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Witnessing by Loving

with Randy Newman | April 4, 2012

Are you really, practically loving those you're trying to reach for Christ? Randy Newman, author of "Bringing the Gospel Home," encourages listeners not to wait for a comfortable moment to share Christ with loved ones, but to step out in faith, asking God to pave the way. Randy explains that there are three keys to witnessing: time, love and comprehensiveness, and tells how cultivating relationships is an essential part of witnessing.

Are you really, practically loving those you're trying to reach for Christ? Randy Newman, author of "Bringing the Gospel Home," encourages listeners not to wait for a comfortable moment to share Christ with loved ones, but to step out in faith, asking God to pave the way. Randy explains that there are three keys to witnessing: time, love and comprehensiveness, and tells how cultivating relationships is an essential part of witnessing.

Witnessing by Loving

With Randy Newman
|
April 04, 2012
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob:  Have you tried to share the Gospel with family members and found it doesn’t work so well?  Randy Newman says you want to make sure you’re sharing more than words.

Randy:  Family is a place where love is just assumed.  Very often, it doesn’t get expressed.  “Of course he loves me.  He’s my brother.”  “Of course, I love him.  He’s my dad.”  It just becomes this unexpressed thing.  After awhile it becomes an unfelt thing.  One of the things I challenge people to do is to think really carefully how—how can  they express love to an adult child, or to a parent, or an aging grandparent, or whoever, so that that person really does indeed feel loved?

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 4th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Before you tell a family member that God loves them, make sure you’ve told them that you love them.   Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.  You have shared with listeners that you were in college when the lights came on in your life, spiritually.  Do you remember having conversations with your parents about what was going on?

Dennis:  I do.  I do.

Bob:  How did that go?

Dennis:  Probably not real well, if we could go back and talk to them.  I was probably not a little overzealous—I was probably just a little excited and going, “This is fantastic!  The lights have come on.”  I’m sure they thought on one hand, “This is great;” but on another hand, it’s like, “What do we do with this because he’s sounding like he’s a cult member or something.”  You know?

Bob:  I think a lot of parents, too, look at it and say, “It sounds like what you’re saying is that we didn’t give you everything you need as a parent because you’re coming home and saying, ‘I’ve just found the most important thing in my life.’”  There’s the subtle implication, “You never gave me the most important thing in my life.  I found it somewhere else, from someone other than you.”  Parents don’t respond warmly to that kind of thinking; you know?

Dennis:  No, it would be better if you found Christ, at least from your parents’ perspective, while you were under their roof, under their tutelage; but that may not be how it occurs. 

We have a guest with us today on FamilyLife Today, soon-to-be Dr. Randy Newman.  Randy, welcome back.

Randy:  Great to be with you.  Thanks again.

Dennis:  You like the sound of that.  I can tell you really do.

Randy:  “Soon-to-be-Doctor.”

Dennis:  Yes.  Randy has written a book called Bringing the Gospel Home.  It’s all about the lessons he’s learned from more than 31 years of work with Cru®, working with college students, faculty, and with just dozens of folks who have wanted to take their faith back home, like Bob was talking about just a few moments ago.

Basically, you’ve taken these lessons you’ve learned, and the stories you’ve heard, and you’ve wrapped a cover around it.  You’ve really created a coaching book, Randy, to coach us in knowing how best to go back home.  I’m going to change your title from Dr. Randy Newman to Coach Newman.

Randy:  Fair enough.

Dennis:  Coach Newman, the team is assembled.  You have some single people listening, some married folks, some folks whose parents are old—I mean, really getting up there.  They’re concerned about their spiritual condition.

Bob:  And there’s a holiday coming up, or a birthday coming up, or an event and they’re going to be back home.  They want to say something, but they don’t know if they should.  They don’t know what they should say if they do.  They’re calling Coach Newman and saying, “What do I do?  I’m going home for the weekend.  I’m going to be there with the whole family.  Do I say something?  Do I not say something?  How do I know when to say something?  Coach me, Coach.”

Randy:  Boy, so many things to say.  I want to start by saying, “Well, don’t wait for it to be comfortable because it may never get comfortable.”  I think, for a whole lot of people, evangelism is never comfortable or easy; and that’s okay.

Dennis:  But especially with family members.

Randy:  Yes.  That’s right.  It’s not comfortable or easy with anyone, and then it’s especially so—so okay, so some things are difficult.  You ask God to pave the way, and you ask Him to give you wisdom, and you ask Him to give you humility.

Dennis:  And you remember a statement Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, used to make?  “Successful witnessing is simply sharing Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and leaving the results to God.”  I just want to tell you, that is the place to leave the results.  It’s not your responsibility to convert your mom or dad, your brother, your sister, your aunt, your uncle.  Conversion and salvation is of God.

Bob:  But see, when you said, “Successful witnessing—” what that conjured up in my mind is, “I’m going to go home and what—pull out a little booklet and say, ‘Mom, Dad, I’d like to share some wonderful news with you,’” because that’s what I think of when I think of witnessing.  “I may have tried that before as a young adult.  That didn’t work.”  So what does witnessing look like when you’re back home with the family?

Randy:  Well, at the end of the book, I try to wrap it up.  I say, “I think there are three keys that we really need to remember.”  Of course, I hope people will read the whole book—but time, love and comprehensiveness.  We’ve talked about time.  I think it does just take longer, and I think it’s a more gradual approach. 

I think, with a lot of family, the taking the initiative may mean to talk about part of the message of the Gospel, or part of a Christian view of reality, and seeing how people respond to that.  If they don’t respond very well or they’re resistant, well maybe it’s time to back off.

Dennis:  Give me an illustration of what you mean by sharing part of the Gospel.

Randy:  I have tried to talk about spiritual things with one of my relatives, and he’s not interested.  He shuts the conversation down before I can get anywhere.  If I’m just talking about the existence of God, or the fact that God makes a difference in all of life, walls go up.  What I’ve found is—I need to find other things to talk to him about and try to show how the Gospel pertains to that topic. 

He doesn’t want to talk about God, and he doesn’t want to talk about religion; but he does talk about family, and he does talk about marriage.  A couple of years ago he was talking to me about some struggles he was having in his marriage.  It was really tense and difficult.  I said, “Okay, he wants to talk about marriage.  Alright; he doesn’t want to talk about God, but he wants to talk about marriage.” 

I started saying that, “My wife and I, we also have our tensions, and our struggles, and our disagreements.”  I think he was kind of shocked because, I think, in his mind, you either have a bad marriage or a good one.  If you have a good marriage, you never have any problems.  But we have plenty of problems—that’s what happens when two sinful people marry. 

I shared with him that one of the most helpful things in our marriage was that my wife and I had learned a whole lot about how to forgive each other because we’ve got plenty to forgive.  We’ve learned how to apologize to each other.  He was really listening, more deeply than any other conversation we had had.   I said, “I think the only reason we know how to forgive each other is because we’ve learned something about being forgiven by God.”  Again, he kind of shut things down soon after that, but he heard more about a relationship with God that’s based on forgiveness by my coming in the side door, if I can say it that way.  That’s what I mean by the comprehensiveness. 

I think we need to talk about the Gospel, not just as it’s this message that, “If you believe it, you’ll go to heaven;” but, “It’s a message that has ramifications all over the place—about marriage, about money, about job, about children, about how you think about yourself, how you think about life, how you handle disease.  There are a million ramifications of the Gospel that I think we need to talk about.”

Dennis:  And specifically, when you talk about marriage, you’re talking about the culprit between two imperfect people is sin, and self, and pride, and our unwillingness to admit fault and ask for forgiveness.  You kind of ran past it when you were telling your story, but you talked about how your marriage was made up of two sinners.  That implies a standard, and that’s Who God is. 

I liked the illustration you used, not because it was about marriage and family, but it was that you were sensitive to wanting to break through your uncle’s closed mindedness or his stiff arm that he had out in front of you—to be able to talk with him about his relationship with God and with Christ.

Randy:  Absolutely.  By the way, that conversation came because I was willing to talk about all sorts of other things, even less pointed than that.  When it became clear that he didn’t want to talk to me about religion or spirituality, whatever, what I did find was, “Well, so what does he want to talk about?”  I found out that he was really interested in history.  “Alright, let’s talk about history.” 

That gave us the opportunity to have long conversations that opened the way for other conversations.  It was a willingness to say, “I don’t always have to talk about Jesus in every single conversation because let me talk about other conversations and see if they lead to the Gospel or some aspect of the Gospel.”

Bob:  I think that’s an important point.  Sometimes we forget cultivating a relationship.  We turn relatives into projects instead of friends.  Friends talk about football, and they talk about the weather, and they talk about what you’re doing in your life, and your grandkids.  They have all of those conversations without an agenda.  It’s just how you build a relationship.  That’s really what you became committed to—is the cultivation of a relationship.  It’s a whole lot easier to share Jesus with your friends than with a stranger.

Randy:  And it’s all part of expressing love to someone.  When you’re willing to talk about the topics they want to talk about, it’s a kind of an expression of love.  You’re saying that you value some of the things that they value.  I talked to quite a few people about this topic; and this was the one that elicited the most amount of pain, I think. 

When I would say, “Family is a place where love is just assumed.  Very often, it doesn’t get expressed.”  “Of course he loves me.  He’s my brother.”  “Of course, I love him.  He’s my dad.”  It just becomes this unexpressed thing.  After awhile it becomes an unfelt thing.  One of the things I challenge people to do is to think really carefully—how can they express love to an adult child, or to a parent, or an aging grandparent, or whoever, so that that person really does indeed feel loved?

I recount a pretty long story in the book that our youngest son—I think, for a period of time, really didn’t feel loved by me.  I think he felt lectured by me.  I mean, if you were to ask him, “Does your father love you?” well, “Of course, sure he does.”  If you really would have pressed him, he would have said, “My dad is someone who passes rules and lectures about why the world is falling apart, and why things are so terrible, and why you shouldn’t watch certain TV shows, and why you shouldn’t spend too much time on the internet.”  He could go on, and on, and on. 

My son, John, told me once that he thought I had the gift of beating a dead horse; and I think he’s right, actually.  But we have a great opportunity to say, “Wait a minute.  Maybe they don’t feel loved by me.  Or even if they do, let me express it again.  Let me find another way to show them I really care about them.”

Bob:  “I want to spend time with you,” or, “I want to find some time for us to talk.”  There are lots of ways to express love—acts of service or conversations—there are lots of ways we can express our love.

Dennis:  Right.  I think we can go spend a Thanksgiving together, a Christmas, an anniversary, some kind of festive time where the family gets together—and we may drive away going, “You know, no one asked me a single question about my life.” 

We can wallow in that self-pity as we drive home, grumbling and griping because some other family member didn’t ask me something about my life, when what we need to do at that point is go, “The next time I go to a family get-together, I’m going to be intentional about connecting with people, human beings in the family.  I’m going to ask, ‘What’s going on?’

“I’m going to ask, ‘What’s going on?’ in that young person’s life, that elderly person’s life.  I’m going to sit down and have a conversation, and I’m not just going to allow it to be one-word answers.  We’re going to do our best to try to find out what’s going on there and to ask questions about their lives.”  You know what?  That’s a great moment—to get to know your parent, your brother, your sister.  You may assume you know them, but they need you to express concern.

Randy:  I do some seminars, sometimes in churches.  I have these conversation skill training things.  I have people pair up.  One person is going to tell some story about their life—it doesn’t matter what, just whatever.  The other person is only allowed to ask questions.  This person will tell a story about, “They went to the zoo.”  This person is only allowed to say, “Where did you go? When did you go?  What animals did you see?  What did you like the best?” 

The challenge is for them not to start telling their story because this person will say, “I went to the zoo.”  You want to say, “Yes; I did, too.  You know what my favorite part of the zoo is?”—and actually, we don’t care about your favorite part of the zoo right now.  Keep the conversation on them.  Now, eventually, you do start sharing your story; but for this exercise, you only can ask questions. 

For a lot of people, that’s really difficult; but if you can learn it—and it’s not too hard of a skill to learn—you say to somebody, “I really care about your life.  Tell me about it.  I want to hear about it.”  Keep asking them questions and draw them out is a very tangible way to express love.

Dennis:  This concept of love to an extended family, especially with your in-laws.  There’s a sensitive area that occurs with extended family members, when perhaps one of them is involved in a lifestyle that is against the Scripture.  You had a situation that occurred with a brother-in-law—and, actually, a pretty delicate matter.  I was impressed, really, with your boldness and courage in handling this.

Randy:  Yes.  Well, it’s a beautiful story now; but it was a pretty painful one to walk through.  I do recount it in the book.  My brother-in-law lived a homosexual life for a decade or even longer.  For a long time, we didn’t know that.  He kept that hidden from us; but when he came out to us, my wife and I faced this really delicate situation of, “How do we express love, and concern, and compassion for him”; and yet, also, say that we’re deeply concerned about him—that that’s not a good thing? 

While the rest of the world was telling him, “You’re gay.  That’s just the way it is.  It’s unchangeable.  That’s who you are.  Celebrate it.”  We were the painful ones who said, “No, I don’t think this is good.”  We tried to be able to say, “It’s because we love you and because we’re concerned about you that we think you need to think about and face this issue in a different kind of way.” 

That was a long, long process, and a very painful one; but he now is married to a woman.  He has seen dramatic change in his life.  They have a beautiful daughter.  He’s come to faith in a really vibrant way and loves the Lord.  It’s that dual side of love—of compassion and affection; and then on the other side, correction and challenge. 

Bob:  Well you know, that kind of coaching, which you’ve given us this week, I think, is very helpful, especially as people are thinking about getting together for the holidays, or maybe during the summer—whatever you’ve got planned, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day coming up—just to have those ideas on your heart and in your mind as those events are about to happen. 

Dennis, I know you’ve got a final question you want to ask Randy before we’re done; but I want to encourage folks, “Get a copy of the book that Randy has written.”  It’s called Bringing the Gospel Home.  It will give you the kind of encouragement we’ve been providing this week, as you think about sharing Christ with friends or with family members.

Again, the book is called Bringing the Gospel Home.  You can order a copy when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.  Ask how you can get a copy of the book, Bringing the Gospel Home.

Let me also say, “Some of you may want to get a hold of a tool that we have recommended for years now, called Resurrection Eggs®--something that FamilyLife has put together that’s designed to share the Gospel story in a fun, tactile way.”  We’ve always talked about using it with children; but honestly, you can use this with kids of all ages.  You can put one of these eggs on everybody’s plate for Easter dinner.  Let everybody in the family open one up, and tell you what that particular symbol means, and how it corresponds with the Easter story. 

If you would like to get a set of Resurrection Eggs, the best thing to do, at this point, is to go to your local Christian bookstore.  You can probably find a set there.  I know many Christian bookstores have them stocked this year, in time for Easter.  So again, go to your local Christian bookstore and ask about Resurrection Eggs from FamilyLife.  Then, plan to use those this weekend as you get together with your family.

Now, we also want to take just a minute and say, “Thanks,” to the folks who from time to time will get in touch with us and make a donation to help support FamilyLife Today.  That’s the way programs like ours work.  We’re listener-supported; and as we hear from folks who listen and who are encouraged by this program, we’re able to continue doing it because the donations you make help us cover the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program. 

This week, if you’re able to make a donation to help support FamilyLife Today, we’d like to send you as a thank-you gift Barbara Rainey’s brand-new devotional guide for families called Growing Together in Forgiveness.  In the book, Barbara recounts seven stories, all about forgiveness.  These stories are designed to be read aloud to the entire family, and our hope is that it will help cultivate a culture of forgiveness in your own heart and in your home. 

If you make a donation online this week at FamilyLifeToday.com, just click the button that says, “I Care”.  As you fill out the donation form, we’ll know to send you a copy of Barbara’s new book; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  You can make a donation over the phone and simply ask to receive a copy of the new devotional guide from Barbara Rainey, Growing Together in Forgiveness.  Again, we just want to say, “Thanks, in advance, for your support of the program.  Glad to have you as a partner with us here in this ministry.”  Dennis?

Dennis:  Well, Randy Newman has been our guest this week.  Randy, I want to thank you, first of all, for being with us.

Randy:  My pleasure.

Dennis:  But there is a moment that is really uncomfortable that most of us will face with a family member—that’s standing by the bed of a dying person who is still lucid, awake, and can have a conversation.  Can you give us just some thoughts of maybe some do’s and don’ts, or what should occur in those final moments, when you really do have a chance to talk to that person?

Randy:  First, I want to precede it with—acknowledge the elephant in the room, if there is one.  “You know, Grandpa, I know that this is difficult.”  Or, “I know we never talk about this,” or “I know we never have talked about this,” or “I know you don’t like me to talk about this.”  That’s the first thing, acknowledge it. 

Then bridge to the Gospel with, “But you know, I really love you.  I really care about you.  I care about you so much that I want to tell you something.”  And then, one of the things I say in the book is find a way to be concise in expressing the Gospel, that, “You can know God in a personal way; but you won’t if sin is a separation between you and your God, as it is for everyone.

“But Jesus is the one who paid the price for your sins.  He’s the One who bridges that gap.  If you simply tell Him you want to trust in Him as your Lord and Savior—that He’s the One who you are counting on to be your righteousness.  Grandpa, would you like to tell Jesus that right now, right here?”

I think we all need to practice saying those things in just neutral situations, on our own.  Practice—even writing it out if we need to—or find a tool that expresses it—because nobody is going to be brilliant enough to make that up on the spot.  It would be hard to make that up in an easy situation.  If you’re next to someone who’s a loved one who is dying, you’re not going to be brilliant on the spot.  Don’t count on brilliance on the spot. 

Prepare, and know what you would say, and actually know what you would say as a sample prayer.  If you’d say, “Listen, why don’t you repeat after me?  Here’s a prayer you can tell God: ‘I’m sorry for all of my sin.  I repent of all of my sin, but I want to know You.  I want to spend eternity with You, and I realize I must have a Savior, and Jesus is my Savior.  I place my trust in Him.”

Dennis:  And I might suggest that you take that loved one’s hand.  If need be, have this all written out in a letter where you just read them the letter.  Then, most importantly, you ask them the question; and then you pause and you let them answer.

Bob:  Randy, it’s been good.  Thank you.  Thanks for being with us.

Randy:  It’s great to be with you.  Thanks.

Bob:  FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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