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September 23, 2014Evangelism & Discipleship

20 Truths from The Unbelievable Gospel by Jonathan Dodson

Jonathan Dodson writes about the gospel and the evangelistic paralysis of the church.
20 Truths from The Unbelievable Gospel by Jonathan Dodson

1. Evangelism is something many Christians are trying to recover from. The word stirs up memories of rehearsed presentations, awkward door-to-door witnessing, and forced conversions in revival-like settings. (11)

2. Though it is unintentional, “modern” forms of evangelism have generated gospel witness that is impersonal, preachy, intolerant, and uninformed about the real questions people ask. (11)

3. The problem we face, then, is not simply an issue of what to say but how to say it. We are challenged to share the gospel in a way that is worth believing, both with ourselves and others. (13)

4. If Christians really believe what Jesus taught — that a fiery eternity awaits unbelievers but eternal life is available to those who believe — then not sharing the rescuing grace of God with others is cruel. (20)

5. While it is good to want to share your faith, to tell others the good news about Jesus and what he has done for them, in many cases that pressure we feel to evangelize isn’t good, especially when it drives us to manipulate others or to try to force a conversion. (20)

6. The pressure we feel to share the gospel doesn’t translate into the loving concern we may genuinely have for them. Instead, our compulsion bleeds through, coming across as a pressure sale, and people feel like a means to an end, a project. (21)

7. Evangelism doesn’t have to be mechanical; it can be intuitive and relational. It doesn’t have to be pressure-driven and event oriented. Listening to people’s stories, we can discern how to best share the gospel with them in a natural, relatable way. (24)

8. Note five distinct contributions in this definition. Evangelism: (1) is gospel-centered, (2) is proclamation oriented, (3) calls for a response, (4) includes the church, and (5) points to the Spirit. (28)

9. Emoticons don’t substitute for a real hug. Even when we are physically together, the habits we form from online interactions lead to a lack of depth in our personal interactions. (36)

10. The impersonal evangelist is involved in a performance act. She performs as if God’s favor hangs on her evangelistic obedience, when in reality Christ’s obedience drapes us with the Father’s favor. She blindly dismisses people’s struggles, fears, hopes, and reasons for unbelief, moving down the list to get spiritual pats on the back. Her Christianity is answer-oriented, not heart-focused. (38)

11. We need Christians who are willing to preach their faith through their work — people who, because of their faith in the unseen God, make God seen. Jesus puts it this way: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). (41)

12. First, good evangelism isn’t an all-or-nothing endeavor. While we should learn to state clearly the truth that Jesus died for our sins on a cross, in our place; that he took on himself the consequences our sin and conquered it, death, and evil, by rising again to new life; that he offers us forgiveness through repentance and faith in him; and that he promises a whole new world — this can come in bits and pieces. (47)

13. If you hold tolerance as a virtue, you tend to believe that everyone deserves the right to believe what he or she believes. (68)

14. Old or “classical” tolerance holds the belief that other opinions have a right to exist. This type of tolerance allows for a diversity of viewpoints to flourish united around the common good. (68)

15. The cross is the height of classical tolerance, though it is certainly much more. God chose to roll back judgment day into the middle of history, onto his Son, so that idolaters of every stripe might be redeemed and accepted. (70)

Jesus doesn’t clear a path for us to follow.

16. The claim of the religious pluralist is arrogant because it seeks to enforce its own belief on others. It says to those who humbly and faithfully practice other religions: “You must believe what I believe, not what you believe. Your way isn’t right; in fact all of your ways are wrong and my way is right. There isn’t just one way to God (insert your religion); there are many ways. You are wrong and I am right.” (76)

17. Jesus doesn’t clear a path for us to follow; instead, he takes the arduous hike for us, going down into the valley of the shadow of death where the criminals die. He hikes down into our sin, our rebellion, and our failures. He heaps them all on his back and climbs on a cross, where he is punished for our crime, a bloody gruesome death. (79)

18. Spellbound by the approval of others and ensnared by fear of embarrassment, we hold our beliefs close and our Savior distant. Burk Parsons comments: “It may very well be the case that embarrassment is the most feared form of persecution for many Christians today.”2 This persecution is real. We need liberation. (107)

19. Jesus came preaching a gospel of renewal. A message of spiritual renewal: exchanging ashes of mourning for a headdress of rejoicing. A message of cultural renewal: the repair of city walls and possession of cultural treasures. And a message of social renewal: the undoing of injustice and sight for the blind. (120)

20. Our therapeutic culture reinforces the idea that we deserve to have all our longings fulfilled by others. These good, deep longings — to know others and be known without fear of rejection — can only be met by someone big enough to fulfill them. (162)

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20 Truths from The Unbelievable Gospel by Jonathan Dodson