Fay, William and Linda Shepherd. Share Jesus Without Fear. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1999.
The most significant thing about William Fay, author of Share Jesus Without Fear, is the fact that God saved him while he was the president and CEO of an unnamed, international multimillion-dollar corporation. He writes “I owned one of the largest houses of prostitution” and “was involved in racketeering, bookmaking and gambling…and I mocked anyone who dare share his faith in God with me” (p. 1). Fay left all that to follow Jesus into full-time ministry. Fay graduated from Denver Seminary where he credits Gordon Lewis for giving him a firm foundation in God’s sovereign work. Fay served as the senior pastor of a church for many years until he went into full-time evangelism. He speaks on the radio and all over the world encouraging believers to share their faith confidently with others.
Share Jesus Without Fear is a comprehensive attempt to motivate, teach, and fully equip Christians to effectively share the gospel by presenting God’s vision for evangelism, plan of salvation, and information on how to start conversations and overcome objections. Fay divides his work into eleven chapters and five appendixes. He opens with a gripping introduction concerning his own salvation experience and a call for Christians to begin sharing the gospel. He makes the point that success with evangelism is not defined by bringing someone to a point of conversion; instead, it is simply sharing the gospel and trusting God to do the rest. He stresses that God is sovereign. (Fay contends that the greatest sin is the sin of silence-that is-not sharing one’s faith in Christ )(p. 6). He deals with how Christians can overcome their fear of witnessing in chapter three. In chapter four, Fay is still introducing the idea of witnessing with what he calls “share Jesus questions” (p. 29).
Two chapters are devoted to teaching the reader how to explain to someone how he can be saved. Chapter five presents the scripture that should be used and memorized as a possible presentation of the gospel. Fay emphasizes the importance of having the person read the scripture out loud and provides a script for the soul winner to memorize. Chapter six focuses upon bringing the person to a point of decision. Fay presents five questions that he believes should be asked in succession to bring a person to the point of a decision (p. 61). The last question culminates in a call to ask the person to invite Jesus into his heart.
Chapters seven through eleven are independent of each other, each focusing on an important point of instruction from Fay’s perspective. In this section of the book, Fay begins with a chapter devoted to following up on the new believer. Then he devotes much attention to providing responses to a person’s objection to receiving Christ. Fay presents thirty-six objections to receiving Christ and answers each objection. The principle message of chapter nine is that Christians must have and maintain friendships with unbelievers. Next, a short chapter explains how Christians should pray for unbelievers. Finally, Fay offers a final push to motivate believers to be better witnesses for Christ with a description of the final judgment.
Five appendixes are used to complement, summarize, and provide supplementary information to what has already been presented. Those who desire to memorize Fay’s “share Jesus” questions verbatim can reference appendix one very quickly. Appendix two is very practical with detailed instructions on how Fay would mark his soul winning New Testament. Appendix three is the longest with a detailed summarization of the thirty-six objections and answers. Appendix four is a commitment to becoming a witnesses for Christ, and the last appendix is the completion of Fay’s testimony from chapter one.
Several substantial issues that Fay presents in Share Jesus Without Fear make it impossible to recommend his work to other believers without caution. Of all the issues, the most significant is the fact that Fay suggests people get saved by inviting Jesus into their heart through prayer. On numerous occasions thoughout the book, Fay indicates that people pray to receive Christ (p. 39). This is theologically upside down. (The truth is that people believe and the Spirit of Christ indwells them, not because they articulate words, because of their repentant faith in the gospel.) John writes, “But to all who receive him, who believed in his name” (John 1:12). He does not say who prayed to Him. Fay consistently presents prayer as that which one does in order to secure salvation. In example after example, Fay uses the words so and so prayed to receive Christ (p. 58). Fay says God will only enter in if He is invited (p. 59). However, in Acts 2:37 men were cut to the heart and cried out “‘what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them ‘repent…and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:28).
The reader should take note that Peter did not suggest that the men had to invite Jesus in to their heart. The only appropriate response to the call for salvation is repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30, Acts 20:21). Yet, Fay’s fifth question teaches the soul winner to ask the potential convert if they are ready to “invite Jesus into their life and into your heart?” (p. 63). Then two pages later, he contradicts himself when he explains that one is saved when he puts his faith in Christ, not when he prays the sinner’s prayer. Yet Fay still leads potential converts to pray the sinner’s prayer because in his words that is “dessert!” (p. 65). Moreover, he instructs the soul winner to add to the canon of scripture by writing in their Bible the model prayer sinners need to pray. He calls “asking Jesus into your heart” the first step to getting saved (p. 90). The problem with this interpretation is that it is not based upon an apostolic example. There is not a single sinner’s prayer modeled in the Bible. “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” is hardly an example of a model sinner’s prayer for all to follow (Romans 10:13).
Fay believes that Revelation 3:20 teaches that Jesus is standing at the door of every unbeliever’s heart—just standing there waiting—for the unbeliever to open the door to his heart and then Gentlemen Jesus will come in (p. 51). The problem with Fay’s interpretation of Christ on the outside of an unbeliever’s heart is that it is contextually wrong. Revelation 3:14-22 is written to the church at Laodicea, not lost people in America. Verse 22 states, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” John does not give any indication that these words are written to unbelievers.
Fay presents a substantially elementary understanding of the indwelling of God in the life of the believer. He teaches that Jesus lives in the heart of the new convert (p. 58). This could become exceptionally confusing when the believer learns that Jesus is on the right hand of the Father interceding for all who believe—when he was told Jesus lives in his heart (Mark 16:19). Fay should be much more faithful to the Word of God and introduce the new believer to the Comforter whom Jesus sent to fill the void of His absence (John 14). Although Paul does make reference to Christ living in the believer in Galatians 2:20 and Colossians 1:27, Christ does this through the presence of the Holy Spirit. This may appear to be theological nit-picking, but it is not.
The soul winner needs to lay a strong foundation in the life of the new believer. If what is initially presented as true is later refined and corrected over and over again, unnecessary questions may arise. For example, when the believer is told to pray a prayer to receive Christ into their hearts and be saved, and then later learns faith in the promise of God-not a prayer-saves him, he may be left wondering what else he now believes that will later be corrected. Surely most men and women can understand that Christ lives in them through His Spirit, not in their heart but in their life, without being confined to any specific location. He lives as much in their thoughts and actions as they submit to His leadership and guidance. Moreover, suggesting that Christ lives in the heart of the believer calls into question the (permanence) of the incarnation of Christ who will return the same way He left the earth in a glorified body (Acts 1:11).
Another significant shortcoming of Fay’s work is his failure to properly explain repentance and how it is related to a person’s conversion. There is a noticeable absence of the word “repent” in Fay’s gospel presentation. Moreover, substitutionary words like “turn” are also absent. Jesus said, “Except you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). The plain understanding of this text requires the soul winner to address repentance in the gospel presentation. Fay’s presentation does not address repentance toward God (Acts 20:21).
Some of Fay’s suggestions are a bit difficult to imagine putting into practice during soul winning. Fay suggests that when someone does not understand what is being read, just ask them to read it out loud again and again until they get it. While it may be difficult to argue with the 25,000 people Fay has witnessed to using this technique, it is also difficult to imagine telling someone to read something again when they express a question about the text. 1 Peter 3:15 directs believers to be able to give an answer to every man that asks a Christian about his faith. What is the point of studying apologetics if the Christian’s trained response is to read the verse again? In response to common objections offered by those who do not believe, Fay suggests that the soul winner needs to follow the example of a modern psychologist by just responding to the unbeliever’s questions with the single word “why?” In the chapter on building relationships with unbelievers, Fay suggests that one attend the local neighborhood watch program and shift to the gospel by pointing out that the thief comes to steal, but Jesus brings eternal life (p. 117). Perhaps this would work somewhere in the world, but it is difficult to imagine where.
Lastly, everyone in Fay’s stories receives Christ. They all receive Christ eventually. So, while the book teaches that God is sovereign and just the sharing of the gospel is all God expects, Fay sets up the reader with a false expection by only sharing stories about people who “get saved.” Moreover, Fay does not know if these people are saved. He does not know if their faith was genuine or superficial (John 2:23-25, 1 John 2:19). He presents a statistic that people are brought to Christ after an average of 7.6 gospel presentations, but this theory is based upon the false assumption that everyone who prays the sinner’s prayer receives Christ (p. 30). The apostle John writes about people who “went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” (1 John 2:19). Jesus warned about people who will describe the wonderful works they did in His name, but He never knew them (Matt 7:22-23; Luke 13:26-27). Fay leaves no room for the possibility that people who are led to Christ with his plan may not be genuinely converted.
Fay’s book has limited value in the fundamental and evangelical church whose primary concern must be authentic conversions and the discipleship of those who are born again (Matt 28:19-20). Only those who subscribe to the theory that one must pray to be saved would find Fay’s work helpful in equipping Christians, with a plan of salvation, to share their faith. Others would find it necessary to provide clarifying instruction. Share Jesus Without Fear has its greatest value in the amazing way one is motivated to share his faith through the stories of conversion-despite the fact that the book does not contain a single story of Fay not bringing the person to a point of a favorable decision. Fear of providing a person with a false assurance of their conversion from a “pray to receive” understanding of conversion should be of great concern to the church. The warning passages in Matthew, Luke, John, Hebrews, and 1 John concerning those who believe they are converted, but are not authentic Christians require a more careful approach to “closing the deal” and providing assurance of salvation. Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by the Whole People by Will Metzer (Intervarsity Press, 2002) is a much better alternative to Share Jesus Without Fear.