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Christians are under increasing pressure to be silent. We’re led to believe that, at best, our beliefs are outdated, and at worst they are dangerous. Silenced by fear, it’s all too easy to keep quiet.
But our Christian faith was never meant to be private. Jesus’ followers are instructed to be deliberately and willingly different, seeking to share the life-changing good news they’ve heard with everyone whatever the cost. We might feel that we fall very short of this confident evangelistic lifestyle, but John Lennox shows us that any one of us can become an effective gospel witness.
Using examples from the Bible and from his own life, John explains practically how we can winsomely share Jesus with our friends, despite our fears. He argues that it is possible to stand up to the pressure society places on us, and in so doing we’ll find our Christian life grows in strength and joy.
What’s the most common command in the Bible? What was the most repeated order that Jesus gave his disciples? The answer is one and the same “Don’t be afraid”. Yet are we actually doing what we are so clearly told? I suggest that the biggest failing of us Christians in the West is being ineffective in how we share our faith and the biggest reason for that is that we are in fact afraid. I know I am. This amazing, heartwarming and so timely new book by the wonderful John Lennox is an absolute 'must read'. Why? It’s John Lennox at his best. If you haven't read his books or seen his work for the excellent Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA) you dont know what you are missing. He is so warm and encouraging. For example “ the purpose of this little book is to demonstrate that you - yes you - can actually be a faithful witness to Jesus...this is not some grim task that you do because you feel guilty. Instead it will bring you a great sense of joy.” John is so personal and helpful in opening up stories from his life about how he has so naturally been helped by God to share his faith. You will need to read it yourself to enjoy the wonderful, human, funny and moving stories John shares about everyday conversations with people in trains, planes and automobiles, with friends and total strangers, in his youth and in his old age. It’s a very short book (70 small pages) and as everything John writes is so very easy and agreeable to read. It’s also as you would expect from the excellent 10ofThose, incredibly cheap. Buy in bulk (I'll have 100 of those) and its a crazy £1 each. Buy copies for all your Christian friends. Above all, it’s biblical (eg 1 Peter 3;13-17). John notes that we are not all called to be preachers but we are all called to be one to one conversationalists and give a reason for the hope we have. A hope that as John notes tends to be absent from our friends lives . he asks a fellow scientist on a train "Do you have any personal hope" "None whatsoever" he replied "Do you? And what is it?" He gives many other excellent examples of how to start conversations (something we may note that The Great Conversation Starter was rather good at - see John 4). John Lennox particularly highlights the transformational supernatural power of using the scriptures themselves, especially in the accessible form of the Bible notes The Word 121 https://www.theword121.com which use John's gospel. As someone who has used this a lot says “ most of our friends don’t understand the Christian message at all...opening up the Bible and reading it with friends 121 is like a lightbulb being turned on”. Our friends think Christianity is about earning our way to God, they dont realise its a free gift ('grace"). Personally I have found this 121 resource absolutely transformative of my Christian life. We say we believe in the bible yet we often don’t feel able to share even a tiny portion. Why? Fear. I strongly and urgently recommend that every Christian read this book. Let’s be honest we are all afraid of what others think. But if you read this book you cannot but be helped. Your heart will be warmed, you will be given practical tips, you won’t feel guilty but rather encouraged and above all you will realise that the first step is to realise “If i am truthful with myself, I have to admit that I am afraid and I can’t share my faith.” No you can’t, that’s right and nor can John or me or anyone. But if we take with God's help that “leap” - John compares witnessing to jumping into water if we’ve never tried it - we will may well find that we enjoy it and the Lord will hold us up as he had promised and actually its full of fun not full of fear. “Don’t be afraid” says the Lord to us, kindly, with a smile, like a father standing on the edge of the pool to his timid son or daughter, “ come on in, the waters lovely. Don't be afraid. Trust me”. Read this wonderful book and with Gods help conquer your fear. Oh that for all of us the love of God is thereby shed more in our hearts for we know that "perfect love drives out fear".
Imagine getting the opportunity to go for a coffee with a seasoned Christian apologist and hearing them share their wisdom from a lifetime of communicating the gospel. And then imagine that as you chatted with them you discovered that not only were they adept at defending and commending the good news in their public ministry, but that they also had countless stories of getting into everyday conversations with all sorts of people and warmly talking about the claims of the Christian faith. Well, if that doesn’t seem a scenario likely to happen to you any time soon, fear not, because that’s pretty much the experience of reading John Lennox’s new bitesize little book from 10ofthose, Have No Fear. Aside from the coffee and literally hearing Lennox’s dulcet Armagh tones, you’re not really missing much from the real thing. And that makes this book a helpful little tonic to persuade normal everyday Christians to persevere with sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Genius and Normal Geezer Though a Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Oxford who has published over 70 peer-reviewed articles in his field, Lennox is perhaps best known for writing extensively on the relationship between science and religion and publicly debating prominent atheists such as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer and Michael Shermer. In recent years he has become an Adjunct Lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, and is much in demand as a teacher and preacher on the subject of communicating the Christian faith and answering sceptics. Pretty impressive for seventy-five years old. And yet as well as having all the intellectual and communicative capabilities that you’d expect from someone who can hold their own against the likes of Dawkins, Lennox also comes across as a delightfully engaging character, as winsome and affable as he is erudite. That’s just as well, because I assume that most of us aren’t academy-level experts in mathematics or science. Sadly too often the language of apologetics puts most of us off, but the surprise with Lennox is that despite his academic credentials he comes across as a ‘normal person’ (no offence intended!), and so you know his advice and experience on ‘being salt and light even when it’s costly’ (as the subtitle of this book puts it) comes from a relatable perspective. 0 to 60 in No Time At All Seven brief chapters take us from a general overview of the times we live in and the New Testament’s expectation that Christians will be ready to share something of the hope we have, through to some of the practicalities of how we might seek to do that in our secular, post-Christendom age. For me it was the second and third chapters on ‘Making a Defence’ and ‘Conversing about Jesus’ that were particularly helpful, despite their brevity still full of wisdom and perceptive insight on practically having conversations that ‘acknowledge’ Jesus. Another chapter focuses in on reading the Bible with people in a one-to-one context, with Lennox advocating The Word One-to-One resource, as developed by William Taylor and Richard Borgonon. Another addresses the importance of our lifestyle backing up the message we speak, whilst the final two chapters see Lennox share how he often explains the difference between Christianity and other religions, i.e. between grace and works. It’s pretty impressive how much ‘essentials’ Lennox manages to cover in so little space. This makes it a very useful resource, particularly for people who don’t read many Christian books. And all the way through, Have No Fear is littered with stories and examples from encounters Lennox has had. Crucially, rather than portray Lennox as some evangelistic-superman, they exude an infectious desire to speak of Christ. Inspired & Enthused To be honest, there’s not much to lose with a book like this. Coming in 10ofthose’s little pocket-size range, Have No Fear will only take you a couple of hours to read, and yet I’d put good money on you coming out the other side with a fresh desire to want to share the gospel. Lennox’s own aim is that the book would: “…demonstrate that you – yes, you – can actually be a faithful witness to Jesus. Furthermore, this is not some grim task that you do because you feel guilty. Instead, it will bring you a great sense of joy and strengthen your Christian life and experience immeasurably.” Even if all of Lennox’s advice and tips aren’t news to you, then at least you’ll be encouraged by his enthusiasm and intentional perspective on talking about Jesus, not to mention the infectious example of all the conversations Lennox recounts. The man evidently lives with a conscious trust in the providential hand of God and seeks to be available and open to using everyday moments to help others discover something of the Christian faith. That is stirring in itself. Looking for a punchy and brief book to spark off someone to begin thinking about sharing their faith, or to encourage someone who has the desire but feels clueless (most of us?). Look no further…
This booklet is not a “how to do it” manual of Christian witnessing on a one–to–one basis, but an invitation to do it. And it succeeds – or certainly ought to. One might be tempted to object that it is all very well for Lennox, with his massive intellect, his Irish wit, and his seemingly unflappable temperament, to pontificate about witness. But what about the rest of us? Lennox insists that – apart from being a duty – witnessing is possible for everyone. Expounding I Peter 3:13–17, he clears away some of the misunderstandings Christians have over what is and what is not our duty in this regard, our attitude to the other party to the conversation (always one of respect), our willingness to admit ignorance, and our preparedness to be resented or misrepresented. Lennox says (page 18) that we can all start, like Paul, by telling of our experience with the Lord. Few of us, however, have had Damascus road experiences like Paul’s: and indeed no other New Testament account of one–to–one witness puts the same emphasis on personal testimony. To be fair, Lennox stresses the need for a broad Biblical basis undergirding our witness and warmly commends a resource (The Word: One–to–One) embodying that emphasis. There is a lot in this little book to encourage and challenge, and it is written with love and good humour.
I have always thought that the single biggest hindrance to personal evangelism is fear. We all want to reach out with the gospel but fear keeps us back. It just seems so culturally unacceptable to evangelize. John Lennox has felt this same fear. Introducing this book with an anecdote from his experience as a student in England, he acknowledges that it is “hard to swim against the flow.” Have No Fear is a good, though brief, introduction to personal evangelism. Lennox is gifted in this sphere of Christian service as is evident by his personal anecdotes and public debates. His winsome approach to evangelism is, I believe, most important to emulate. He always comes across as a gentleman. Guidance is given for getting started and a balanced view of apologetics is presented. Lennox then offers practical advice for one–to–one Bible study with unbelievers, and stresses the importance of living in a manner that commends the gospel. Finally, he suggests methods to differentiate between world religions and Christianity, and how to present the gospel. Personal anecdotes are plentiful but never come across as self–serving. One concern for this reviewer is that he suggests a model “sinner’s prayer.” I avoid this because of the propensity of people to place faith in the prayer rather than in the Savior. Have No Fear can be read in one sitting. However, I would encourage a thoughtful consideration of each chapter. Originally published in Truth and Tidings, August 2019
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