Monday, May 2, 2011

Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People

(This is my review of Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People, Revised and Expanded Edition, by Will Metzger)

This volume is definitely a treasure on the subject of evangelism, especially personal witnessing. My interest in reading this book has led me to read Part One and Part Two, where Metzger talks about the Whole Gospel (or content of the gospel) to the Whole Person (or the conversion of the total person). I also covered Part Four (The Gospel Offered by Whole People) where the author focuses on the person's character and communication in witnessing. The four appendices were also briefly examined. Overall, this is indeed a good 'training manual on the message and method of God-centered witnessing.'

I find some connections with the author while reading this book. First, his experience as a new Christian wanting to witness for Christ in a friendly setting resonates with my own journey in seeking to be an effective Christian witness. I therefore can relate with him when he said, “I was one of those Christians who believed in friendship evangelism, but for me it turned out to be all friendship and little evangelism” (15).

Second, his desire to understand the message and the methods of the gospel that led him to attend various evangelism trainings and seminars resembles with my early Christian experience.
Third, I can also relate with his stories how frustrated he was in hearing methodologies, rather than clear gospel message, in many seminars he has attended on evangelism. These seminars were more harmful than helpful to the gospel.

Fourth, I can identify with the joys and the challenges he had as a former campus minister with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship, having been a former staff member with Inter Varsity Philippines myself.

Metzger's motivation in writing this book comes from his conviction that while the Church has a mandate to evangelize, many within the Church, were (and still are) not evangelizing at all. And even those who were engaged in evangelism were not doing it the right way.

In response to this sad situation, Metzger's desire to help fellow believers led him to write this book with the intention to “"show and tell" the gospel in a way honoring to God, helpful to others and liberating for [them]” (15).

The way he presented the book (which exactly corresponds with his goal for the book) does not only explain clearly what evangelism is and what the gospel is. It also includes many practical steps on how to engage oneself in God-honoring evangelism. His methodology complements very well with that of Nick Pollard in his book "Evangelism Made Slightly Less Difficult."

The four appendices are even very useful in terms of starting a training in Evangelism in the church. Appendix A (Training Materials for Learning God-Centered Evangelism) and C (Study Gide of Metzger's book) are especially handy for pastors or teachers in the church who want to learn and apply the content of Metzger's book in training believers for effective witnessing.

The three sections of Metzger's book that I have read are hereby summarized:

➢ Part One deals with the content of the 'whole gospel.' Metzger begins by emphasizing that bearing witness is more than just giving one's testimony. There is a specific message to which one is bearing witness. (His discussion in this section closely corresponds with the class notes on the evangelism part of the course). This leads the author to go on to explain what he perceives to be the essentials of the biblical gospel. In his estimation, which I believe is not un-Scriptural at all, any biblical gospel presentation must be God-centered, and give answers to the following questions: (1) Who God is? (God as our Owner, Father and Judge); (2) What constitutes a God-centered living (Perfect obedience to God's law); (3) What is man's real status before God? (Man living a self-centered life, separated from God and enslaved by sin); (4) Who is Jesus Christ? (He is the way back to life and God); and (5) What is man's necessary response to God? (Coming home to Him through Jesus in faith and repentance). Metzger also believes that knowing accurately the content is more important than simply sharing with as many people as possible.

➢ In Part Two, Metzger focuses on the idea of converting the whole person. One chapter (Chapter 4) deals with viewing salvation from two different perspective. Here Metzger distinguishes between regeneration as a view of salvation from God's side, which “is an instantaneous impartation of life to the soul” (89) and conversion as “viewing salvation from our perspective” and “is a process of the entire work of God's grace from the first dawning of understanding and seeking to the final closing with Christ in new birth” (89). I believe this is a helpful distinction, especially in properly understanding both our role in evangelism as the 'proclaimer' of the good news, and God's role as the One who brings the positive result of salvation. The author goes on to talk about his desire to see a better biblical balance between the use of the emotions and the mind in evangelism. Metzger encourages those who present the gospel not to rely on an appeal to the emotions. The truth of the gospel should inform the mind and so move the emotions. He completes this second section of the book by reminding his readers that the will also plays an important role in evangelism. In sharing the gospel an appeal to the will is also necessary. A radical call to live a life of obedience to the Lord is also appropriate. “Our evangelism must therefore be to the whole person, allowing that the response will be in accord with each unique personality” (110), says Metzger.

➢ In Part Four, Metzger deals with the character and way of communication of the whole person who proclaims the message of the gospel. The author maintains that ordinary Christians can make an effective gospel presentation. His discussion here includes, among other things, reasoning with people, fears in witnessing, and simple conversation. Metzger explains how our society has become pluralistic and relativistic, and how people have their own set of presuppositions about the world (168-169). Here our evangelism must interface with our apologetics that presumes the existence and preeminence of God who reveals truth to us. When relating the gospel personally, the author tells us that we must be careful not to shift the focus to our personality and experience, but include essential elements of the gospel message. Like Pollard, I absolutely agree with Metzger's emphasis on the importance of prayer in doing evangelism. “Prayer for others is the supreme God-ordained method in evangelism. Unless God changes a person's heart, nothing lasting will be achieved. Prayer is a means of raising dead sinners to life!” (178), Metzger asserts. He concludes his book by describing some practical effects of grace-centered evangelism with a goal leading to discipleship. True conversion in one's life truly leads to sincere obedience, a love for the brethren, and a life of service (202).

Metzger's discussion and methodologies on evangelism are thoroughly informed by his biblical knowledge. This makes the book very Scriptural. Anyone who would take issue with Metzger must take into account the whole teaching of the Bible on evangelism and show that the author has misread the Bible. In a day and age when much of what the church does, including evangelism, is based, not on the timeless truth of the Scripture, but on pragmatism, Metzger's training manual is much needed. His guidelines in evaluating different evangelism presentations and methods throughout the book are very helpful.

Among the books I've read in seminary, particularly on the subject of Missions and Evangelism, Metzger's book is undoubtedly one of the most valuable tools for evangelism. Not only because of the various reasons mentioned above, but also because I thought Metzger has avoided two prevailing errors in evangelism: (1) he has avoided the problem of allowing his theology to be disconnected from practice (It is clear from his explanation of the gospel that Metzger holds a high view of God's sovereignty that is characteristic of the Reformed faith); and (2) he has not, in any way, let his theology hinder his zeal for evangelism. Usually, those who embrace a high view of God's sovereignty lack a passion for seeing the lost come to saving faith. Metzger was able to show that a true Calvinist can be as zealous as, if not more zealous than, any Arminian in reaching out to the lost with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed this book is truly a precious gem.

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