Evangelism: A Biblical Response to Today’s Questions
by J. D. Payne
Biblica, 1820 Jet Stream Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921, 174 pages, 2011, $17.99.
—Reviewed by Jerry Root, associate professor of evangelism, Wheaton College.
J. D. Payne, a missionary and associate professor of church planting and evangelism at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has produced a book on evangelism that clearly benefits from both his theological background and his practical experience in evangelism.
Payne writes with a winsome style, framing each chapter as part of a conversation between a mentor and a disciple. After the disciple asks questions, Payne switches the narrative and addresses the reader as the author and teacher, giving answers to the questions under consideration.
The questions addressed are generally centered in four areas relative to the evangelistic enterprise. The first focus is on soteriological themes essential to understanding the missiological and evangelistic enterprise of the Church. These questions are more theological in nature: What is the gospel? What is repentance? What is election? The second focus is more apologetic in nature and addresses themes such as: What about those who never hear the gospel? and Does a loving God send people to hell? Payne even moves toward addressing questions related to suffering and evil by asking, What about children who die and the mentally disturbed?
The third variety of questions concern matters of an interpersonal nature, including the state of the evangelist: What if I don’t feel like sharing the gospel? What if I make a mistake when sharing the gospel? What if someone asks me a question I can’t answer? This section is particularly helpful in encouraging the would-be evangelist to work through matters of confidence and security in Christ while still doing God’s work in the world. The last focus area concerns questions of practicality in sharing the gospel: How do I begin conversations about spiritual matters? and What do I do when someone says he or she wants to follow Jesus?
I do have two concerns about the book. First, while the answers given in the book are helpful, the subtitle, “A Biblical Response to Today’s Questions,” may be a bit inflated. Although the answers in the book are certainly tethered to God’s word, it would be a stretch to imagine that the answers are last words. Second, while the dialogue between Roberto (the mentor) and Mark (the disciple) initially adds to the winsome style of the book, in time it begins to wear thin and distracts from the content. The content is strong and I wonder if the reader might have been done a favor by being given a book two-thirds the length of the actual publication.
Overall, Evangelism: A Biblical Response to Today’s Questions is very helpful for those who want a wide-ranging grasp of the work and world of an evangelist: theological, apologetical, psychological, and practical.
EMQ, Vol. 48, No. 2, pp. 250-252. Copyright © 2012 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.