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J.D. Payne Answers Your Questions About Evangelism

J. D. Payne is a National Missionary with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and an Associate Professor of Church Planting and Evangelism in the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A. where he directs the Center for North American Missions and Church Planting. His new book, Evangelism: A Biblical Response to Today’s Questions, is now available and definitely worth your time. J.D. was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. And stick around — J.D. will answer your questions in the comments throughout the day.

We know it’s about “evangelism,” but you aren’t just talking here. You’re trying to answer questions, right?

Yes, as the title simply states, this book is a biblical response to questions related to evangelism. I have taken 33 of the most commonly asked questions and have attempted to answer them from the Scriptures. Some of the questions addressed include:

What is evangelism anyway?
What is the gospel?
What is repentance?
If God is in control, then why do we need to share the gospel?
What is election?
Does a loving God send people to hell?
What is the role of free will in salvation?
What happens to the “man on the remote island” who never hears the gospel?
What happens to children and the mentally disabled that die, never having a chance to respond to the gospel?
What if I do not feel like sharing the gospel?
Do I have to offend people whenever I share the gospel?
What if I make a mistake when sharing the gospel?
What if someone asks me a question about God that I cannot answer?
How do I transition a conversation from ordinary things to spiritual matters?
My family member is not a believer; what is the best way to witness to him/her?

Why did you write it?

I wrote it to educate, encourage, and exhort believers in the area of evangelism. I wrote this book to provide a biblical, theological, and practical foundation for missional living. I felt that a work was needed that wed the theological and the missiological in such a way that one would not have to be an academic to understand its contents. Evangelism is our faith in action. So, while I wanted to write something that would be heavy in doctrine, I also wanted it to be heavy in the practical area as well.

Who is this book written for?

When my publisher and I started our conversation about this work, he brought to my attention the need for a work that would instruct an audience with little to no background in the local church. So, while this book is being used as a textbook in the seminary classroom, it is written for the “people in the pews” (or folding chairs if you are a church planter). I believe this book provides an excellent foundation for evangelism.

In your estimation, what are the top 3 reasons Christians don’t share the gospel with the lost?

Aside from general disobedience, I believe most people are apathetic about evangelism because they do not understand the implications of the gospel on their lives. They fail to understand who they are in Christ and what it means to live in obedience to Him. Second, people are afraid of what others will say or think about them. The fear of man is their primarily concern. Finally, some people think that they do not know what to say to others. They fear being asked a question that they cannot answer. Or, they fear giving someone incorrect information. Since they do not see themselves as “evangelists,” they decide to leave such Kingdom labors to the “professionals.”

How is this book different from others on the same subject?

In addition to this book providing a heaping dose of theology and application, I wrote it to be a quick read. The chapters move very quickly (about 4-6 pages each). Also, while each chapter begins with a fictional narrative between two men discussing the question at hand, the bulk of each chapter is written in first person with me attempting to answer “What does the Bible have to say in response to this question?” Each chapter also concludes with discussion questions for both individual and group study.

How much do you address Reformed theology/Calvinism and Weslyan theology/Arminianism?

A little, but not a great deal. I list some additional works for the readers to consult if desired. I do admit my biases upfront. But, remember the subtitle to the book: “a biblical response to today’s questions.” If it helps, both J. I. Packer and Robert Coleman wrote gracious endorsements for the book.