It’s Thanksgiving Sunday and the entire family, along with several close friends, have gathered together to partake of turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy as well as to discuss anything but the gospel! How many of you can relate to that scenario? When it comes to sharing our faith with family and friends and even close c0-workers, discussing matters related to what the public square calls “personal” can be difficult. Plus, these people know you best and are well aware of your weaknesses, struggles, sins, and whatever else you might consider “ammunition.”
Randy Newman is a Jewish believer in Jesus and a staff member with Campus Crusade (soon to be known as Cru) since 1980. He’s a well known author on the subject of evangelism, having written both Questioning Evangelism and Corner Conversation. His latest book, Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends and Others Who Know You Well tackles the difficulty found in events like the one mentioned above (Thanksgiving) as well as normal every day conversations.
After acknowledging that many people find this subject quite overwhelming, Newman writes,
“My purpose in this book is to offer hope. Consider that Scripture often describes God’s work in salvation as a miracle. He “makes alive” what was once “dead” (Eph. 2:1-5); he “delivered us from the domain of darkness” (Col. 1:13); and he explained that “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). Once we realize that evangelism occurs in the realm of the miraculous, we start praying for faithfully, trusting more wholeheartedly, and proclaiming more gently. When we relinquish trust in our ability to pursuade (sic) and latch onto God’s power to save, we find hope beyond explanation” (p. 14).
Sounds like a great place to start and a good reminder for us as we begin to think through how our evangelism can impact others.
Throughout the rest of Newman’s book, we have him trace through the implications related to sharing Christ with family members and how grace and truth both are to be understood throughout that process. I especially appreciated chapters four and five, which covered the subject of “love” and “humility,” both which seem to be difficult when witnessing to family members. Then, in quite the fashion, Newman ends the book with a focus on why we need to have a sense of urgency in this matter (time is passing and eternity is real).
Bringing the Gospel Home is excellent. It’s super easy to read and very practical, which means that basically anyone can read this book. For myself, two things stood out to me the most:
First, Newman uses a word picture to help us understand the process that people go through from being unbelievers to followers of Jesus. Imagine a chart of the alphabet and consider that “someone at A loves to quote the new atheists while someone at Z says, “Look, water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (p. 169). So where should we start our conversations? Should we begin at the letter F or how about the letter R? Well, as Newman states,
“Fifty years ago, many Americans were indeed at letter T, and you could begin an evangelistic conversation with the question, “If you were to die tonight and stand before God and he were to ask you why he should let you into heaven, what would you say?” That’s a great question for people at letter T. They already believe in a personal God who would ask such a question. They already believe in heaven and assume some people will go there and some will not” (ibid.).
Since culture has made a shift away from some of the common assumptions that most people had fifty years ago, we can’t just assume that starting at a specific letter will automatically work. Thus, Newman writes,
“I am trying to encourage different approaches for different people. Just as the apostle Paul became “all things to all people, that by all means [he] might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22), we need a variety of starting points and a willingness to progress incrementally.” (pp. 169-70).
Second, the need for an awareness of the inevitability of eternity prompts a sense of urgency that should impact our actions. He writes,
“… the reality of eternity presses us to evangelize even through discomfort. Not all families produce the dynamics for completely happy endings. For some people, anger still permeates in painful ways. And, contrary to the silly cliché, time does not heal all wounds. As people approach death, the need for resolution should not be ignored” (p. 196).
What exactly am I doing to see resolution in the lives of people I am close to, even though it’s uncomfortable to talk about my faith with? That’s the kind of question that Newman raises as you are reading his thoughts regarding eternity and urgency. Yet those promptings are not judgmental or mean-spirited. Rather, they are kind and gentle promptings.
Newman’s Bringing the Gospel Home is wonderful. So in an effort for you to bring the gospel home, get Bringing the Gospel Home. You won’t be disappointed.
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.