Dr. Gray Allison, who taught me Personal Evangelism in seminary, used to say: ‘If any of you ever catches me on the street without my pocket testament I’ll buy you a steak dinner. But if you ask me about my testament and do not have yours, you owe me a steak dinner.’ I think a few students tried to call his bluff a time or two when they saw him out around town. But as far as I know, Dr. Allison has never had to buy anyone a steak dinner yet!
Why such a ‘bet’ between pastors? Well, because it is so important that we (all Christians) always be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks [us] to give an account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Peter 3.15). And, as Dr. Allison would say, we ought not just be ready when someone asks us…but to be proactive in sharing the gospel with people who do not ask. He taught us to pray for…and look for…opportunities to share the good news.
But why was it important to Dr. Allison to have a Bible (or at least New Testament) with him? He might quote another passage from 1 Peter to illustrate. Listen to 1 Peter 1.23: “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” Do you want people to see people born again? Then you must realize that the only seed you can sow that can even blossom into a new believer is the “word of God”! It is the very word of God (the Bible) which has the power to awaken people!
Now can God use your non-verbal testimony for Jesus? Absolutely! Can God use your explanation of the words of the Bible? Certainly. Can God use verbal or pictorial illustrations you may give to help people understand the gospel? Yes. All these may help people understand, get their attention, clarify the truth, drive the point home, etc. But only one seed can cause them to finally be born again—“the living and enduring word of God.” If you talk all around the gospel without ever actually referring to the direct words of Scripture…you haven’t shared the gospel.
What does this mean? It means that giving someone a Bible can be a tremendous gift. It also means that, when you share the gospel, you should always quote Scripture—letting God speak for Himself, even as you speak for Him. And that means that, in order to share the gospel effectively, you had better have lots of Scripture stored up in your mind; or always have a Testament close at hand; or both!
This is why Dr. Allison made the bet. He wanted his students to always be “ready to make a defense.” He wanted his students to see people genuinely born again. And he knew that, if we do not give people the actual words of God, we will leave them spiritually stillborn.
So…do you feel confident that you have Scripture enough stored up in your mind and heart that you could give a defense of the gospel to anyone who asked you? If not…maybe you and I ought to start carrying a Bible close at hand. For “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10.17).