Marks of the messenger

MarksI’ve been complimented a few times in the past 24 hours for writing this book. Given that I’m thought to have written it, I thought I should read it at least. Why the compliments and the confusion? Well, yesterday I attended the AFES National Staff Conference, where I gave the opening address. Before the talk, Mack Stiles was interviewed about his work in Dubai and then I was interviewed about my experiences over the past year. During my interview, Richard Chin realised that he’d forgotten to plug Mack’s book. He held it up, said how good it was, and that Don Carson had said: “I do not think I have ever read a book on evangelism that makes me more eager to pass it on than this one – better, that makes me more eager to evangelize than this one.”

What Richard said, and what people thought he’d said, differ slightly. Read the next two sentences out loud…

Mack has written this book…
Macca’s written this book…

You can see or at least hear the reason why people were mistaken!

Now that I have read Marks of the MessengerI can say that I’d be very happy to have written it. Not just getting the royalties, or the accolades from the back cover, or it being my first book – but for what it says! It’s a book that encourages people to know Jesus, to live for Jesus, and to speak up for Jesus. Some books on evangelism make me cringe as they focus on methods and strategies for marketing the message and impacting zillions of people. This book is about being authentic as a follower of Jesus. These are the things that should mark a messenger of the good news about Jesus.

I had in mind to summarise many of the excellent ideas in this book but, as I neared the final pages, I discovered that Mack has done this for us. He distills the previous chapters into what he calls A Manifesto for Healthy Evangelism (p112-113). But let me offer a quick description of the main points of this book.

  1. You can’t really share the breaking news of Jesus Christ unless you have a genuine relationship with him. This means acknowledging that Jesus has authority over your life and putting your complete trust in him. As you trust him, so you trust his words of life and desire to share this with others.
  2. It’s important to know the gospel well. Don’t mess with it by adding bits you like or subtracting bits you don’t like. If you mess with it, then it will be no benefit to anyone.
  3. The gospel can be lost in three generations. If one generation accepts it, then the next assumes it, then the next confuses it, then the next will have lost it. So keep the gospel at the heart of every thing you do and say in your life and ministry.
  4. The first application of our understanding of the gospel is not necessarily to share our faith, but to live a gospel-centered life. (p112) The gospel should influence every nook and cranny of our lives. It helps us to remember our sins and failings, enables us to resolve conflicts, shapes our parenting, and so much more. Our lives should look like the message of grace we share.
  5. God calls us to love people by meeting their needs. Some people are lonely, some are hungry, some are oppressed. We are called to love them. All people are in need of forgiveness, and God calls us to love them in this need also. This may involve many things, but at the heart it will mean letting them know about Jesus.
  6. Before people can put their trust in Jesus and turn to him as their Lord, they need to understand what this means and how it happens. There’s no point in people making meaningless responses. What’s required is genuine, reasonable, change of heart, and this will result in changed lives.
  7. We’re called to be bold – not to fear people, or to be ashamed of the message, or fearful of being rejected. So let’s pray that our fear of people will be replaced by reverent fear of God.
  8. The love of God is so different to corrosive, wordly views of love. God’s love changes people and builds extraordinary communities. Jesus said that people would know we are Christians by the love we have for one another. As we apply this in our lives, it becomes the greatest image of the gospel we offer the world.
  9. 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? (p113)

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Mack over the past few years as we’ve met at this conference. This morning we talked together, shared our lives together, wept together, and prayed together. Mack’s enthusiasm for people to know the truth about Jesus is infectious, in a positive way. You know he’s not going through the motions, because where he lives and works there’s absolutely no point pretending to be a Christian. It’d be stupid and dangerous. Mack knows Jesus personally and his great passion is that others will also come to know him. You know, that’s what God wants too! Marks of the Messenger will help you to be a part of this happening.

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