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Saturday, February 24, 2018

"The Power of the 72" (John Teter)

TITLE: The Power of the 72: Ordinary Disciples in Extraordinary Evangelism
AUTHOR: John Teter
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2017, (176 pages).

I have come across books about the 12 disciples, the 12 tribes of Israel, and songs about the 12 sons of Jacob. In the book of Revelation, there is the usage of 144,000 servants of God who were sealed. Symbolically, 12 is likened to a complete number, a total collection. In this book about the 72 evangelists sent out two by two, we also see it as a multiple of 12. Based on Luke 10:1-20, author John Teter expounds this text to showcase 72 unnamed disciples evangelizing everywhere they go. Calling himself "one of the 72," Teter sees himself in the text as a convicted evangelist. In fact, the gospel of Luke has defined his ministry setting. The mission statement comes from Luke 4; the one-verse vision from Luke 10:2; the evangelism model on Luke 10; and letting the gospel of Luke master him. He also makes an interesting interpretation that the 72 could also mean the known number of countries at that time, which he then extrapolates to mean evangelism for the whole world. I am not sure about that literal stretch, but that does not change the heart of Christ for the whole world. Indeed, the gospel is for all, and the hope is that all would come and believe in the gospel. Jesus called, trained, and sent the 72 out on this evangelistic outreach. What and where exactly is this power? It is that conviction by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, that the gospel is for all. In this book, Teter seeks to do four things:
  1. Provide a clear theological foundation for evangelism, preaching first to the poor
  2. Present theory of process conversion
  3. Proficiency in four ministry tasks
  4. Prepare for daily rejection with a focus on eternal joy
Arguing for the critical place of faith, the author reminds us that evangelism flows out of our relationship with God. As we listen to the heartbeat of God, we would understand His compassion for the poor. The poor in the first century refer to those who are disadvantaged according to economic definitions, vocational outcasts, gender discrimination, the sick, and ethnicity. In evangelism, we are reminded of obstacles and "crushing pressures" that often affect our evangelism training and preparation. They are taught toward earnest prayers; cultivating friendship; and proclaiming the gospel to be heard and those who hear it be healed. Of interest are the four questions that Teter poses as he reads Luke 10:10-16.
  1. Why did Jesus tell the 72 to dust off their feet after being rejected?
  2. What was Jesus teaching the 72 when He cites the judgment of Sodom?
  3. Do we dare tell our hearers that they will be judged by how they act on what they had been given?
  4. Why did Jesus end by saying rejection of the 72 is tantamount to rejecting the Father?
His evangelistic zeal was soon tested when he was fired for trying to share the gospel in his part-time job, even though his sharing was outside of the office. He then shares a moving story of David Brainerd, who despite his health and depression, persevered under heavy pressure and discouragement to become one of the greatest evangelists in America.

The second part of the book looks at applications. We learn about training and understanding the process of conversion. It begins with God. It is about the evangelists seeking God's help in prayer to send forth workers for the harvest. It is about cultivating friendships that move from secular to sacred concerns. It is about experience the kingdom in us. It is about rejoicing in the new birth. Teter gives us a "conversion process timeline" to help us put together a map for visual understanding.

My Thoughts
I appreciate the author's reminder about the importance of one. As indicated in the parables about the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son, the emphasis on the singular reminds us of the laser-like focus on a personal level, that every one soul matters. In evangelism, there is a tendency among many leaders to focus on numbers and to try to be as successful as Billy Graham or some famous evangelist who attract respondents by the masses. This reminds me of the famous phrase uttered by the popular three musketeers: "All for one; and one for all." In the same way, evangelists ought to affirm "Christ for all, and all for Christ." Every individual matters and we must not let statistics get in the way. For if it is all about sheer numbers, Jesus would employ big scale strategies instead of one-on-one discipleship. He might even employ some fancy church growth strategies to grow the number of converts. No. The Holy Spirit touches lives one by one in His own perfect time. Each of the 72 is called and equipped to go.

Second, I like the way the author focuses on the basics of prayer, of friendship, and most importantly, the Bible. We live in an increasingly Bible illiterate generation. This is not helped by people who claim to have their Bibles downloaded in their digital devices, but hardly read them. He notes the need to recognize the post-Christian era we are now in. It is no longer enough to simply organize a program, hoping it will be attractive enough for seekers. Moreover, younger generation want to pursue faith differently than their parents or predecessors. Our modern outreach must begin with the general understanding that people don't know the Bible and are open to learning more about it. This means, equipping evangelists and believers means teaching the Bible more faithfully. A lack of Bible knowledge is the biggest setback of any evangelism effort.

Third, I like the idea of having evangelism being cultivated as a "daily habit." This frees us from having one-shot projects or outreach sessions that only happen once in a while. The more effective method would be to equip every member to do outreach anytime, anywhere, and to anyone. If this book can move one to start equipping oneself, it would have been most beneficial.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Inter-Varsity Press and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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