on Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Empowering and inspiring evangelism is the focus of a new book by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary faculty published in honor of Chuck Kelley, president emeritus, on his retirement.

The recently released “Engage: Tools for Contemporary Evangelism,” lays out a biblical foundation for evangelism with tips for engaging the culture and practical steps toward intentional evangelism.

William Craig Price, professor of New Testament and Greek and general editor, said the book offers a cross-discipline approach to evangelism using contributors from biblical studies, theological and historical studies, discipleship and Christian education. The book, which included contributions from thirty-five NOBTS faculty and doctoral students, was published by NOBTS Press in conjunction with Iron Stream Media in Birmingham, Ala.

“This book holds a unique place in a wide offering of books on evangelism,” Price said, adding that the book would serve “pastors, church staff and church members alike, seminary students, and professors of evangelism.”

The festschrift -- a collection of writings honoring a scholar or academic leader – was written to honor Kelley’s 23-year tenure as president that began in 1996. Kelley retired earlier this year.

In the foreword, Blake Newsom, senior pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist Church and assistant professor of expository preaching at NOBTS (ministry-based), noted that the honor was fitting and pointed to Kelley’s 2018 book, “Fuel the Fire: Lessons from the History of Southern Baptist Evangelism,” that warned of the SBC’s diminishing evangelistic fervor. 

“In times such as these, we need messengers sent from God to keep us focused,” Newsom wrote. “Dr. Kelley has been a faithful and steady voice reminding us to return to the Great Commission.”

Price said the book also includes helps for applying evangelistic principles in the local church, reaching a multicultural community, and using a theological library for evangelistic study.

Part One lays out the biblical and historical case for evangelism.  

William Warren, professor of New Testament and Greek, wrote that Jesus ministered within a “thoroughly Jewish” culture and called people to return to the God they knew. Warren wrote that a similar situation might be found in today’s “Bible Belt” where some that lack saving faith may still hold to a worldview shaped by Christian values.

“The result is cultural religion—people who claim their role within the heritage, and even benefit from it, while often not appreciating the undergirding reality of that heritage with an authentic relationship with God,” Warren wrote, adding that evangelism must be a “call to go beyond cultural religion to the reality of a relationship with God.”

Part Two addresses theological, ethical, and cultural challenges. An overview of theological terms related to salvation is provided as well as tips for responding to cultural objections such as “Christians are intolerant” or “all religions are the same.”

Jeff Riley, professor of ethics, reminded readers that truth must be communicated even when disagreement exists over social or ethical issues.

“The goal of gospel conversations is to communicate the truth about Jesus Christ and invite people to trust and follow him—to become disciples,” Riley wrote. “If the gospel conversation turns to ethics and morality … discuss legitimate moral questions so a person can count the cost of following Jesus, but avoid trying to win political arguments or debate ethical issues superficially.”

In Part Three, practical helps are provided and are set in real-life contexts with tips on sharing the gospel with various age groups from children to senior adults, and in multicultural and target group evangelism.

Jeff Farmer, associate professor of church ministry and evangelism, wrote that prayer was vital in every evangelistic effort.

“If evangelism is a car, prayer is the fuel,” Farmer wrote. “Believers can have all the evangelistic training, skill, and opportunity at hand, but without prayer, the power just will not be there.”

Part Four points to the sermon’s role in evangelism and the importance of a public invitation.

Mark Tolbert, professor of preaching and pastoral ministry, noted the importance of a public invitation that is biblically sound. 

“The church needs a revitalized view and practice of the public evangelistic invitation … we need to recognize that the public evangelistic invitation is a tool of great integrity, both biblically and historically,” Tolbert wrote.