Evangelism Is . . . : How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. By Dave Earley and David Wheeler. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010. 358 pages. Softcover, $24.99.
Why is it that a number of believers in Jesus Christ do not evangelize? Perhaps they find themselves gripped by either a fear of the unknown or their own unpreparedness. In Evangelism Is Dave Earley and David Wheeler offer substantive answers to fearful, would-be personal evangelists concerning their questions about and preparation for evangelism. Possessing more than twenty years of experience as both a church planter and a pastor, Earley has written over a dozen books. Now he teaches courses in both pastoral ministries and church expansion at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia. David Wheeler, credited with popularizing servanthood evangelism, serves as professor of evangelism at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Together, Earley and Wheeler have compiled forty concise essays that explore the motive, meaning, manner, and methods that frame an effective understanding and practice of personal evangelism.
Before they present their concept of evangelism, Earley and Wheeler address a number of common myths concerning evangelism (vii–ix). They build a case against these misconceptions and, in doing so, assemble a strong foundation in order to define and describe a healthy view of evangelism. Early and Wheeler use both biblical and narrative approaches in explaining what “evangelism is.” By employing biblical exposition at times, while simply offering scriptural support at others, the authors establish Scripture as the authoritative basis for their evangelistic propositions. The inclusion of the authors’ own personal experiences and encounters in evangelism demonstrate that evangelism will always be caught more than it is taught.
Evangelism Is challenges readers’ thoughts and ideas concerning evangelism. In fact, one may be forced to question certain presuppositions about evangelism. However, readers may want to question Earley and Wheeler on some finer, more minute points. First, Wheeler asserts early in the book that evangelism is not “the same as ‘missions’” (viii). He makes a case against blurring the lines between evangelism and missions, arguing that attempts to do so have caused evangelism to lose “its distinctiveness and importance to the church” (viii). However, Earley later appears to combine evangelism and missions in his chapter on “Evangelism is being a Missionary, Not a Mission Field” (101 ff). Second, in his discussion on the Holy Spirit’s role in evangelism, Earley submits a chart with no explanation or title (140). The chart assigns God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit to specific historical times. Because he offers no explanation concerning the content of the chart, novice believers might incorrectly surmise modalistic teaching here. Last, Earley’s essay, “Evangelism is Sharing Your Story” (245–51), and Wheeler’s essay, “Evangelism is Sharing Your Recovery Testimony” (260–67), both deal with issues related to sharing one’s testimony. Is not the content similar enough to combine these essays into one chapter? To do so would make the work’s treatment of utilizing testimonies for evangelism more concise.
Regardless of these questions concerning the book’s clarity, the content of Evangelism Is provides readers with some highly useful information. Earley and Wheeler summarize the contents of each article in a concluding section. They utilize a number of these concluding remarks to offer readers helpful suggestions in order to apply each chapter’s content (e.g., 16, 101, 117, 154, 202–03, 226–27, 251, 259, 267). In addition, Early and Wheeler present strong arguments against a “gift” of evangelism (vii, 20), as well as a convincing argument for the use of public invitations (283–90).
Despite its merits, Evangelism Is is not without its weaknesses. First, Earley neglects to include key scriptural passages in his discussions on the Great Commission and spiritual gifts. John 20:21 is absent from his list of Great Commission passages (17–18), as well as Ephesians 4:7–16 in his discussion of spiritual gifts (176). Second, Wheeler makes the foundational case that “evangelism and discipleship are uniquely dependent on each another” (viii); however, neither he nor Earley formally explores or examines the subject of discipleship. Finally, while the authors explain and describe evangelism as a process leading to an event, they do not sufficiently address or emphasize a spontaneous kind of evangelism that begins with an event and leads to a process of life-long discipleship.
Evangelism instructors and educators will find Evangelism Is a helpful textbook for a course in basic evangelism. Despite the book’s appeal to those studying in the academy, it also speaks to those sitting in the pew. Pastors and ministers in local churches will find they can select any of the book’s chapters as stand-alone articles in order to assist them in equipping the members of their congregations to evangelize.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary