Book Review: Jesus the Evangelist

Jesus the Evangelist
Richard D. Phillips

I have often thought to myself that it would be interesting if someone wrote a book on evangelism based on Jesus’ own evangelistic encounters. I have even batted around the idea of writing a book on this topic myself. However, there is no longer a need for such a book to be written. Richard Phillips has recently written a book on this very topic. Jesus the Evangelist is a look at three of Christ’s evangelistic encounters found in the gospel of John. Phillips explained his purpose behind the book this way:

This book arose from my study of the Gospel of John for a series
of expository sermons. Right from the start, I was interested in
John’s strong emphasis on the theme of gospel witness, and
my sermons frequently stressed the privilege and obligation of evangelism.
I was also struck by the fact that so much of the material unique to
the book of John involves Jesus’ personal evangelism. It occurred to me
that the material on evangelism in the fourth Gospel is so strong and
informative that a book putting some of it together would be a real benefit
to the church. The result is Jesus the Evangelist, which I hope will both
motivate and instruct the practice of evangelism among Christians.

If Phillip’s goal was to “motivate and instruct the practice of evangelism” he succeeded with this reader. Phillips did a great job in two areas:

  1. His study of the biblical texts was thorough, and accurate
  2. His application of the biblical truths learned was practical and understandable

Any time a writer or a preacher can  excel in these two areas he will be successful.

The only qualm I would have about recommending this book is that it is a little bit unbalanced in its emphasis on evangelism. You may be thinking that this is a pretty dumb assessment since it is a book on evangelism, but let me demonstrate what I mean. At one point Phillips states that

“Our lives are focused on our own needs and those of our children, so we have no time to participate in outreach ministries.” (pg 111)

I agree that our lives are often too self-centered.  However, I am not sure exactly what he means we he implies that our lives are too focused on our children.   If he means that we use our kids as an excuse, then I agree with him.  However on the surface that is not what he says.  That is why I have several problems with this statement. First, it has been my experience that the Christians who are truly committed to the needs of their children are not the ones lacking in the area of evangelism. Second, in many cases parents are committed to their children in the area of evangelism. Most of us have children who have not accepted Christ (I have a ten month old who obviously has not). Thus, we must be committed to the needs of our children by evangelizing them. I think that Phillips simply overstated his point a little, but we must be careful in this matter.  The world is looking at what the church does – particularly within the context of family – as much as what the church has to say.
Overall, Phillips’ theology is sound, and he is helpful from a practical stand point. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to be more effective in the area of evangelism (which I hope is every Christian).  Additionally, this book would be a great resource for anyone who is studying the book of John.  Phillips deals specifically with chapters 1, 3, and 4 of John’s Gospel. 

Title: Jesus the Evangelist
Author: Richard D. Phillips
Publisher: Reformation Trust
Year: 2007
Price USD: $19.00 from Ligonier
ISBN: ISBN 1-56769-088-2
Pages: 208