Rating: 5 stars
Why don’t more Christians talk about Jesus Christ? The main reason is fear: fear of rejection, of being humiliated, of alienating oneself from unbelieving family members, of ending longtime friendships, of coming across as “intolerant,” or any number of things. Additionally, many Christians simply don’t know how to properly go about it.
Thankfully, Leon Brown wrote Words In Season: On Sharing The Hope That Is Within Us to address this very issue. A pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Brown deftly deals with the issues that are involved in lay evangelism. He correctly tells his readers to begin with God, telling us who He is with regard to His attributes, why mankind is alienated from Him by sin, and how we can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
He then makes clear that as God’s saved and chosen people, they should be committed members to a local, Christ-centered church. In doing this Sunday after Sunday, they are already being a witness to unbelievers around them, since they are partaking of the means of grace–those things that God has endorsed whereby people first are made aware of their need for Christ (the preaching of the gospel), and then grow in their Christian lives (preaching of the Word, prayer, partaking of the sacraments, etc.).
Then, as believers live their lives, part of their task is to tell others of the hope that is within them. In addition to 1 Peter 3:15, one of the key verses cited in Words In Season is Colossians 4:5-6: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time,” and “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Using these and other verses, Brown makes the case that this is the task of all believers. Upon doing so, he then gently helps his readers to overcome their fears by showing just how easy it is to start a conversation that leads to sharing the gospel. In doing so, he provides practical advice on what to say and how to say it. What is critical in this is that Christians show genuine care and concern for unbelievers: listening to and interacting with them is especially important because as Brown says, people are smart and they can tell if you’re faking it.
Also helpful are his comments on avoiding “Christian-ese” when talking to non-Christians: “Remember that many people are not exposed to Christianity. They don’t read the Bible, attend worship, or understand the concept of sin. Words such as ‘Justification,’ ‘gospel,’ ‘sanctification,’ are foreign to them ‘God’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ are used primarily in a vulgar way. Those who have heard of Jesus may perhaps have concluded that he was a good teacher, or someone to emulate. All the things that we have been taught from the Bible they view as foreign. Therefore, the terms we use as we speak to others about the gospel must be simple and understandable…So keep it simple. Unless the person with whom you are talking tells you that they have an understanding of Christianity, use basic terms and explain what you understand by those terms.”
The author also highlights the importance of prayer with regard to evangelism, and of using the law and gospel (i.e., “gloom and glory”); that is, pointing out God’s holiness and our sin in light of it, and then how Christ suffered on the cross for the sins that were due to all those whom He died for.
Brown then encourages his readers to exercise hospitality. While of course discernment is needed, hospitality is nonetheless an excellent way to show others that you’re willing to listen to hear them out and to care for them. As he quotes another author, “Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.”
In the closing chapter, the author offers some final words of encouragement for his readers. All throughout, he shares personal anecdotes of how he has handled different evangelistic situations.
For these reasons, Words In Season is a timely, needed, and easily accessible volume on a needed topic. While it can be read individually, the study questions at the end of each chapter makes it a wonderful Sunday School or group book study resource as well.
I highly recommend it for Christians who want to learn how to share their faith, and (especially) for those who do not.