John Piper on Evangelism

I listen regularly to Pastor John Piper’s sermon podcasts. Recently, he finished up a series on the new birth, and in the final sermon Piper gives ten encouragements to Christians to do evangelism. Not only does Piper give some great practical instruction, but he also shares about his own evangelistic habits.

“I’m Sending You to Open Their Eyes” – by John Piper


In the course of the sermon, he mentions two items that he has written as aids for evangelism. One is a tract, and the other is a book. Both of them are aimed specifically at the conversion of the lost. As you may know, not all gospel tracts are equally helpful. But these are very well done, and I commend them to you. They are inexpensive, and you can order them in bulk. Here are links to and information about both:

Quest for Joy: Six biblical truths

This tract shares the gospel from a God-centered perspective. It has six brief points:

1. God created us for his glory (Isaiah 43:6-7).

2. Every human should live for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

3. All of us have failed to glorify God as we should (Romans 3:23).

4. All of us are subject to God’s just condemnation (Romans 6:23).

5. God sent his only son Jesus to provide eternal life and joy (1 Timothy 1:15).

6. The benefits purchased by the death of Christ belong to those who repent and trust him (Acts 16:31).

You can read this tract online here.

For Your Joy

This small book is aimed at answering questions that unbelievers sometimes stumble over when considering Christianity. The questions include the following. Why did Jesus have to die? How can I love a God who allows so much evil? How can God love me? What if I don’t love God? You can read this booklet online here.

Piper also mentions three books on evangelism, and I have listed them below. J. I. Packer’s book is a classic, one that every evangelical should read. I have yet to read the other two, though I hope to read Dever’s soon.

J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism

Will Metzger, Tell the Truth


  • jeremy z

    i have two big problems with this evangelism method.

    First, tracts are worthless. I do not care how true the tract is, the 21st people do not respond very well to a piece of paper. The Gospel is soooo much bigger to fit on a piece of paper, namely a tract. If you do not believe me go look in the trash after a tract.

    Second, Piper does not teach on the follow up. If you get them “saved” what are you doing to assimulate them into a congregation. See we get so excited to get them save, we tend to forget about the follow up.

    Third, I really noticed that Piper is marketing himself a lot during this sermon. “Here are MY books….” “Give them MY sermon.” “Give them MY books.” Is Piper ego-trippin?

    Fourth, airplane conversation are pointless. Seriously, think about it. You have 3 hours to basically try and figure out how to maniuplate the conversation so you can get them saved. So what if you get them saved? How are you going to do a follow up? Bottom line airplane evangelism is awkward and does not have a great follow through.

    Lastly, why does Piper feel like he needs to yell? All hail Piper. When listening to this sermon I felt like I was listening to my commissioning Major officer.

  • Denny Burk


    Let me respond to each of your points:

    1. I think one of the strengths of Piper’s presentation is that he doesn’t endorse any particular evangelistic method as the method. He says tracts can be helpful, but he does not say that they are always the best way to engage someone with the gospel. I think his openness in this regard is more suited to the variety of ways in which God might bring someone to faith in Jesus Christ. To say that tracts are never useful seems to me to be an overstatement at best.

    2. This is a misrepresentation of both this sermon and Piper’s ministry. There’s not much to say in response since it’s false on its face.

    3. Piper explains in the sermon why he offers his own materials. It’s not because he thinks that his stuff is the best. Piper offered his own materials because he was preaching to his own congregation and because he can offer them those materials free of charge.

    4. You wrote that “Airplane conversation are pointless.” Jeremy, I think you need to open up the possibility that God might use all kinds of scenarios to bring people to faith. You should not limit your evangelism to those that you deem in advance would be available for follow-up and discipleship. Would Phillip have been able to evangelize the Ethopian Eunuch if he would have placed such a limitation on himself? (see Acts 8:26-39, especially verse 39)


  • Bones Brigade


    Regarding (1) and (4):

    First, how do you know it doens’t work? Have you done a study? And what would it mean for it to work? What percentage of people would need to get saved by airplane conversation or tracts before you think it wasnt pointless? So this seems like a pretty baseless charge. But second, your comments are pretty pragmatic: worthless, pointless, etc. Really, we just need to be faithful to share the gospel bro. Worry less about how and where you share the gospel and just share the gospel. God may use tracks or airplane conversations to open hearts by the spirit throught he gospel. Sometimes he will. Sometimes he wont. When you think he cant or wont (implicit in worthless and pointless) by way of tracts of airplane conversations then you forget that people get saved by the power of the spirit and not the stregth of your gospel tactic. hope that makes sense holmes.

  • Ken

    Allow me to give a plug for the Metzger book. I’ve not seen it in this new(er) edition, but the book was/is very good as it first appeared. Metzger offers a uniquely God-centered approach to evangelism that overcomes many of the theological deficiencies of some of the standard and well-known formats.

  • Lance

    Ditto on the Metzger book.

    I find it hard to criticize a pastor who offers the sheep equipping in evangelism (not a bad form of follow-up, I might add), as well as a wide range of written materials that can reinforce and supplement our words, long after we have spoken to others.

  • Todd Pruitt


    There is so much wrong with what you have written it is hard to know where to begin.

    I know people who were won to Christ on an airplane. If her pastors begin seeing those opportunities as “pointless” then the church does indeed have cause for concern.

    Further, do you refuse to share the gospel with people that you do not know or cannot personally plug into your church?

  • Benjamin A


    You said, “i have two big problems with this evangelism method.”

    Then you listed 5 concerns.

    Sounds like fuzzy math to me….

  • Joshua

    In regard to Piper citing his own books on things, thats what any good writer would do. Afterall, having written the books he’d know those books the best. If I go to see the band U2 or any other band, I don’t think I’d see them telling us to go and buy someone else’s CD rather than their own at the concert. (save for maybe the bands traveling with them)

  • jeremy z

    I have one general comment and then I will respond to the people who questioned my response.

    i have a big problem with shot gun evagelism. We are so quick to have the converstaion on the airplane or give them a tract. Then, we invite them to say the sinners prayer. After that we give them a high five and give them a hug and then leave.

    Do ya’ll see my point? If we are not doing life with that particular person, it is very difficult to follow up on their spiritual life. That is my only beef with the tract/airplane evagelism method.


    I will accept your 4th point. I am open and thanks for bring that perspective. However think about how many people have been saved who are not fully functioning in a church body presently? For example the Billy G’s crusades.

    I was merely relying on my personal experience and hearing about others stories. Although at seminary I conducted a 4 -week research study on the effectiveness of tracts. Needless to say, I found that tracts were merely a waste of paper.

    I was talking about the follow up/ checking up on the individual you lead to faith.

    I appreciate your lovely words.
    I would not be opposed to sharing the faith to others who i do not know. However I would be very cautious. I think the airplane is such a cheesy and pseudo-fake environment. I actually had a really interesting conversation with a gentlemen on the airplane who was sooo opposed to Christianity that he literally cussed me out for 15 minutes as he explained to me every F******* Christian want to convert him. He basically stated he just wanted someone to listen to his story and for Christians to shut their mouths. It is my belief that actions speak louder than words. So I just sat there and listen. To this day him and I have coffee in the LA area once every 3 or 4 months. And he still is not a Christian. I wonder if Piper’s tracts would solve this problem for me? I think not.

    Thank you captain obvious. At first I wanted to keep it short, but it is Piper… I had to keep critiquing.

    Christianity is not about selling a record. Christianity is not about promoting your newest book. Christianity is about a movement. By the way I wonder how much of the profit Piper keeps? I wonder if he should make t-shirts? If we are comparing Piper to U2, lets make a DVD of Piper? Seriously, lets market Piper like we market bands.

  • Brett


    I’d love to know about your experience at Fuller Seminary. I was extremely close to going there and still think very highly of it. I love John Goldingay and would love to have him as a professor. I know Joel Green is there now as well. What’d you think about it? Favorite profs? Favorite classes?

  • Ken

    JZ: You protest that “the airplane is such a cheesy and pseudo-fake environment” and then go on to relate a marvelous conversation–an ongoing conversation, at that–that you have struck up with a nonbeliever just because you were willing to listen. So what if he is not yet a Christian? Who knows what God will do with this relationship? You plant, somebody else may water, and God will give the increase. A tract doesn’t fit this situation but you never know just how God will use any application of his word. I credit a book-length tract for being instrumental in my own conversion.

  • Bones


    Why, because people didnt pray the prayer? Bruh, if they the gospel out then they are effective. What if preaching the gospel yielded no decisions for 5 years (which it has done in certain contexts) would we conclude preaching is a waste of breathe? No, we would keep getting the message out. Well, I think the same is true of tracts, airplane conversations, sky writing, random calls in phone books, evangelistic fortune cookies, and the like…ok, so I was joking past airplane conversations, but you get my point.

    cheers mate,

  • Todd Pruitt


    Thank you for noting that my words were “lovely.”

    I echo what Ken writes. Some plant, some water, but God gives the increase. It seems that your philosophy of evangelism relies too heavily on personal opinions based upon your experiences.

    By the way, Piper does not keep his book royalities and he lives in an urban area where most white pastors would avoid. Know more facts before you make a not-so-subtle attack on a brother’s character.

  • D.J. Williams

    We’re not saying tracts are appropriate in every situation (and Piper isn’t either) – we’re saying that they’re appropriate in some situations. I used to think that “cold turkey” evangelism was useless and ineffective until I started doing it. Is “effective” by human standards? Nope. Is it obedience to the call of Christ all the same. You better believe it. Yes, personal engagement with lost people in our everyday lives is the best means of evangelism, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only means.

    Also, I echo Todd’s words about Piper’s financial integrity. Desiring God is the most generous publisher I have ever spoken to or worked with – they’ve given our church a ton of books and materials to give away for obscenely cheap prices. Piper isn’t in this for the profits.

  • Matt


    Piper doesn’t make a dime off of his books. All revenue goes right back into the ministry. To my knowledge, his only income comes from his salary as a pastor (and possibly speaking fees). Since I noticed you’re into McLaren and other prominent Emergent members, do you know what they do with their book revenue? While I agree that tracts don’t resonate like they used to, no method or situation is ideal when talking to the unregenerate. It’s all foolishness (to them) until the Spirit causes them to be reborn.

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