Many think evangelism is rooted in a method. It is rooted in something much deeper. It is found in what makes us whole and healthy messengers of God's truth about Jesus. Mack Stiles has lived the life of the healthy evangelist in homes and coffee shops, at universities and farms. He has lived out and spoken about the gospel to Kenyans, Koreans, Arabs and North Americans. What he has learned around the world and at home is summarized here in a few basic truths that can shape any of us into faithful people who bring good news to needy and hurting friends. The whole gospel changes much more than our relationship with God. Stiles shows how it changes all of who we are and what we do. It means learning the whole gospel without shaping its message to meet our tastes. It means not just going through the motions of accepted behaviors. It means showing the unity of witness and justice. It means love. It means community. Join Mack Stiles in a life-giving adventure of boldly knowing, living and speaking the gospel.
Mark Dever serves as the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Since his ordination to the ministry in 1985, Dr. Dever has served on the pastoral staffs of four churches, the second being a church he planted in Massachusetts. Prior to moving to Washington in 1994, Dr. Dever taught for the faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University while serving two years as an associate pastor of Eden Baptist Church.
In an effort to build biblically faithful churches in America, Dr. Dever serves as the executive director for 9Marks (formerly The Center for Church Reform, CCR) in Washington, D.C. 9Marks encourages pastors of local churches look to the Bible for instruction on how to organize and lead their churches. Dr. Dever also teaches periodically at various conferences, speaking everywhere from South Africa to Brazil to the United Kingdom to Alabama. Feeling a deep burden for student ministry, Dr. Dever often addresses student ministry groups at campuses throughout the country. He has also taught at a number of seminaries, including Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, AL, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. Dr. Dever’s scholarly interests include Puritanism and ecclesiology.
Dr. Dever currently serves as a trustee of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; he also serves as a member of the board, vice-chairman, and chairman of the Forum for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. From 1995 until 2001, he served on the steering committee for Founders Ministries, a pastoral movement for biblical teaching and healthy church life within the Southern Baptist Convention. As Guest Senate Chaplain for two weeks in 1995, Dr. Dever opened the daily sessions of the United States Senate in prayer. He is a member of the American Society of Church History and the Tyndale Fellowship. He also held the J.B. Lightfoot Scholarship at Cambridge University from 1989 to 1991.
I'd heard (via podcast) Stiles preach at churches in Kentucky and the Middle East before coming across this book at a local Goodwill. Like all of the 9Marks books, this is succinct and thought-provoking. It is not an anti-evangelism book but Stiles is against the mentality that most efforts toward evangelism have cultivated. This is not a how-to guide with steps on what to say and do or scripts to follow-- you're not selling insurance. Stiles begins with encouraging the reader to ask "Christian, who do you want to be?" rather than "What do you want to do?" (p. 17). Moving from focusing on "doing" to "being" changed his life and ultimately led to moving his family to the Middle East. "Acting without a Biblical understanding of who Jesus wants us to be is the reason so many become unhealth in their spiritual lives, producing unhealthy disciples and unhealthy churches" (p. 18).
Programs and pragmatism (likely driven by a focus on numbers as growth, IMO) have created a performance mentality that has replaced Gospel-centered focus of who we are in Christ. "Pragmatic evangelism counts: converts, members, programs but rarely counts faithfulness..." Evangelism becomes a way to fill seats or lead someone to a conclusion/decision rather than Jesus. We focus on methods rather than being who we are meant to be in Christ. "Play jazz if you want, but play to glorify God in and of itself, not to do evangelism." "People don't come to faith because of the excellence of our presentation or because we provided the perfect circumstance...(but) because God draws them" (p. 77). "The ultimate mark of conversion...is not walking an aisle, but picking up a cross" (Dever).
Stiles cautions evangelists against "assuming the Gospel," or assuming basic biblical literacy or true understanding of who Jesus is. Test: "Could you have preached that sermon if Christ had not died on the cross?" Does the message connect us with the identify of who we are or rather focus on doing more? It depends less on you than your pride wants to admit.
Stiles tells a powerful story of leading a group of youth on a trip to Guatemala where they come across the place of a massacre of local Christians, which suddenly identifies for them the lost parents of the orphans they have been ministering to in the nearby village. The natural questions lead to "what can we do?" but Stiles again notes that what matters is understanding who we are to be in the midst of suffering, persecution, and injustice. A sociologist researching Guatemala found that Christian social justice movements, initially well-intentioned, resulted in murder. Advocacy, aid and social programs "upholds the gospel... but it is not the gospel, and it is not equal to the gospel." The mayor of a village explains that hearing the real gospel-- how Jesus died to save them from their sins and was resurrected proving it was enough -- remarkably changed the lives of many men in the area and "did more to eliminate hunger than fish farms or crop rotation ever did. We must never forget that the gospel brings more long-term social good than any governmental program ever developed." The gospel is not me-centered and God is not in the business of making everything as we think it should be.
Stiles encourages the reader to practice "the gospel in a minute." I would second that but add that you need to practice it (and your testimony) in the simplest English possible to reach the widest audience. I recently did that in ESL training and found it helpful--particularly if you're a language learner and are familiar with what the top 1,000 words are in a given language. Stiles also encourages prayer, out of a normal habit as we're encouraged by the Apostle Paul, but also for opportunities and wisdom.
Apologetics and arguments take up a lot of Christians' study and training, but "the best way to demonstrate that Jesus is from the Father and that we are his followers is not through method or techniques or apologetics. It's through loving, unified community among believers" (ie: just as Jesus prayed for)(p. 105). Being united in love, as we're supposed to be, does more to invite people to Jesus than anything we could formulate or memorize as a script.
My criticism of the book are that the examples of evangelism in given from Stiles' own life come largely from people who already acknowledge God and reject secular humanism and are already exploring the idea of Jesus-- ie: Muslims and Hindu immigrants in the Middle East who visit his church. Example: He leads an Indian man to faith after the man's entire family had come to faith and passed a Bible on to him, which he was already exploring. He's debating Muslims who at least agree with him on the existence of Jesus. There's less insight for loving and speaking to a rigid atheist who believes in a multiverse.
Stiles gains points for putting his personal email in the book with an invitation to contact him. (Would that every author would do that.) He also has the Kentucky connection working in his favor in my review.
Wanna hear something completely bananas? I believe that the central truth of the the universe, the thing from which all other truths derive, the thing that grounds reality and grants purpose to men is.....
...the gospel. I'm not kidding. I'll bet you've never heard that, but it's true. J. Mack Stiles believes it too, and I'm grateful for his insights into how this should shape us. A great read.
Pragmatic evangelism counts converts, members, programs, but rarely counts faithfulness to the message or the faithfulness of the messenger (15)
Don't peddle the gospel. "as evangelists we want to be people who are more concerned with our faithfulness in presenting Christ clearly than we are with results" (18)
An "assumed" gospel forgets to preach the gospel (33)
The gospel is not just how we enter the kingdom but how we make all progress in the kingdom (36)
Of course, acting in line with the gospel has enormous implications for healthy evangelism. * For the healthy evangelist, living out the gospel forms our approach to the world in witness. * The gospel shapes our view of people, since we know (to paraphrase C. S. Lewis) that being a son or daughter of Adam is enough to bow the head of any king and lift the head of any beggar. * We do not ask, “What is ethical?” or “What is moral?” but instead ask ourselves, “Isthis in line with the message of the gospel?” * We share our faith with joy, since our hearts are filled with gratitude about Christ’s work in us. * We can be generous with our faith since we know God’s generous love. * We do not fear the rejections of others since we know our acceptance is by God. * We witness with humility since salvation is by grace alone. * We share without manipulation because true faith is from God alone and cannot be manipulated. * We share freely with all because we know he redeemed us; as a result, there can’t be difficult cases beyond the grace of God. * Our proclamation of the gospel is filled with truth and grace because our message is filled with grace and truth.
We overcome our fear of man by replacing it with something bigger -- the trust of God (62)
Never use apologetics to win an argument, but do use them to deal with genuine objections to faith (83)
This brief book is an excellent practical guide to personal evangelism. Stiles points out some things that have gone wrong and do go wrong. I appreciated the space he took clarifying the Gospel message that we should share and the examples he used. He gives us a good push where we need to be pushed to be more active and faithful in evangelism. Reading books on evangelism is one way we can improve. I highly recommend this book.
Excellent book! It could be called "9 marks of a healthy evangelist." A healthy evangelist is someone who:
1. Has faith in the gospel 2. Knows the gospel 3. Guards the gospel 4. Lives out the gospel 5. Understands how evangelism is an act of social action 6. Understands conversion 7. Is bold 8. Has a biblical view of love 9. Operates within the context of the local church
Reminded me of the beauty and wonder of the gospel story, and the need to live and speak it. No tricks or to-dos, but still practical. Don't water it down, dont chose the pleasant parts over the tough ones. Live it out, love others, especially the church, and be praying and attuned to opportunities to share it.
Not a how-to book on evangelism, but a look at qualities that will characterize a good evangelist. Still, it made evangelism seem less scary and imposing. It refreshed my desire to bring salt and light to the world around me.
I really enjoyed this book, I think it’s an important read for believers, reminding us of the centrality if the Gospel in our life. Thinking on it in our minds, sharing it in our words and living a life of love.
The simplicity and faithfilled words written within are inspiring. The people of God must attune ourselves with this book. The Lord Himself is presenting us with instruction. Listen to Him and read this book.
“People need to see the depth of their sin so that they come to a fuller understanding of the depth of God’s grace.” (p. 31)
There is a beauty about this book. J. Mack Stiles takes the mystery of evangelism and ruins it for us all. He not only removes the excuses we have fabricated to avoid being messengers, but encourages the proper handling of the gospel message. Page after page, the logic from the foundational stones of scripture remove any doubt that Jesus has not only saved us, but enabled us to live out the mission of God. “Go deeper into the gospel. Don’t grow away from it – ever. The real work of our spiritual growth is to allow the themes of the gospel to permeate our lives.” (p. 54)
Romans 1:16 states that “the gospel, is the power of God for salvation” and this book seems to open that verse up in many ways. There is a sense from the beginning of this book, which it carries throughout, that the gospel message is vital to the salvation and the depth that message can infiltrate our lives. “Understanding that a changed life is required to attest to true conversion also guards us from thinking that the only important event is the conversion event.” (p. 77). This book warns us of misuses and common misconceptions. It helps to clarify a life dependent of the gospel story, and how being so reliant shapes our usage and conduct with the message. There is freedom as we learn or re-learn the intentional communication that will transform our lives to mimic our creator more clearly.
There are so many great quotes that can summarize this book. I leave you with this one, “as evangelists we want to be people who are more concerned with our faithfulness in presenting Christ clearly than we are with results. We want to be the kind of evangelists who take people more seriously than to manipulate them into a prayer of commitment. And we want to be people who present the gospel with care, knowing spiritual lives are at stake.” (p.23)
Marks of the Messenger is not a how-to guide to evangelism, it's not steps or strategies to gaining more converts. Instead, this excellent little book by J. Mack Stiles lays the groundwork for a life that is gospel-centered and naturally evangelistic. For example:
I'm convinced that the greatest obstacle to healthy evangelism is pragmatism: "doing evangelism"...Success drives pragmatic evangelism. Pragmatic evangelism never asks the question "Who are we to be as an evangelist?" Pragmatic evangelism only asks the question "What works?" (p. 19)
J. Mack Stiles certainly didn't set out to write a faddish book (and by no means did he) yet Marks of the Messenger addresses how a life centered around the Gospel and evangelism informs how we should think about such hot topics as social justice, the missional movement in a post-Christian age, and the narcissism and self-love of our culture. When speaking of social justice, he says the following:
"The gospel message is the message that produces salvation. So we should never confuse meeting physical needs with sharing the gospel. Caring for others represents the gospel, it upholds the gospel, it points to the gospel, it's an implication of the gospel, but it is not the gospel, and it is not equal to the gospel." (pp. 68, 69)
While some may disagree with his position on social justice, every reader will find the vast majority of the book to be easily readable, applicable and commendable.
Chapter 3 by itself made the book worthwhile for me. Stiles talks about the dangers of assuming the gospel, and calls us (just like Paul does) to guard the gospel, which is the good deposit entrusted to us and passed down from generation to generation (2 Timothy 1:14). The generation that assumes the gospel is most responsible for losing it.
Overall, a great book by a great evangelist, and relatively short and easy to read.
Stiles ends his excellent book with this, "Evangelism is not a duty to perform. It's a privilege we're granted. The privilege is ours. The greatest thing about evangelism is that we get to do it - you and me. Somehow the great Creator God allows us - protplasmic specks in the universe - to partner with Him in His grand design. It's a wonder and a mystery. To be healthy - really healthy - not just in evangelism, but in all our spiritual life, is to have a glimpse of what it means to take hold of that privilege in faith, with truth, through love, and in boldness and faithfulness to the praise of His glorious grace."
Most books on evangelism focus on the content of the message and practical helps in sharing the Gospel. Stiles touches on both of these aspects, but emphasizes the need to live in Gospel-esqe community and in a manner consistent with the Gospel before attempting to share the Gospel.
The subtitle says it all: "Knowing, Living and Speaking the Gospel."
For those already eager to share their faith with others, and for those who are lacking motivation to do so I would heartily recommend this pithy little book.
The book is about evangelism, but more than that, to rephrase the forward by Mark Dever , the author has restored the evangel (the Christian Gospels) back into the essence of evangelism. Consequentially, the focal point of the book is NOT ‘how to spread Christianity’ but who WE are to be as “messengers” of Christ. In one aspect, it confronts the fear and timidity in Christians about spreading the Gospel, and on other instances, it talks about the inclination of some of us to twist the Gospel message to win people in; and these two seemingly different conditions are beautifully and effortlessly connected in this book as a ‘lack’ of Gospel-centered life. As a Christian, I think that this book is worth reading over and over again, not just because of its content, but also because of its simplicity.
"Marks of the Messenger" is unlike most books on evangelism that I've read in that Stiles encourages readers to live out the Gospel message responsibly, intentionally and joyfully each day. There are no gimmicks or 12 step programs, simply cultivating a mind and heart that is ready to share the Good News in word and action. His personal stories are powerful and he offers a refreshing, biblical take on sharing the Gospel. While I do not agree with some minor points that Stiles makes, particularly in the chapter on social activism, I definitely recommend this book to everyone interested in learning how to do a better job of sharing their faith.
This book was eye opening. It taught me never to assume the gospel and that only the gospel is the gospel. Many things reflects the gospel, flow out of the gospel, are inspired by the gospel, but they are not the gospel. Only the gospel is the gospel. And the relationship between evangelism and social justice is that the gospel itself transforms. Social justice is a byproduct of the gospel coming to a culture or a people. So we lead with the gospel, which changes people and their behaviors...