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.

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