Reviewed by: Emily Van Dixhoorn
Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well, by Randy Newman. Crossway, 2011. Paperback, 224 pages, list price $16.99. Reviewed by OP member Emily Van Dixhoorn.
As Christians, we share a longing for people to know Christ as we do, especially the people closest to us, like family and friends. But people who are close to us are often the most difficult to witness to. They have heard it before, or they just aren’t interested. Perhaps we have even given up. Randy Newman’s book offers practical encouragement in this difficult but worthy task.
Newman humbly shares lessons in witnessing—including those he learned from watching his seventy-five-year-old Jewish mother come to faith—and “somehow, mysteriously, having God involve me in the process.” His book is not a set of rules or a “how-to” program. Rather, he tells stories that demonstrate how God has worked in many families before yours and mine.
Perhaps God is calling you to be involved in the process of another coming to faith. This book holds out a full-orbed approach to witnessing, including silent displays of love, prayerful waiting, compassion, empathy, seeking common ground, asking questions, what he calls “stepping on the clutch before shifting gears,” and even conversations by the hospital bed.
His stories, which come from others as well as from his own life, give us the benefit of an outside perspective. We can see what has worked and what hasn’t—and have many good laughs along the way. We can be encouraged by the faith of others, and perhaps usefully reflect on our past witnessing attempts, or lack thereof.
In addition to stories, the book presents practical strategies that are consistent with solid, presuppositional apologetics. This is not another book about the evidence for Christianity, although he acknowledges that such books have their place. This book is more about discerning where your friends are spiritually and engaging with them there. It is about raising thoughtful questions in conversation more than unloading the answers. The book also encourages us to be prepared with an answer for when it is needed.
Newman sympathetically acknowledges that this kind of witnessing isn’t easy. The author gives us a flavor of it by offering sample scenarios, such as the holiday family dinner table. He presents conversations between a non-Christian and a Christian, including a predictable evangelical response and more gracious alternatives. His approach can pave the way for healing in broken relationships. He demonstrates how we can not only point to God’s grace and truth, but also be gracious while doing so.
Thankfully this book doesn’t include everything. It is an easy, enjoyable read. For those who need more time to meditate on this approach, Newman’s books Questioning Evangelism and Corner Conversations provide substantive follow-up. Significantly, Randy Newman assumes that witnessing is not comfortable or natural for most Christians, but he makes the case that it is worthwhile, even urgent, and he gives us a helping hand.
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