Marks of the Messenger by J. Mack Stiles

I just finished this book yesterday. This is certainly not some high academic, grit-your-teeth-through-it book. It is written at the average person’s level, very easy to read (I read it in three days without much dedication), and very enjoyable.

The book is about evangelism, but more so, as Mark Dever says in the book’s foreward, “Mack puts the evangel [the Gospel] back in evangelism.” In other words, the main thrust of the book is not directly the idea of sharing the Gospel but understanding the Gospel and then seeing how a precise understanding of the Gospel affects the way you share it. It is an excellent book and the truths within it are surely something, as Christians, we all need to hear and be reminded of constantly. If we think we know the Gospel, we don’t know ourselves. We are inclined to forget the Gospel, neglect the Gospel, de-emphasize the Gospel, add to the Gospel (which in reality subtracts from the Gospel), distort the Gospel, tone down the Gospel, etc. We need reminders such as this.

Here is an excerpt from the last chapter of the book. I believe this portion summarize the main themes rather well.

A MANIFESTO FOR HEALTHY EVANGELISM

  • Healthy evangelism is rooted in our own commitment of faith in Christ rather than in any pragmatic method of evangelism. So, first, we become people of faith by putting our complete trust and faith in Jesus. Since we trust with our whole lives that the gospel is true, we desire to share the gospel out of faithfulness, not technique.
  • We become students of the gospel. We know it through and through. We resist the natural tendency to shape the gospel to our personal tastes and the tastes of the culture by adding to or subtracting from the message.
  • The healthy evangelist guards the gospel. Because we know that the gospel can be lost, we never assume the gospel but emphasize the gospel in our fellowships and in Christian leadership.
  • The first application of our understanding of the gospel is not necessarily to share our faith, but to live a gospel-centered life. So we sit at the foot of the cross when there are differences with other brothers and sisters. We remember our own sin and failings when we discipline our children. We apply principles of grace in our marriage and with our coworkers. We especially think through how gospel themes bear on our presentations of the gospel to make sure the message we bear looks like the message we share.
  • We always remember that evangelism is an act of social action and produces social change in and of itself. It is not a category separate from social action.
  • Since many things mimic true Christian conversion, we gain a clear biblical understanding of conversion. The healthy evangelist knows that the hearer must understand the message of the gospel before conversion can happen. True conversion, when it does happen, is marked by a radically changed life. We understand that we’re only instruments in the hands of God, that God is the one who generates conversion.
  • The healthy evangelist seeks boldness in witness and works to slay the “fear of man,” one of the great obstacles to sharing faith.
  • Since love is the mark of a Christian, we endeavor to gain a biblical view of love, while rejecting corrosive, worldly views of love.
  • The healthy evangelist knows, in the light of the commands of Jesus in John 13 and John 17, that biblical love, practically applied in the church, is the greatest image of the gospel we offer the world.
  • As we speak the gospel to those who don’t know the gospel, we cycle through three foundational challenges in our minds: Do I know the gospel? Do I live the gospel? Do I speak the gospel?
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