Editor's Note: This year I've been thinking about evangelism and try to grow as an evangelist. I'm no great evangelist, so I appreciate those who are more faithful and effective than I am. Leon Brown is one such brother. He's written a new book on evangelism entitled Words in Season.
You can learn more at the book's website, where you can download a free pdf of the Introduction and chapter 1. You can also purchase the book from Amazon. The book boasts a wonderful set of endorsements. It has been a pleasure to grab Leon for a few interview questions about his life and his book
1. Tell us about yourself? How did you come to faith in Christ? Was an evangelist instrumental in your conversion?
Perhaps my story is a bit atypical in reformed circles. Please know as I share these things, I'm not attempting to be melodramatic; it's simply my story.
My only exposure to "church" prior to coming to Christ was a Mormon "church." That isn't necessarily the atypical part. I was born a crack baby, raised in a single-parent household, frequently watched my family members imbibe illegal substances, gun shots in the neighbor were commonplace. I dropped out of high school my sophomore year—I had to in order to survive; my mother abandoned me when I was fifteen. A couple of years later, I received a General Education Diploma (GED). At eighteen, I joined the Navy.
Although I have many good childhood memories (e.g., the conversations I had with my mother, the friendships I developed, etc.), the aforementioned experiences greatly shaped me. Interestingly enough, I wouldn't reorder one moment of my life, especially now that I've come to recognize God ordains all that comes to pass.
Thankfully, there is a story much bigger than my own—a story that provided great hope for a young African American that should have been claimed by the negative statistics surrounding ghetto youth.
Around the year 2000, a retiring Navy serviceman invited me to church. There, I was introduced to the wonders of God in Christ. There, God saved me. And now, as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), I live to make Christ known. God has also granted me the opportunity to continue my education. Currently, I am working toward my Ph.D. in Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. I'm also married to my lovely wife, Rosalinda. We have one daughter, Genesis Rose.
2. How did you become involved in evangelism? Was it something you began to do right away, or was there a pivotal moment where you caught a passion for it?
Like the woman at the well, telling people about Jesus was the natural byproduct of my introduction to him. Initially, I didn't know all of the more in depth particulars of the gospel (e.g., why Jesus was born of a virgin, how did each person of the Trinity take part in the plan of salvation, etc.), but the simple request to unbelievers to, "Come see a man!" was sufficient. Then in time as I grew in the Lord, I was able to express the gospel more clearly and if needed, talk about some of the more difficult concepts of the salvation message. To date, however, I'm still learning; I'm still a work in progress.
3. Why did you write this book?
Words in Season was birthed out of a desire to see people encouraged about the sharing the gospel and inviting people to church. Far too often I think many people feel like they have to be the next Billy Graham or major evangelist. With such a weight on their shoulders, it can sometimes be difficult to get excited about talking about Christ and his Church. If you're so worried about filling the shoes of the next man, you won't ever get comfortable in your own shoes. So in writing this book, I wanted to help people see that God made them in unique ways; he provided them with certain gifts; and they can utilize those gifts in sharing the good news of Christ to the glory of God.
4. Who is the book for?
Overall, I had three groups of people in mind. I wanted to encourage those who struggle with sharing their faith. I wanted them to know that it's possible and that the Lord can use even the most timid person. Secondly, I wrote this book for those who presently enjoy sharing their faith, but they don't recognize the importance of the local church. This latter group sometimes forms "evangelism cliques" and verbally assaults the church because people don't seem as exited as those within the clique to witness of Christ. (For a time, I belonged to this group). Thirdly, I wrote this book for those who don't believe laypersons are commanded to share the gospel. While the chapter titled, "Must I Really Share My Faith?" is brief, I hope that the scripture references provided at least furthers the discussion on layperson witnessing.
5. What do you think is key in becoming a motivated and effective evangelist?
In order to become a motivated and effective evangelist, I think we should keep several things in mind. 1) We share our faith for the glory of God. 2) We must remain bathed in grace. 3) It's not about us. 4) God's word is always effective (Isa. 55:11). 5) Well, you'll have to read the book to find out more.
6. There are a number of books on the market. What makes this book different?
There are many good books on personal evangelism. I'm thankful for the many faithful Christians who've sought to put their ideas on paper. Having said that, I wanted to write a book that didn't seek to teach a paradigm. While I give tips on sharing the gospel, I tried to develop a concept that exhorted Christians to be who they are while sharing the gospel. In other words, don't be like me—be you! I don't want people subscribing to a formula. As I point out in my book, that can come across formulaic and a bit too mechanical. Rather, I encourage people to listen to those to whom they are talking; love the unbeliever because he are made in the image and after the likeness of God; even show hospitality to the unbeliever. Also, at the end of every chapter, I've inserted discussion questions. I wanted small groups and churches to continue the conversation. In fact, I wrote the book to be used in small group Bible studies and Sunday school. Lastly, I wanted to highlight the importance of the church as a gospel-driven organism. The Church is a witness! Every Lord's Day, the Church testifies both to Christians and an unbelieving world. I don't think we should highlight the importance of individual witness to the exclusion of the Church. Therefore, chapter two is about the Church!
For a bonus, here's Leon on a Modern Reformation interview discussing how to respond to objections to the Christian faith in evangelistic conversations: