Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People by Will Metzger. Intervarsity Press, 2002; 259 pages
In Matthew 5 Christ calls the church to go into the world and “teach all nations.” As members of this church, it is our personal calling to witness to others, but it is easy for us as young people to excuse ourselves from this important duty. We may argue that we have no opportunities to witness, or we may settle for simply setting an example with our lifestyle. While being a godly example is certainly an excellent way to witness, God also calls for intentional action. Psalm 96:3 commands, “Declare his glory among the heathen, his glories among all people.” Witnessing can be an intimidating task, and the book Tell the Truth is an excellent guide in this difficult area. Described as a “training manual on the Message and methods of God-centered witnessing,” Tell the Truth teaches clear, practical steps for witnessing in the doctrinally barren culture of our day.
Tell the Truth is written by Will Metzger, a campus minister at the University of Delaware. At this university, Metzger works with an evangelical group called Intervarsity Christian Fellowship that connects churches with college campuses. Although his evangelical views are not entirely scriptural, his personal experiences in evangelism give him valuable insight into the best practices for witnessing. I found his background particularly valuable in his understanding of the current culture of acceptance and diluted love that Christians face.
I attend a Christian college, and during my first year, I realized that the majority of people on campus did not have a Christianity based on scripture. I expected others to ask me about my beliefs and to debate issues like predestination and common grace. In reality, others smiled and nodded about my beliefs, then talked about how “refreshing” chapel was or just changed the topic. I found people who loved God but could care less about the details. I didn’t know how to lead people beyond their vague ideas about loving Jesus, let alone explain the gospel to someone who had never heard a sermon.
It was this atmosphere of indifference that led me to read Tell the Truth, and Metzger pinpoints it perfectly early on in his book. He analyzes how the culture today has created a “reduced” and “me-centered” gospel. He calls it “something far worse than secularism: a humanistic and relativistic worldview overlaid with a religious veneer” (145). He also notes that if we fall into the trap of this reduced gospel, evangelism becomes “nice people being nice to others in hopes that they will be nice to God, a compromised gospel with a mild god that exists to benefit me” (13). With statements such as these, Metzger demonstrates an accurate and clear perspective on the situation we face as witnesses.
The rest of Tell the Truth describes how to counteract this sinful world view and reduced gospel. He shows how our evangelism must convey a sense of urgency, a proper Christ-centered perspective, and the need for God’s grace. Much of Metzger’s witnessing instruction is centered on a five point summary of the gospel that follows a natural progression, showing God’s sovereignty, his standards, our failure and need for Christ, and the necessary response of thankful obedience. Although his summary certainly does not cover every aspect of God’s word, that is not the intent. Metzger presents this summary as a tool for teaching basic truths, giving examples and proof texts that support each point.
These five points are one of many ways that Metzger uses to teach a practical approach to witnessing. He gives concrete examples and organizes many of his points into charts and diagrams. He also lists excuses and difficulties that a Christian may face while witnessing and advises how to direct the conversation beyond them. Although some of his methods are reminiscent of the advertisement-like tracts you may find handed to you on a street corner, Metzger actually acknowledges the “forced’ nature of some witnessing and challenges readers to overcome our aversion to it. He suggests that this forced atmosphere may merely be a product of our fear of criticism and failure to put our call to witness into practice. Metzger challenges readers to speak God’s word at every opportunity, pointing out that our sinful pride is the only thing we stand to lose.
Tell the Truth contains some points with which we would disagree. Metzger’s book does include a defense of the doctrine of predestination, showing how sovereign grace is the only logical and comforting means to salvation. However, he does not specifically state this position until halfway through the book, and up until that point, I questioned where he stood on the issue. Metzger often uses the language of accepting Christ, the offer of salvation, and responding to Christ’s call, despite his insistence that man is totally depraved and God is sovereign. Also, he follows his defense of election with a promotion of common grace. He points out how reprobation can seem unfair when it comes to “kind old ladies” that are under God’s judgment, and he uses common grace as the explanation, citing it as “the source of human kindness” (122). In the midst of his practical, logical defense of God’s works, I was disappointed to find this section lacking in Reformed truth.
Although Tell the Truth is missing some parts of “the whole gospel,” I highly recommend it for the discerning reader. This book serves as an excellent resource of practical help in witnessing, especially for young people entering the challenging atmosphere of college. It also provides a needed nudge to those who find themselves in an environment with “no opportunities” to witness. I know that I will keep my copy on hand as a reminder and guide for fulfilling God’s command to tell his truth.