AT 41 Reformed Evangelism
November 23, 2015

                The Pastor-Evangelist sheds light on the minister’s duty and role in evangelism. The book offers a comprehensive yet concise panorama of the different means of proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers, such as preaching, prayer, small groups, Sunday school, lifestyle, and hospitality evangelism. Interspersed are more doctrinally focused chapters relating to Christ’s example as the ultimate pastor-evangelist, kingdom evangelism, revitalizing a dying church, and practical measures on how to implement these evangelistic methods in the local church. Each chapter is written by a different author, keeping the reading fresh, but some chapters are more compelling (and more biblical) than others. Brief attention will be given to each chapter’s contents, with remarks mixed in, and a summarizing conclusion will follow.
                Roger Greenway writes about Jesus being the perfect model of the pastor-evangelist in chapter one. He says that the separation of practice from theory in the minister’s evangelistic education is one of the chief causes of lack of growth in the church today. Yet he contends that pastoral evangelism is not an option, but a biblical mandate.[1] As Jesus went to seek and save the lost sheep, so the minister must look for God’s lost sheep, and bring them into the sheepfold of the church. Peter and Paul blended ministry to the churches with ministry to the lost, and in Acts 20, Paul makes that the model for the other elders to follow. Greenway says that in the course of the pastor’s regular ministry he should be evangelistic in his outlook and make opportunities to reach out to unbelievers.[2]  He must also teach his elders first, and then the whole congregation, that they too have a role to play in evangelizing within their community. Deacons also assist with connecting unbelievers in the community with the elders of the church. The three main ways the minister engages in evangelism is by teaching and preaching it, by modeling it in his life, and by organizing the church to be evangelistic.[3] Greenway is rightly convinced that this three-pronged approach to evangelism is essential to the pastor’s office, and without such work being done in the pastorate the world will not be reached with the gospel.
                Ed Clowney discusses kingdom evangelism in chapter two, by which he means the gospel is a proclamation of the coming kingdom of God. The Gospels’ conception of the kingdom of God refers to God’s dominion rather than his domain over all things.[4] The kingdom of God comes when the King comes, meaning that God’s people do not usher in His kingdom on earth. Clowney refers to Vos and Ridderbos, so it is likely that he is not denying the already/not yet aspect of God’s kingdom, but it would have been helpful to see more interaction with God’s working in and through His people to establish, in some degree/fashion, His kingdom on earth. Christ, the king, has already come once, and will come again. Yet, He did not leave His people as orphans when He ascended, but sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in His people (Jn. 14:17-18), making them His temple (1 Cor. 3:16). So the king is here now among His people, and since we are presently being built into His spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5-10) and through Christ’s cross have access in one Spirit to the Father, making all believers fellow citizens (Eph. 2:14-22), it must be that believers have become fellow citizens of God’s kingdom. This one indicate that, in some sense, the kingdom of God is here now, in, among, and through His people, and as believers are transferred into His kingdom when the Spirit enters them, they also become His temple, spreading His present domain over the lands of which He already has dominion. Clowney hints at these ideas, but doesn’t specifically mention them, when he says, “The kingdom is present, because the King is present, yet the kingdom is to come because His parousia is to come.”[5] It is in the power of God, displayed paradoxically through the death of Christ, that provides for the restoration of all things. Our evangelism must emphasize the lordship of Christ according to Clowney, because Christ truly is sovereign master of all. Those who turn to Christ must become His disciples; He is not to be manipulated as a tool for selfish gain. Christ as Lord is also Judge: “He controls the world now and will subdue every enemy in His final judgment. But Jesus already subdues us to Himself in another way; He triumphs over us by His rule of grace.”[6] Christ died for body and soul, so Clowney states that our salvation must include our life in the body (work, recreation, etc.) as well as our spiritual life. Evangelism is the kingdom mission of the church, and so Clowney sees the church and the kingdom inseparable, but not identical: “To confuse the church with the kingdom would be like confusing the saved with the Savior. But the church is the community of the kingdom.”[7] Clowney helpfully concludes that the church is a witness to the world in holiness, compassion, and proclamation, in the two facets of being scattered throughout the world among unbelievers, and also by gathering together in fellowship with one another and corporate worship as the visible community of the people of God.
                Understanding the pastor’s duty to evangelism and the kingdom nature of evangelism, chapter 3 addresses prayer as it relates to evangelism. C. John Miller confesses that in seminary and even after his motto had been, “Why pray when you can worry?”[8] He sees this mindset in many seminary graduates. He relates examples of women who prayed powerfully that he knew, which led to conversions, and also how Francis Schaeffer and his wife would pray fervently, and many at L’Abri would come to faith as they did so. He fears that we do not pray, especially as Presbyterians, because we trust in our own knowledge, foolishly supposing that that provides its own adequacy. Miller says that when we pray we need to keep a few things in mind; firstly, Christ is Sovereign Lord and in control, so it behooves Christians to petition Him for conversions and to remember that he converts when we evangelize; second, he argues that prayer is the primary way that Christ’s Spirit is communicated to believers; third, the Spirit’s vehicle is bold faith; finally, we are not seeking mere decisions for Christ, but disciples who will glorify Jesus by a changed life. Points one and four are fine, but two and three are a bit more dubious, or at least unclear. Is it really true that Christ’s Spirit is communicated through prayer? When a person is regenerated, does that occur because they are praying? Or does conviction fall on a believer only in the midst of his or her prayer and meditation, or not also while sitting under the preaching of the Word, or reading Scripture or a book on the Bible? Do we often have bold faith, and does the Spirit only work in us, and among unbelievers, when we have bold faith? This is not to suggest that the Spirit doesn’t work in and through prayer, or that we shouldn’t have bold faith when we pray, but Miller goes too far in the writer’s opinion when he says that our prayer should become not just a striving, but a “striving-claiming” of certain promises of God, whereby we actually become partners with God in prayer.[9] More helpful, though some have claimed he’s pressed this too far as well, is Miller’s teaching relating the Christian’s sonship to God with prayer. When a Christian prays, he prays as a child to his father, and a good father wants to give his children good things. Too often the Christian prays in fear, or at least without remembering the intimate relationship he has with the Father, and that leads to a lack of boldness in prayer. It can at least by heartily agreed that we need to pray “more covenantally, to see witnessing more covenantally, and to see God’s commitment in it to you as a son.”[10]
                Next, Dirk J. Hart argues that any believer in the New Testament could declare the good news of the gospel. In Luke 9:59-60 Jesus told one person to let the dead bury their own and go and proclaim the kingdom of God. Even two of the men called to distribute the food in Acts 6 turned out to be preachers in Acts 7 and 8. As Christ was sent into the world, so was the church. Hart argues that, to an extent, our love for orderliness has quenched the Spirit, and we need to return to spontaneous, unorganized evangelism, which is what he claims the early church did. Since Christ has come, He is making people of all nations His own, ushering them into His citizenship, and so preaching and evangelism are inseparable when understood covenantally. Hart refers to Hebrews 10:24-25 to show that in corporate worship there is also a lateral encouraging that goes on between believers which nurtures the body of Christ and can also be an effective witness to unbelievers present: “The welcome they received, the friendship that was offered, the concrete joy that was present, motivated them, in turn, to listen to what was said and to respond in repentance and faith.”[11] He says that the church is missionary in its very nature, because His people are to worship Him while on their missionary pilgrimage. Preaching from the pulpit must always be practical, and while the meat of the word is needed, the pure milk of the gospel must never be missing. Preaching should also use the book of Acts to show the congregation its own missionary nature and encourage them to engage in evangelism. Hart’s bent on evangelism in worship is clear, but he does not wish to cross the line of turning the worship service into an evangelistic outreach campaign. Worship and missions, then, are both central tasks of the church.
                Frank Barker argues that evangelization in someone’s home is the most common form of evangelism found in the New Testament, appealing to Acts 2:42 and other passages.[12] The gist of the chapter is simply to invite others into your home (or other intimate venue) and conduct an evangelistic Bible study, using a book that is suitable for an inquiring unbeliever, or even studying a book in the Bible itself. Hosting should be taken seriously and done well, and the study should include application for believer and non-believer alike. Barker wants the gospel to be brought out each study session, because the unbeliever may never return and it may be their only opportunity to hear the gospel. To get started with a group, Barker emphasizes that the invitation should be low key, but also straightforward concerning the religious nature of the study.  
                Next, Bartlett Hess offers strategies on how to fill the church with people. This was one of the weakest chapters, often employing tactics that emulated a business model more than the Word of God. He emphasizes planting your church in a prominent, strategic location, having many and varied programs to draw people in and keep them, identifying people’s needs and trying to meet them, gaining media coverage, and being active in publicity.[13] Taken to the extreme, one may think that you should only plant churches in the center of cities, and that if you don’t have extra-biblical programs to offer, you aren’t being a faithful and effective church. He even talks about having new members teach a class to keep them involved so they will not leave the church,[14] but at some point you have to ask yourself if you are no longer trusting in the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, but instead in your desire to keep new members running on a treadmill. One also wonders about all the home Bible studies that are going on, and just how well they are supervised by the elders. The good of this chapter is seen in the zeal to reach out to the community with the gospel, though at times the tactics used are questionable.
                D. James Kennedy contributes a chapter on witnessing. He says that every believer must learn to witness, to proclaim the gospel, citing Acts 8 which states that those scattered brought the good news with them, and it was not the apostles who were scattered. He says that good evangelism is more caught than taught, and that pastors need to provide on-the-job training for their congregation, not simply talk about evangelism in theory.[15] Kennedy lays out a detailed plan to teach the church how to effectively evangelize, and much of it is helpful, although his optimism about gospel proclamation and that every believer has a worldwide gospel responsibility is an overreach.
                Kennedy Smartt offers some practical guidelines for evangelizing through Sunday school. For this to occur, the leadership in the church must organize the Sunday school curriculum to be evangelistic and instructive, and following up with visitors is a great way to encourage them to come back. Door-to-door visitations, mailings, and phone calls are necessary. He says that one should not have a Sunday school catered to the “select of the elect,” indicating his belief that Sunday school is not primarily for deep doctrinal study but more for the new Christians, and even unbelievers.[16] It would seem that if a church has Sunday school, it can be used for whatever is desired, given it is not something mandated in Scripture. Related to the previous chapter, James Bland discusses follow-up with unbelievers. He says some helpful things about how the apostles, after preaching the gospel to the unsaved, would follow up with them, and would continually visit the churches they established. Yet, he also seems pragmatic and doubting the role of the Holy Spirit by urging the assimilation of new converts to quickly find small groups, else their commitment to Christ might not be solidified.[17] This raises many questions, not least of which is whether one could really be saved and committed to Christ if they can so easily fall away from such a commitment.
                T.M. Moore addresses the need to equip the church for lifestyle evangelism. This concept has largely been covered already, but the idea goes back to the spontaneous expansion of the early church. The goal is to equip the congregation to naturally and effectively proclaim the gospel in their spheres of influence in their everyday lives.[18] This style of evangelism would not primarily be handing out gospel tracts or street preaching, since that would not be ordinary or done every day, but happens without being planned. The responsibility to teach the sheep to always be ready to give a defense for the faith falls on the pastor primarily. This will not produce fruit overnight, but requires patience, diligence, and boldness, and also an adept ability to discern where the unbeliever is at in his understanding of spiritual matters and his or her own depravity. Effective communication has occurred when some are smitten by the gospel, others have their interest piqued, and some mock and reject it (Acts 17:22-34). Related to this, the next chapter discusses hospitality evangelism, where similar things are done, except it is not the proclamation of the gospel itself so much as it is the kindness and acts of mercy done for the unbeliever that is in view. In fact, this is really a precursor to the preceding chapter, because it is about intentionally establishing friendships with unbelievers in your sphere of influence, in the hopes of gaining their trust so that you can share the gospel with them within a meaningful context of relationship. Hospitality is a qualification for an elder (1 Tim. 3:2) and something all believers must cultivate (1 Pet. 4:9). As believers hospitably love unbelievers, they model Christ and His disciples.[19]
                All these methods of evangelism are good and necessary for the growth of the church. Terry Gyger offers an integrated plan for incorporated these means of evangelism into the church. He rightly says that each member of the church has different giftings, even evangelistic giftings, so certain modes of evangelism should not be honored above others, but each should have their place.[20] Each field of evangelism must be done with excellence by those who are best equipped to engage in the particular field, and coordination is necessary so that duplication does not occur. Evangelism and discipleship must be emphasized in equal measure. Training must begin with simple, basic instruction, and move to the more complex, and leaders must emerge and multiply from within the church. The main weakness in this chapter is that it presents evangelism as a daunting task and may rely on the concept of programs too heavily.
                Harry Reeder writes a helpful chapter on church revitalization. This is when a church is dying, is but flickering embers of its former self, and needs new life breathed into it. New pastors fresh from seminary will often be tasked with a small church that needs to be revitalized.[21] Reeder appeals to Revelation 2:5 and shows how the mighty church at Ephesus has fallen and needs to remember its first love and be faithful once more. He argues that every church needs to be revitalized because each successive generation must commit itself to God, the Word, and evangelism.[22] Many people, especially the elderly, are nostalgic about the “glory days” of their church, which means they will be stuck in their old ways. Getting them to change and think fresh thoughts is not easy, but necessary. You cannot pave the path to a healthy church by bringing in new members and laying the asphalt over top the old members. This is unrighteous pragmatism and denies that those already in the church are genuine sheep of God who need to be shepherded as well. Reeder also examines II Timothy 2:2, which shows that the young pastor (Timothy) needs guidance from wiser, older men (Paul), so that the pastor can pass on the true doctrine and way of life to other reliable men who can then teach them to others. Timothy taught proven leaders so that they could reach out to potential leaders, and he had guidance from Paul that equipped him to do this. Ministers today need such guidance from veteran ministers.[23] Reeder rightly stresses that programs do not produce real growth, but are a kind of tool to help organize the actual work of ministry that is meant to lead to actual spiritual growth. The root cause of lack of growth is not programs, but spiritual stagnation of the members in the church. Reeder emphasizes that revitalization never takes place without a strong pulpit ministry and a solid example set by the pastor to the congregation.
                The biggest takeaway from this book is that evangelism is essential to the office of teaching elder, and that it is no easy or simplistic task, but is multi-dimensional and complex. Yet, by the grace of God, the church can and will grow as the pastor proclaims the gospel from the pulpit, models evangelism to the congregation, and helps mobilize the body of Christ to do the work of evangelism. So few ministers seem to understand their role in evangelism, which is in many ways the central role. If the pastor does not evangelize, the congregation will not evangelize. If the pastor does engage in evangelism and teach the congregation to do so, the congregation will follow the shepherd. This requires both humility and boldness, because no coward is willing to take the gospel to unbelievers where they are. Things might get messy, and it isn’t as easy or comfortable for the minister to deal with unbelievers as it is his own congregation, but it is necessary so long as the Lord tarries and the lost sheep are still scattered.                 

[1] The Pastor-Evangelist, Greenway, 2
[2] Ibid., 7
[3] Ibid., 11
[4] Ibid., 16
[5] Ibid., 18
[6] Ibid., 21
[7] Ibid., 29
[8] Ibid., 37
[9] Ibid., 47
[10] Ibid., 49
[11] Ibid., 57
[12] Ibid., 66
[13] Ibid., 84-85
[14] Ibid., 87
[15] Ibid., 98
[16] Ibid., 111
[17] Ibid., 122
[18] Ibid., 132
[19] Ibid., 143
[20] Ibid., 152-53
[21] Ibid., 162
[22] Ibid., 165
[23] Ibid., 170-172

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