Randy Newman. Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. 224 pp. $12.26.
Christians know that it is our job to share Jesus with others. I think we also grasp that sharing the gospel with those who are closest to us can actually be hardest. Whether it is because they know us best, can hurt us easiest, or simply because we care for them most deeply, witnessing to relatives and close friends is hard work.
We should be grateful to God for Randy Newman’s work on the difficult task of evangelism in the family. In Bringing the Gospel Home, Newman offers sweet and simple advice for us to follow as we try to share with our households, regardless of how healthy or broken they have been.
I was particularly fond of the commonsense things that Newman shares with us in his book. For example, I was sweetly challenged to remember that everyone with whom we share the gospel is not miserable, acknowledging a God-shaped hole in their hearts. Some people feel quite happy with their lives and content with their circumstances. Newman suggests that we help those people see that God’s common grace is what allows our happiness by writing, “What a contrast to many of our efforts to first convince people how miserable they are. Paul made sure to point to how happy they were” (56). Newman goes on to say, “Why not start with joy-based apologetics instead? Why not talk to people about the good things in life that we enjoy so much—food, friends, beauty, etc., and try to see if we can point them to the Giver of such good gifts” (57).
In his book, Newman is wise to challenge us to be more systematic in our approach to sharing with relatives. He would argue that we do not need to attempt to turn every conversation into a complete gospel conversation including invitation. Instead, we need to love our families, start with them where they are, and communicate truth to them based on where they are beginning. Newman writes about Paul’s pattern of sharing, “He begins with a basic primer on theology, moves on to offer insight about human nature, and then talks about Jesus. We would do well to emulate his sequence and flow of thought” (81).
Newman’s work, while sweet, is also challenging. He does not compromise the gospel or ignore the importance of repentance. The author is willing to call sin what it is, and would not ask us to avoid such topics with our loved ones. However, Newman also understands that we must be wise about where, when, and how we call out others’ failings. Perhaps the Thanksgiving dinner-table conversation is not the best setting for a religious debate with an atheistic uncle.
While Newman’s work does not cover every base, it is an easy read, full of encouraging true stories, which challenges me to share my faith with greater wisdom and clarity. I would recommend it to others who want to receive the same encouraging challenge.