Title: “Bringing the Gospel Home”
Author: Randy Newman
Release Date: April 7, 2011
Rating: 5/5 (highly recommended)
The subtitle for this book is “Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.” That’s what this book is about. It is a guide for those of us who want to share the gospel with people around us, but aren’t sure how, or are frustrated with the way the process is going, or have been stymied at every turn. The way Newman words his subtitle explains his approach to this issue. The subtitle says that this book is about witnessing to people “who know you well.” It does not say that this book is about witnessing people “whom you know well.” What’s the difference? That’s what lies at the heart of this book.
The biggest principle that runs through this book is that our testimony must be in line with our witness. (Here I use “testimony” to mean our unspoken testament to the power of God’s grace, and “witness” to mean our spoken preaching of the gospel.) Three of the seven chapters touch on this necessity. It is possible for people to reject what we have to say because it does not match up with who we are. Moreover, though we know we are being the most loving we can be by sharing the gospel with a non-believer, they may not see it that way, especially if it appears to them that all we do with them is share the gospel and care about nothing else in regards to their person. It is difficult to share the gospel with people who know you well, because they know if the content of your speech does not line up with your tone of voice–or worse yet, with your character.
This leads Newman to counsel the reader to check the way we present ourselves and the gospel. We ought to be still amazed by the grace of the gospel, and convey that in our witnessing to others. We need to find ways to connect with the people to whom we want to witness, and show our love for them in those ways. It may involve sacrifice. It should involve sacrifice. That’s one way they will know you love them. One way to show the active grace of the gospel and connect with someone in a unified action is to humbly admit our own sin. Another way to show love is to take the time to listen–truly listen–to what the other person has to say. The bottom line: Are we preaching the truth in love?
I am thankful that Newman also addresses some other difficult topics. He looks at why so many of us get frustrated by the fact that, despite our repeated witnesses, those close to us have not yet come to Christ. He asks whether this might be because we have made an idol out of the salvation of those people. Certainly, part of our anguish comes from the fact that we want them to know Christ. But, he asks, are we properly trusting God for their salvation, or does our frustration come because we have reached the end of our human abilities? Newman also talks about the necessity of preserving truth in our preaching of the gospel. Even though it is tempting to equivocate so that others will be more accepting of what we have to say, we can’t. It is a serious thing to twist the gospel and the word of God.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The highest praise I can give this book is that it has changed the way I think about my witnessing to those around me. It has forced me to think about the way I appear to others when I preach and if I am framing the gospel in my speech and actions in the best way possible. As a college student living away from home, I get to see my younger brother very infrequently. It helped me to solidify the decision to wait on having a conversation focused on the gospel with my younger brother until I have built a better relationship with him. I will continue to talk about my faith as the opportunities present themselves, but I don’t want him to think that the only thing I care about in our relationship is that I preach the gospel to him. I will pray for opportunities for me to challenge his thinking and to share the gospel, and I will pray for myself to be loving and humble and gracious to him. Ultimately, I will commend his soul into God’s good and sovereign hands.
This book isn’t a manual. There is no five-step formula on how best to share the gospel with people around you. There is only biblical precedent, instruction, and illumination. Newman gives concise but convicting commentary on how we should preach the gospel to those around us. Crossway has made a PDF of the introduction available for preview: I highly recommend it, and the book, for you to read. I hope it helps you and challenges you as it did for me.
(This book was provided free for review by Crossway, but the opinions contained herein are solely my own.)