Sadly, the Christian church's effectiveness in evangelizing family members and near friends probably falls in the category of what has a greater possibility of discouraging than encouraging-that is, unless there is a solid, assessable remedy to the maladies they expose. Randy Newman's Bringing the Gospel Home seeks to provide such a remedy.
Newman desires to serve those yearning to break through the seemingly impossible impasse often met with when it comes to sharing the gospel with family members and those that know us well. Bringing the Gospel Home represents a well thought-out, practical approach to evangelizing relatives and close friends in a way that avoids artificial techniques while solidly guiding and equipping the reader.
He summarizes his approach with the memorable slogan, "Witnessing to family takes TLC." He then adds, "I hope they catch my reference to 'Tender Loving Care' but then I tell them I mean something else. 'T' stands for time, 'L' stands for love, and 'C' stands for comprehensiveness" (p. 209). Newman elaborates on this arresting statement by suggesting that evangelism to friends and family members requires a longer perspective, a deeper reservoir of love, and a more comprehensive approach than most assume.
While one might expect the book to be organized around specific difficult evangelistic relationships, this is intentionally avoided. Instead, the book is structured around what Newman describes as "over-arching dynamics that transcend specific relationships" (p. 22). He explains in his introduction that his hope is to avoid the trap that family members often fall into when seeking to evangelize their loved ones, namely, obsession with what they say and do, wanting to say and do just the right thing. Instead, we need to be amazed by grace so that God's love spills out through our tone and how we carry ourselves.
One might initially fear that Newman's hope might be realized at the high price of truly delivering a book that is evangelistically helpful in any practical sense. This, however, is not the case. He admirably achieves his goal while providing solid instruction on evangelism. Each topic is helpfully treated in a way that seeks to provide theological and biblical grounding. Once this is established, the principle is fleshed out in actual evangelistic relationships that mesh well with common difficult evangelistic circumstances believers find so agonizing. In seven chapters he establishes a biblical understanding of family and emphasizes the crucial role of grace, truth, love, humility, time, and an eternal perspective in evangelizing family members and others who know us well. Each chapter includes insightful questions and exercises that are very helpful aids to making use of his concepts.
Bringing the Gospel Home is well-written and enjoyable to read. One might say that Newman manages to chart a course safe enough so that readers from a variety of theological backgrounds can enthusiastically embrace his offering. In fact, it is difficult to find much to disagree with. This is not to suggest the book is lacking in content but rather that Newman delivers a helpful and delightful read on an important subject. Bringing the Gospel Home should be widely read because it addresses concerns important to all. It is also a helpful read for preachers seeking to sensitively help parishioners deal with the challenge of evangelism to those dear to them. Moreover, it would make an excellent offering for Sunday School classes and small group settings.