Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book Critique: Share Jesus Without Fear

Bibliographical Entry

Fay, William and Linda Evans Shepherd. Share Jesus Without Fear. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1999.

Author Information

William (Bill) Fay was once the CEO of a large corporation with ties to organized crime before life-changing events turned him towards Jesus Christ. Fay once owned a house of prostitution and other illegal businesses. To say that Fay was hostile towards Christianity would be mildly stating his former view of the faith. Fay is a graduate of Denver Seminary and has personally witnessed to thousands of people. Today, a changed man, Fay is an evangelist, author, and radio personality traveling the United States sharing his testimony. Fay and his wife currently reside in Englewood, Colorado.

Linda Evans Shepherd is an author of over 30 books, a nationally known Christian speaker, and television host in Denver, Colorado. She is also president of Right to the Heart Ministries. Shepherd and her family reside in Longmont, Colorado.

Content Summary

Fay begins his book as one would expect by calling attention to the woeful state of evangelism in churches today. In the brief first two chapters, Fay explains that Christians cannot fail if they will share their faith. It is the sharing itself that is our success, not the outcome (p. 3). Without the clarity that fundamental understanding brings, the rest of Fay’s book might fail to communicate his message that everyone is an evangelist. Sadly, the vast majority of Christians are guilty of committing what Fay calls the sin of silence. Christians should be excited about sharing their faith (p. 7)! And that sharing should be contagious. Fay recounts a story of a woman in adultery who surrendered her life to Christ and went back to her husband asking for forgiveness. Two days later the woman’s husband contact Fay to tell him something was different about his wife and he wanted what she now had (p. 10-11). Mindful that not everyone will receive Christ, Fay tells his readers that the average nonbeliever must hear the gospel 7.6 times before accepting Christ. Fay also informs that the Institute of American Church Growth conducted a survey that shows 75 – 90% of new believers come to know Christ through a friend or acquaintance (p. 11 – 12).

Before moving into the more instructive section of his book, Fay spends a chapter discussing the need to overcome the fear of evangelism. Here Fay tells his readers that evangelism is the job of every follower of Christ. While emphasizing the command to evangelize, Fay is quick to remind readers that it is the power of the Holy Spirit that does the real work and not the person sharing the gospel (p. 16). Fay then moves into six very practical reasons people give for not sharing their faith. They are fear of rejection (p. 17 – 19), fear of the opinion of friends (p. 19 – 21), fear of sharing with coworkers (p. 21 – 22), lack of knowledge (p.23 – 24), fear of losing friends and/or relatives (p. 24 – 25), and simply not knowing how to share (p. 26). After so many pages devoted to the excuses people give for not sharing their faith, Fay then disarms them all in a single paragraph (p. 27).

Having laid the groundwork, Fay then moves to the first step of his proves for sharing one’s faith in Jesus. This simple first step involves asking five “Share Jesus” questions designed to get people talking. Fay recognizes that most people have opinions and love to share those opinions. By asking questions designed to get people to share those opinions freely, Fay is able to steer the conversation towards Jesus Christ.

The next step in Fay’s evangelism approach is taking the person being evangelized through selected passages of Scripture. Fay’s key in this part of his approach is to have the other person read the passages and have the briefly explain what each passage means (p. 45 – 51). The person reading the Scripture passage is hearing the words and the Holy Spirit is using their own voice to speak to their heart. If the person does not correctly explain what the passage means, then Fay says to have them read it again and again until they do. God will work through His word and there is no need for us to try and do the work from Him.

Fay’s third step in his process is to bring the person being evangelized to a point of making a decision. The whole point of sharing faith in Jesus is to lead others to Him that they might also have a relationship with the Risen Savior. Here Fay explains his “Commitment Questions” (p. 61). The questions culminate in the asking someone if they are ready to ask Jesus to come into their heart and then remaining silent. There are only two answers someone can give: yes or no.

So what comes after someone accepts Christ? Fay provides the answer in chapter 7. As one may have come to expect during the reading of Fay’s book, this next step involves asking the new believer yet more questions. These are designed to ensure that the new believer has a proper understanding of what has just taken place in their life and to be certain they will get into a Bible-based church.

Fay takes the next 31 pages discussing the most common objections to accepting Christ and how to overcome those objections. Fay then moves into a brief discussion of keeping non-Christian friends. An excellent point is made in that Christ died for them and loves them too (p. 113)! The concluding two chapters have Fay discussing praying for the lost and his commission for his readers to go. Christians are to be obedient to the Great Commission. Fay gently tells the story of the farmer who broken no ground and then asks if he should be angry at God for the lack of a harvest (p. 141). God is not going to make the first move. It is incumbent upon Christians to share their faith with others.

Evaluation

Fay approaches the subject of evangelism with an enthusiasm that is refreshing. It is one thing to encourage people to share their faith. It is quite another to do so yourself. By all accounts, Fay actively is using the method his book describes to win people to Christ. As an evangelistic system, Fay has certainly developed an approach that is simple to learn and simple to use for all believers regardless of where an individual is in their walk with the Lord. Fay’s approach is Scripture focused approach adds to the power of his method.

Fay’s book describes the successes he has had in his ministry. In fact, there are very few mentions of instances where Fay or someone using his approach to evangelism was not successful. This is a shame. Fay is very careful to mention some statistics about the success of the Gospel message and state emphatically that success is in the obedience to the Great Commission. Numbers are not the important thing Fay states. With the responsibility for salvation placed squarely with the Holy Spirit, the believer is free to share their faith with nonbelievers and let God and His word do the work on the unrepentant heart.

Yet with those statements having been made, Fay repeatedly recounts instances where he successfully led people to Christ. The impression the reader is left with is that the approach is the key to success rather than the working of the Holy Spirit. Inclusion of the inevitable failures to win someone to Christ would certainly add some depth to Fay’s story that is missing in the telling. It would also add a dimension of realism to Fay’s book that is painfully missing. Any Christian who has shared their faith knows the many rejections that come with doing so.

Fay’s main assertion in his book is that all are called to share their faith and that doing so is not difficult. Fay’s positions on these points are well supported with Scripture. This does not come as a surprise given Fay’s seminary training. In keeping with his training at Denver Seminary, Fay’s theological interpretations are quite conservative making his book easily recommended for ministers, lay leaders, and others desiring to improve their evangelism skills.

Fay’s book sets out to remind his readers that all Christians are called to share their faith with the lost and to provide a simple, repeatable way of doing so. Fay easily accomplishes this goal. The book has a very readable style with personal stories that draw the reader in and make one feel almost as if they are present when the events being described are taking place. This is a major strength of the book. For the reader serious about finding a way of improving their evangelism skills, Fay’s method is a good approach.

Fay’s method is a little different from other authors who have written on the same subject in recent years. Nick Pollard’s Evangelism Made Slightly Less Difficult, Ray Comfort’s The Way of the Master, and more recently David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream all are slightly different takes on evangelism in the church today. Still, Fay’s book has the advantage of an incredible conversion story at the core which certainly serves Fay’s book well. God remains in the miracle business as Fay can attest.

The bottom line is that it is up to Christians to share their faith with the lost. We are called to do so and committing the sin of silence is unacceptable. Fay outlines a clear method one can use to reach the lost. It is up to the reader to put Fay’s teaching into practice.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Matter of Trust: Part 4

Application/Conclusion

When it comes to placing our trust in men or in wealth, we see in this Old Testament Scripture that neither is to be trusted in. Now we’re back to what I’ll call the “duh” question but I have to ask: who can we place our trust in? Of course we will all say God! That is the obvious answer but for so many people it isn’t obvious at all! Why is that? Many misunderstand the power of God to work through history to affect His creation. David understood the power of God because he had seen it throughout his life (e.g. chosen of God according to the prophet Samuel, defeating Goliath, etc.).

So why is all of this a matter of trust? Clearly David knew he could completely trust God for all of his needs because he had seen god’s power in his life. How do we know we can trust God to be our rock and our refuge and our salvation? Why have I spent our time in this study talking about why we should trust God? Throughout Scripture we find example after example of God’s power. Perhaps one of my readers has experienced God’s power in a personal way such as through healing. We should trust God to be merciful and extend grace to us and all of the other things I just mentioned because He has the power to do so!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Matter of Trust: Part 3

What gets answered in this passage?

So now you’re wondering where I am going with this, right. Of course, we all know to trust in our Lord, don’t we? We have read these verses and know what they mean, or do we? In a world that seems to be moving farther and farther away from God, who can we trust? Our own country, in my opinion, has entered into a post-Christian period where the number of people who claim to be Christian, about 130 million strong, but have little evidence of this alleged faith in Christ evident in their lives[1] grows each year. I could go on and on with study after study about what’s wrong with America and the world but I will refrain. In a lost and dying world, the afflictions of the world should come as no surprise. In fact, one could argue that things could and perhaps should be worse. It is my belief that the reason the world is not worse off now is due to the positive influence of Christians around the world who continue to carry out the Great Commission. Until our Savior returns, we too must continue to reach our communities for Christ!

What I want to talk about in this study is who can we trust? David was a Godly man and Psalm 62 was written in praise of God. But it serves as a warning as well. Who can we trust? We are told very clearly that we cannot trust in humans and it doesn’t matter if a person is of low or high position in society. Other translations use breath or vapor in place of vanity, which are both legitimate translations of the Hebrew word hebel (הֶבֶל). If both of these people are placed on a scale and weighed, they are nothing more than a breath! Think about that for a minute. Placing our trust in human beings, remember we are sinful creatures, is like placing your trust in a vapor. A vapor is gone in an instant! Does that sound like something worthy of devotion from children of God? One commentary goes so far as to say “one should not trust in the powerful advances of the wicked”[2].

I think most of us would agree that not trusting in wicked people goes without saying in our lives. Now the Scriptures go even further and warn against placing our trust in riches. Materialism is a big problem here in America. With the development of the financial crisis caused in my view by unchecked greed, this problem has a spot light trained squarely on the behavior of so many in our country and around the world. Bankers and financiers were making money hand over fist for years. So much so that many people thought they could do the same simply by playing the stock market. Add to that the problem of people using their homes as ATM machines and we had a crisis waiting to happen. All of the fancy investments that Wall Street could create did very well but like everything else on this earth, it was temporary. How many of those folks do you think are placing their trust in money now? How many of those people feel guilty about the strife they have caused for so many people across the globe who they will never meet? This is not the only place where God’s Word warns against this. For more in depth study on this very issue, see Proverbs 11:28; 23:5; and 27:4. And let me know if you are interested in additional Scripture references. The Bible has much to say on the subject of money!

Next David contrasts this with the fact that God has declared the power to be His. Mercy as well is the Lord’s to give as He will. Mercy, the Hebrew word hesed (חֶסֶד, חֶסֶד) is translated in other versions as lovingkindness. God is loving and slow to anger. His patience with His creation is amazing! Earlier in the psalm David describes God as his salvation and glory, the rock of his strength, and his refuge. David didn’t make a move without first seeking God’s will. David had strong feelings about who God was in his life and as I pointed out earlier, others around David knew this as well. I can’t resist asking a question at this point in my talk: when you’re not at church, do people know you are a Christian? I’m not looking for answers from you: I am just trying to get you thinking a bit about your own lives and what the people around you see when you’re not here.

Let’s keep moving. David says in verse 11 that God spoke once but “twice I have heard this; that power belongeth to God.” How can David say he heard God twice when he only spoke once? Great question! I think David is trying to tell us that though God only spoke once, David heard the Lord twice: once with his ears and once with his heart. Perhaps David meant that he heard God the first time and again as he contemplated what he had heard. That could be an entire lesson for another time by itself!

David then goes on to tell us that power, or strength, belongs to God. This we know for many reasons but it is reaffirmed throughout Scripture (e.g. Ex. 15:11-12; Deut. 3:24; Job 40:9; Ps. 89:8). The references to the power of God are far too many to list here. Next David states that mercy belongs to God as well. Why do you think that is? Power and mercy are linked here and throughout Scripture along with great and mighty and terrible! You see, these are attributes peculiar to God and God alone! How can one without power grant mercy? Correct, they can’t! Power and mercy are linked throughout Scripture for a very good reason: without power there can be no mercy!

Now, prior to the financial crisis, do you think folks were concerned about the power of God? How many have questioned that power since it began? How many have even thought about God’s power when lifting their concerns up to Him? They are seeking mercy in their situation without having given a thought to the power to grant that mercy.


[1] The Barna Group. The Barna Group: Atheists and Agnostics Take Aim At Christians. June 11, 2007. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/102-atheists-and-agnostics-take-aim-at-christians (accessed April 18, 2009). This study also revealed that despite the notion that Americans become more spiritual with age, the data indicates that notion to be false.

[2] Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), 839.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Matter of Trust: Part 2

Scripture Verses

Now that we have a little background information, let’s move on to our text. Our study passage is Psalm 62:9-12 and is below (from the King James Version):

9 Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether[1] lighter than vanity. 10 Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them. 11 God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power[2] belongeth unto God. 12 Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.[3]

Genre

This wouldn’t be an academic exercise for me unless I mention which type of Scripture Psalm 62 is. Like many of the psalms, Psalm 62 is beautiful Biblical poetry with vivid expressions by David concerning trust in the Lord. We notice in verse 11 the use of a device called parallelism of numbers for the sake of variation. This is common in Semitic poetry. One should not literally add the numbers together. You don’t need to go there but might want to write down the following verses as other examples of this: Amos 1:3; Proverbs 6:16-19; 30:15, 18, & 21. A better understanding of the kind of Scripture, or category if you will, helps with understanding the message the author was inspired to communicate to his readers. I do want to point out that while we are only focused on several verses, one should always view individual verses in the context of the larger passage, or in this case, the entire psalm. Failing to do so can cause one to misinterpret the meaning of the verse.


[1] altogether: or, alike

[2] power: or, strength

[3] The Holy Bible: King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), S. Ps 62:9-12

Saturday, November 06, 2010

A Matter of Trust: Part 1

**This study originated as one of my school projects**

Introduction

Before I get into this four part study of Psalm 62, I thought it would be a good idea to have a little background information on the psalms. The psalms are divided into five books with each book ending with a benediction: Ps. 1 – 41; 42 – 72; 73 – 89; 90 – 106; 107 – 150. The division probably follows the pattern of the Pentateuch which is divided into 153 sections for reading in the synagogue[1]. I thought that division was rather clever when I first learned of it during my studies. There were six men who wrote the psalms; Moses (Psalm 90), David (73 psalms), Asaph (Psalms 50, 73 – 83), Solomon (Psalms 72, 127), Heman (Psalm 88), and Ethan (Psalm 89).

Psalm 62 is one of the psalms written by David and shows his confidence and trust in God. David also laments about his enemies but because of his confidence, David is able to encourage others to trust in the Lord. Psalm 62 is referred to as a psalm of David. Like many of the psalms, Psalm 62 was intended to be sung to music. David’s musicianship is well attested (1 Sam. 16:17-23; 18:10; 2 Sam. 1:17-27; 3:33f.; 23:1-7; Amos 6:5)[2] so it is quite within his known talents to have written this psalm as a song of praise.

I always enjoy studying about David and his writing in the Bible. We know that David was a man after God’s own heart but it is interesting to me that the historian Josephus even makes mention of the fact that David “never permitted himself to do anything without prophecy,  and the command of God, and without depending on him as a security for the time to come[3]”. In fact, Josephus spends a great deal of time discussing events in David’s life. Clearly, not only does scripture tells us much about David and his faith in the Lord but his faith was also known among the people, even those who did not share David’s faith in God.


[1] Lasor, William Sanford, David Allen Hubbard, and Frederic Wm. Bush. Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 430.

[2] Ibid, 444.

[3]Josephus, Flavius; Whiston, William: The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged.( Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1987), S. Ant 7.72