I found The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever to be a very good introduction to personal evangelism. It’s short and sweet.
Regarding what constitutes successful evangelism he says:
Evangelism is to “proclaim to [people] the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversions. We don’t fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don’t faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn’t’ converting people; it’s telling them that they need to to be converted and telling them how they can be.”
He goes on to make several poignant comments about the necessity of God’s sovereignty and election in evangelism.
[Paul] didn’t see any inconsistently that a sovereign God is also a saving God. Somehow, Paul found the doctrine of God’s sovereignty an encouragement in his evangelism. Do we need to recover this confidence in a day of increasing opposition to the public preaching of the gospel? I think that we do. I fear that much of today’s evangelism will soon end. As evangelism becomes more and more unpopular, I fear that some Christians will simply dilute it, water it down, alter it, or even stop sharing the good news altogether. I think a better understanding of the Bible’s teaching on God’s election would help them. I think it would give them confidence and joy in their evangelism.
Dever goes even further with election claiming:
If you don’t believe that the gospel is the good news of God’s action–the Father electing, the Son dying, the Spirit drawing–that conversion sin only our response to God’s giving us the grace-gifts of repentance and faith, and that evangelism is our simple, faithful, prayerful telling of this good news, the you will actually damage the evangelistic mission of the church by making false converts. If you think that the gospel is all about what we can do, that the practice of it is optional, and that conversion is simply something that anyone can choose at any time, then I’m convinced that you’ll think of evangelism as nothing more than a sales job where the prospect is to be won over to sign on the dotted line by praying a prayer, followed by an assurance that he is the proud owner of salvation.
Some powerful words that I think are timely and true.
Some other books that I’ve found helpful on evangelism include:
- Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People by Will Metzger (most helpful by far)
- Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman
- Evangelism Outside the Box: New Ways to Help People Experience the Good News by Rick Richardson
- One Thing You Can’t do in Heaven by Mark Cahill
- Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God by J. I. Packer