Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book review: Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay

I resisted reading Share Jesus Without Fear for more than a year. I was new to "reformed theology" and didn’t want some “Arminian” book to get me all confused (easily done)! But when a) I read about a tattooed neo-nazi who came to Christ in prison after hearing the SJWF presentation, ...

Steven Neil (left)

... and b) when a friend of mine who goes to a reformed Presbyterian church told me his church uses SJWF in their evangelism training (albeit a slightly modified version), and c) when I learned I would get an opportunity to present the Gospel one-on-one, multiple times, in a day-long ministry opportunity, I decided to read it and see what the Lord would have me learn from it.

I found in SJWF, a very simple method for sharing the Gospel of Christ using 5 “Share Jesus Questions” to break the ice and get into the Gospel. Then if the door is opened, there are seven “Share Jesus Scriptures”. You ask permission to share some Scriptures and have your friend read the verses aloud, each time simply asking what they think the verse is saying. If they fail to grasp it, you gently ask them to read it again. This is such a simple way to let God’s Word speak to people through His Holy Spirit!

There were times when reading this book got me excited because of its simplicity (something I need because I'm simple-minded!), but there were times when I felt somewhat sick to my stomach because it seemed to have such an “Arminian” feel to it, and seemed at times manipulative.

There are references to the use of a “sinner’s prayer” and one of the Share Jesus verses (Rev 3:20) is taken out of context, though in Fay’s defense, this is almost universally misapplied to salvation (when it is actually referring to a literal church.) FYI - here is an excellent article that explains this passage is really talking about! My friend suggested Mark 1:15 as the last verse to share instead of this one.

Another thing I don’t like about SJWF is Fay’s use of the phrase “accept Jesus into your heart”. For example see Question Five on p. 63. I read a great little book against the dangers of the Invitation System (i.e. altar calls) and it explains why this phrase is unbiblical and that John 1:12 cannot be used to support it. I’ll quote it if I can find that little book.

The whole chapter “bring to a decision” seemed manipulative, and I wanted to quit reading. Seemed more like a high-pressure sales approach. But in talking with the afore-mentioned reformed Presbyterian minister who uses SJWF in his evangelism classes, he reminded me that the Bible is full of calls for people to make decisions. “The extreme Arminians, act as if raising your hand after a prayer or responding to an alter call, ‘gets you saved’” he said. “The equally harmful ‘Calvinistic error’ is that it is somehow inappropriate to call for a decision. The Bible is replete with prophets, apostles, and our Lord Himself calling for decisions. (Repent and believe the gospel)”

Fay gives an example of D.L. Moody when he preached on April 8, 1871. The message was called “What Then Shall I Do with Jesus Who is Called the Christ?” Fay says “at the conclusion, he asked the listeners to consider the question and respond the next Sunday, when they returned. But they did not return. Fire bells rang even as they rose, and the building burned, and the congregation scattered.(p 61)” I love how the pastors at my church give an opportunity for those who have just heard the Gospel, to respond in faith! They don’t tell them to come forward during seventeen verses of “Just as I am”. But they tell them they can find forgiveness for their sins in Christ and briefly share the Gospel. Then they simply make themselves available after the service so that folks can come and talk with them.

I love Fay’s emphasis on discipleship, not just making converts. He suggests taking the new convert to church (p. 75). It’s very important for new Christians to be helped to find a good solid church in which to grow in the Lord. Fay goes so far as to call the Pastor of a local church and give him the name of the new convert. “I ask the pastor to call my friend. I don’t care who calls whom first, just as long as a call is made. But while I have the pastor on the phone, my job is to get him to promise me that either he or someone he disgnates will call my friend.”

The “Why” principle (p. 81) seemed at first a little manipulative, but it really does help to get to the heart of people’s excuses for not accepting Christ. Of course you don’t want to be obnoxious with it, but it can be very helpful.

I enjoyed how he got into a conversation about the Gospel by starting with statistics (p. 89).

“I said, ‘Art, I understand you like statistics.’


‘What is a penny doubled every day, for thirty days?’

“Art spouted off, ‘It starts at 1,2,4,8,16,32, 64,128,256, until you get $10,737,418.24.’”

“I was impressed! I said, ‘That seemed easy for you. Let me ask you another question. How many people would it take flipping a quarter before one person hits heads thirty times in a row?’”

“Art ran into the kitchen. When he came back, he said it would take billions of people flipping quarters before one person hit heads thirty times ina row. … With this probability established I was ready to make the switch. I said, ‘That is why I believe the Bible is true. If you take the thirty prophecies about the birth, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus that have come true, that’s like flipping heads thirty times in a row.’”

Fay went on to encourage Art to be thikning about the number 245, which is the conservative estimate of biblical prophecies that have come true. Art immediately asked for an appointment to talk with Fay, and later became a believer.

Fay has a section called “Ready Responses to Common Objections. I love #27, which is the objection that there are many paths to God. Fay answers it this way.

“I not, ‘You are correct; all roads lead to God. But here’s the problem: what are you going to say when you get there? For God is either going to meet you as your Savior or as your judge. For Scripture says, ‘That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil. 2:10-11)”
Brilliant use of God’s Word!

I love how Fay often talks like a Calvinist, especially in the section called “Closed Doors” on page 124. “Perhaps you need permission to walk away from trying to force someone to accept the gospel. After all, you don’t need to solicit a phony decision for Christ. Your only desire should be for a friend’s genuine conversion, born out of the power of the Holy Spirit.” A couple pages later he said, “Ours is a walk of faith, not by sight, but to do all we can do to be obedient and trust God for the results. (p. 126)”

I love this book and I plan to drop a note to the author to thank him for writing it. I was able to practice this method last week and had great results! I got to see God’s “miracle of salvation” happen before my eyes (thank you Rita for that phrase, BTW, I love it! This is something I’ve prayed to see for years!

There is a danger with any “method” of evangelism, that people will appear inauthentic if they are too caught up in a script, using SJWF or the Way of the Master’s approach. But for people like me, who aren’t eloquent Bible scholars, something like this works at this stage of my life. As I grow in the Lord I hope to have a more fluid and informal approach, but for now I am excited to have read and practiced the Share Jesus Without Fear method.

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