Learning Evangelism from Jesus by Jerram Barrs Quotes
Here’s some quotes from Barr’s helpful book, “Learning Evangelism from Jesus.”
The Christian’s calling is never to retreat from the world of unbelievers into an enclave where there are only fellow Christians, nor is it a calling to personal separation, where the only people one knows are fellow believers, for as we see in the Gospels, Jesus lived among those who did not know him.
It is the reality of love in our lives which will be one of the most powerful means of people in the world seeing the beauty of the message of Christ.
All through this age we will be living and working among unbelieving people: people who do not know the Lord; people who do not love him; people who believe very differently from us; people who do not walk in obedience to his laws. However, it is precisely this world to which the Lord sends us; it is such people whom the Lord calls us to live among; and he calls us to reach out to them—whether we want to hear such a calling or not. Even the most surface reading of the New Testament makes it clear that this is the church’s task all through the present age.
Instead of retreating, isolating ourselves, and condemning unbelievers and our culture, Jesus calls us to something very different. He desires that we give ourselves to the understanding of the culture around us; he urges us to stop condemning the world and unbelievers; his passion is for us to listen to his prayer for us, that we might be in the world as he was in the world; he is eager for us to imitate him and to give our lives gladly to love and to serve non-Christians. His desire is that we be like him, and that we commit ourselves to developing intimate relationships with non-Christians.
The point is very simple: one of Jesus’ primary means of communication to unbelievers was asking good questions.
How often Jesus used questions in evangelistic conversation per Gospel:
Francis Schaeffer used to say that if he had only one hour with someone, he would spend 55 minutes asking them questions, and 5 minutes trying to say something that would speak to their situation once he understood a little more about what was going on in their heart and mind.
What is needed is genuine love and concern for the person we are talking to, the readiness to ask questions because we truly desire to know the person, and prayer for the discernment of the Holy Spirit about what questions to ask, and what—and how much—we should try to communicate.
Here I need to address in detail one of the issues that many Christians reading this book will find most challenging. We are to imitate Jesus by being intentional about developing intimate fellowship with sinners. This means that we are to make the effort to build such close relationships with unbelievers, regardless of their beliefs or way of life, that we delight to eat and drink at one another’s tables and visit joyfully in one another’s homes. This will mean that we are going to get to know people who are considered by some of our churches to be sinners—the kind of people that God-fearing people should despise.
We might describe the law (i.e., “You should obey these commandments; you should do these good deeds”) as “preparatory school” or “kindergarten,” a necessary precursor to the good news of the forgiveness of sins. Jesus essentially sends Simon to kindergarten, outlining the requirements for pleasing God and listing the acts of love that the woman has done in service to God’s Son. While the gospel (i.e., “There is nothing you have done which can make you acceptable to God; acknowledge your guilt and need and receive the forgiveness of Christ”) is for those who know they are sinners, kindergarten is for those who don’t.
How are we to apply the “kindergarten” principle to people we know who are similar to these upstanding, righteous men of Jesus’ time? 1) We might say that we are to tell the law to any members of religious groups who commit themselves to living by the laws of God and who see their obedience as the foundation and effectual cause of their expectation of eternal life: Jehovah’s Witnesses; Mormons; Orthodox Jews; devout Muslims. 2) Also, perhaps, we should communicate the law to many of our co-belligerents in the Culture War, those who claim to be on the side of “family values” and those who choose a conservative lifestyle. 3) It may well be that we ourselves, and any of our own fellow church members who are confident that we are serving God zealously, ought also to be challenged with God’s commandments, rather than hearing the gospel over and over again with little true understanding.
Without understanding of the law we have no sense of our own sin, and therefore, we have no sense of our need for Christ. As long as we think we are righteous and living a “good Christian life,” as long as we mistakenly believe that we have “been a Christian” all together, we simply are not ready to hear the good news, and so we have no understanding at all of the gospel of Christ.
Basically, and I write this as respectfully as I can, all the religions of this world are forms of “works-righteousness,” the human effort to search for and to please God. But Christians are to make known the one message that is different, the one message that alone can save and transform. Christ did not come to bring religious devotion or spiritual discipline or even an ethical code (though a life of devotion and moral beauty will come as fruits of knowing him). Rather, he came to substitute his moral perfection for our moral failures and to bear our deserved penalty by his death on our behalf.