Randy Newman


Randy Newman

Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. He ministers on campuses and elsewhere in our nation's capital to students, professors and policy shapers. He is an honors graduate from Temple University and has a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he is also engaged in doctoral studies. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and the books Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Corner Conversations: Engaging Dialogues about God and Life, both published by Kregel Publications, and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well, forthcoming from Crossway.

To find out more, visit his blog, Connection Points.

Keep It Complicated

I am sometimes told, when discussing how to present the gospel to a non-believer or how to formulate a sermon or Bible study, to make sure to, “Keep it simple.” Sometimes the admonition is “to keep the cookies on the lower shelf.”

If the promoter of simplicity elaborates, he’ll tell me that, if we “make things complicated,” people may get confused, reject our message, get lost in unimportant issues, not remember what we said, or fail to benefit from the Bible’s teaching, the gospel’s power, or the truth’s beauty.

But what if “keeping it simple” is really distorting the message? What if our message isn’t really simple? What if the gospel is complex, rich, multifaceted, nuanced, far-reaching, and touching upon an infinite number of other aspects of life? What if the Bible isn’t really a simple book after all? What if God’s word points us to its inspirer – the God who is beyond comprehension, beyond finding out, beyond our finite reasoning, and beyond all we can pull together?

What if “keeping it complicated” really did justice to the subject matter and “making it simple” misrepresents it? What if we can’t “keep” it simple because it never was simple to begin with? What if we’re not “making” it complicated but reflecting the truth as it really is?

Have I made this argument complicated? Good.

I certainly see the need to find ways to state things concisely and easily. Sometimes, you only have a few minutes to articulate what you believe to a sincere inquirer. In those instances, a short booklet or a diagram drawn on a small napkin is the best vehicle for telling people the message of salvation.

But it’s one thing to draw that diagram or read that booklet and say, “This is one way for me to express my faith in a concise way. There’s obviously more but this is a helpful introduction.” It’s another thing to say, “There. That’s all there is to it.”

I have often pondered the best-selling book title, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Apparently, given its popularity, a lot of people think it’s the only book they need to read. But I remain unconvinced. All I really need to know? Really? I have found that the dramas of life, the complexities of marriage, the trials of disease, the confusion of evil, the pain of death, the ever-evolving challenges of parenthood, not to mention the wonder of beauty, the joy of music, the blessing of laughter, and all the delights of worship to be just a few of the things my kindergarten teacher left out of the syllabus.

Do I think the lessons I learned in kindergarten were helpful, foundational, crucial, and building blocks upon which to learn many of the lessons that would follow? Absolutely. Am I thankful for kindergarten? Remarkably.

But am I glad there was also a first grade and a second grade and every other learning experience I’ve encountered since kindergarten? Increasingly so.

If I reflect on this tendency to “keep it simple” vs. “keep it complicated” from a missional perspective, I would have to say, “keeping it simple” hasn’t served the church all that well – at least, not lately. Our world is complex and people know it. In fact, people love it. They reject (rightly, I believe) simplistic answers to complex questions because those answers haven’t worked. Formulas haven’t helped them make relationships work. Short explanations haven’t helped them grapple with long problems. And the people who insist, “it’s really quite simple” seem to be out of touch with reality.

More and more people wonder about the complexities of life and want to explore them. They long to see how seemingly unrelated topics intersect. They are not surprised by mysteries that keep unfolding, revealing more and more levels of wonder. They like movies like Inception.

Maybe we should try to “keep it complicated” because God’s word and his gospel are complicated – not in the “confusing” sense of complicated but in the rich and beautiful and intellectually fulfilling and aesthetically pleasing and awe-inspiring ways. I think it’s worth the experiment – both for the deepening of our faith and the challenging of our friends’ searches.


3 Ways to Weave Evangelism into Daily Life

In a paper I wrote on Weaving Evangelism into Discipleship, I suggested, for some churches and ministries, evangelism is an awkward appendage, disconnected from daily life. It feels similar to a house with only one room with electricity. On isolated occasions you go to that room, “the electricity room,” whenever you need to access electric current. Far better to wire the entire house for electricity.

Likewise, far better to “wire” our Christian experience so that evangelism is woven into daily life.

Here are three ways to weave evangelism into your daily life:

1) Through your daily prayers: Assuming you have a regular time for connecting to God through prayer (no easy discipline!), it is worth the effort to build in prompts to pray for non-believers. If you use a prayer journal, have a section where you list the “outsiders” God has brought your way. Perhaps you’ll want to have a bookmark-sized card in your Bible with a list of names of your “10 Most Wanted.”

2) Through specific prayers for specific people on specific days: Why not include in your daily prayers (along with, “Lord, may I bring glory to you today…help me to resist temptation today…please open that door for the promotion at work today…etc.”) something like this, “Lord, please bring non-believers my way today and may I recognize such divine appointments as opportunities to point them to you. Give me boldness, wisdom, and grace.” Or, “Lord, what appointments do I already have set up with non-believers? Help me to see you as Lord of my daily schedule.”

(I began that section with “Why not…” Well, I’ll tell you why I don’t pray that kind of prayer more often. Because I don’t want God to answer it! If he does (and he’s rather good at answering prayers), I’ll probably be placed into the awkward position of witnessing. So…I do want to pray that prayer, despite the difficulties, but I often add an extra plea: “God, please help me to trust you in those situations that you design. May it be that your glory and the other person’s salvation will be more important to me than my comfort.”)

3) As part of your social networking: You probably update your Facebook page or send out emails or tweet or engage in some other social networking activity on a pretty regular basis. Why not (see above) give some thought to how you might select a few non-believers and push the gospel-dialogue a little further. If evangelism can be a process and not only an event (I should probably blog about that sometime soon…check back…), then ask God for creativity to take the next step. It can begin with a prayer, “God, who’s the next person you want me to check in with? What would be the next step? Is there a link to a website that I can send to them? Is there something in the news that points to the theme of redemption or forgiveness or grace or judgment or eternity?”

All of these steps require boldness. Ask God to help you reflect on all that he has done to reach you. Let that fuel your efforts to reach out to those God brings your way and weave evangelism into your daily life.


The Power of Listening in Evangelism

Early on in the designing of my research about evangelism, I had to choose between qualitative research (extended interviews) and quantitative research (computerized surveys). In a moment of temporary insanity, I considered doing both. My dissertation advisor said, “Well… you could do both—if you wanted to pursue two doctorates!” I opted for the face-to-face, structured-yet-flexible, 45-minutes-to-an-hour, qualitative interview. And I’m glad I did.

I had my standardized list of 15 questions that I wanted answered by all of the 40 interviewees. But I also wanted to allow myself the option to explore certain things they said with “could you tell me more about that?” or “what makes you say that?” or “It looks like you’re having trouble answering that question. Are you?”

I began each interview by asking them how they became a Christian. I told them they could take as long as they wanted to tell their story. I found that most of them actually answered 5 or more of my 15 questions without my needing to ask them. The rest of the interview pursued the questions they had not yet answered and other aspects of their story that I wanted to hear more about.

A few recurring patterns emerged:

  • Some things didn’t come to the surface until after 30 minutes. I started noticing things around the 35th or 40th minute when people would say things like, “I just realized something,” or, “I never thought of this,” or, “Hmmmm. I need to think about that a little.”
  • I saw some patterns they didn’t see. For example, I would ask if it was the same person who told them two important pieces of information or something like that and several of them said, “Yeah. I didn’t see that before but you’re right.” One young woman didn’t think of something important until we were all finished, standing up, shaking hands, and saying goodbye. At that point, my notebook was closed and my recorder was off, but she said, “Hey, I just thought of something. For me, it had to be anonymous. It had to be a total stranger who talked to me about Jesus because I had alienated all the Christians I knew.” I sat down, took out my notebook, and added more to her story.
  • When people had to find words to express their inner thoughts, the experience clarified their thinking. I wonder if some people actually become Christians while they’re talking about something they think has already happened.
  • It’s amazing how many things surprise you (the interviewer) and them (the interviewee).

So, my point is:

Lesson 11 – We need to listen to people’s stories to find out how God has worked and is working. We dare not presume that he needs to fit into our plans or strategies.

This may seem obvious but you’d be amazed how rare it is. There is a lot of research done through technology that has people check boxes and rate experiences on scales of 1 (totally disagree) to 9 (totally agree). I do think there’s great value in what we learn through such polls and surveys. I read a lot of what Barna and Gallup and Pew and others find.

But there are limits. One extensive quantitative research project sought to learn why newcomers visited, stayed, and eventually joined churches. But, oddly, they never asked the newcomers! They asked the pastoral staff of the churches. I remember laughing out loud when I read that many pastors said the “number one reason” people came to their church was “the preaching.” That may be so. But I can think of more accurate, less biased sources for such information.

There are things we need to learn that won’t surface through the help of Survey Monkey and the like. Pastors would do well to interview people new to their churches to find out why they came or what they’ve learned or where they are on their spiritual journey. Such interviews may turn out to be the most fruitful evangelism we ever do!


Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.


Evangelism: When “Bad Efforts” Produce Good Results

As I interviewed the new converts for my research, I frequently found myself marveling at what “worked” in the evangelistic efforts to reach them. Some things should not have worked. Some lines were too corny or too blunt or too poorly worded for God to use. I’m speaking tongue in cheek, of course, but I did find myself wondering how such bad efforts could have such good results.

One young woman told me of her next door neighbor inviting her to a Bible study even though they hardly knew each other, did not share much in common, were of different ages, and did not first engage in light conversation. She was standing outside smoking a cigarette when her neighbor came out of her house, walked up to her and said, “Would you like to come to a Bible study?”

I asked, “Were those really the first words she said? Didn’t she first ask how you were doing or say what a nice day it was.”

“Nope. She just asked if I’d like to come to a Bible study.”

“How did she ask that?” I inquired. “Did she describe it as anything other than a Bible study? Did she call it something like a ‘discussion group’ or a ‘time when we get to know each other’ or a ‘safe place to discuss spiritual things’ or anything like that?”

“Nope. She said these exact words: ‘Would you like to come to a Bible study?’”

I thought “that shouldn’t have worked!” I didn’t say that to her. Instead I asked, “What did you say?”

“I said, ‘I would love to come to a Bible study’” and smiled as she remembered the moment.

I said, “Did you really say ‘loved’ – ‘I would love to come to a Bible study?’”

“Yep.”

“Why did you say that?”

“Because nothing else in my life was working. I had been reading the Bible on my own for over a year and I couldn’t figure it out. I figured a Bible study could probably help.”

Again, I thought about all the “research” I had read insisting we need to establish “trust” or “build friendships” or “earn the right to be heard” before sharing the gospel or doing something as direct as inviting someone to a Bible study. I thought such a blunt approach couldn’t possibly work.

But then I remembered that conversion is a miracle. Jesus said, “No one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). And Paul said that we “were dead in [our] transgressions and sins… but… God… made us alive with Christ” (Eph. 2:1–5). In other words, every time anyone comes to saving faith it’s a miracle! It requires God to do the impossible—raise the dead. When we meet someone who has come to faith, we know something supernatural has transpired before our first interaction with them.

Lesson 10 – Evangelism is a beautiful interweaving of human effort and divine miracle.

There’s something tremendously liberating about this, isn’t there? When we step out and ask God to use us in the spreading of his gospel, we use all the intellectual capacity we have, seek diligently to listen carefully, draw upon all our knowledge and wisdom to answer questions, and plead earnestly for people to understand what we’re saying so they can respond well.

We also get a front row seat to watch God do what only he can do—open blind eyes, soften hardened hearts, and make dead people come to life.

Please hear me carefully. I’m not saying we should be rude or insensitive or uncaring as we reach out to people. In most cases, developing friendships or building trust or getting to know a lot about people does pave the way for proclaiming the gospel. And there must be some unwise things we should not say or Paul wouldn’t have told us to “be wise in the way [we] act toward outsiders” and “let [our] conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:5–6).

But we also need to remember that we’re not alone in the evangelistic process. God superintends, intervenes, and translates our words and actions and uses them in ways we could never orchestrate, predict, or arrange. Let’s step out in faith and ask God to use us as part of his doing his impossible work. And let us marvel at the wonders he creates along the way.


Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.


What Role Does Technology Play in Evangelism?

Does technology play a part in people’s conversions? That was a question I sought to answer in my research. But finding answers to that question isn’t as simple as asking, “Did technology play a part in your conversion?” I wish you could have seen the puzzled looks the students gave when I asked that. The silent stares were as loud as shouts.

Even when I elaborated with, “Did you read anything on the Internet or interact with people through email or Facebook or have any conversations through texting?” they said very little.

I do think technology plays a large role in all of our lives today and that must have an effect in journeys to faith. But that’s not really saying much. I could just as easily say that words play a big part in people’s conversions. The students I talked to interact with each other in a wide variety of ways—through face-to face-conversations, phones, Facebook, texts, tweets, emails, and probably other ways that I don’t know about. Here’s the key: I don’t think they make any distinction between the different vehicles of communication.

Students would tell me they “talked to” someone, and when I asked if that was “in person” or “through technology,” they couldn’t remember. It didn’t matter to them, and I wonder if it should matter to us.

Lesson 9 – Technology plays a part in evangelism but not as big a part as some might think.

Some may suspect that technology has harmful “unintended consequences” like deteriorating attention spans or declining compassion or loss of social skills. That may be true, but I’m not as negative about technology as some people are. To be sure, there may be some loss of interpersonal connection or abilities to think deeply about complex issues. (Once again, I hide behind that favorite line of researchers: “My findings are inconclusive.”)

But I also heard from the students about how great it is that “I always have my Bible with me on my phone” or “I googled that question and found some really great answers” or “I didn’t have to wait until the next fellowship meeting to find out how Christianity compares with Islam. I just went online and found a ton about that topic.”

I know. The Internet is full of crazy stuff, too. But I’m still on the “pro” side of technology because of the large volume of answers, the ability to connect with others who have similar struggles, and the ease of doing research on very deep levels. Technology may erode attention spans, but I didn’t see much evidence for that when I talked for almost an hour with thoughtful students.

Tweets may limit statements to 140 characters, but I met a lot of students who wrestled deeply with difficult issues. “Facebook may be making us lonely” and “Google may be making us stoopid” but when students meet with each other in Bible studies or hear God’s word preached in church or at conferences, their minds kick into gear appropriately.

I do think all of us should “take a fast” from technology on a regular basis or develop the discipline to keep our phones in our pockets when having face-to-face conversations or evaluate if we’re spending too much time watching mind-numbing television or consider if we’re being shaped by immoral images or challenge ourselves to read more demanding books. But I’ll save those suggestions for another blog.


Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.


How Unasked Questions Keep People from Christ

Lesson 7 from my research was “There’s far more to evangelism than just providing answers to questions.” Lesson 8 explores why that is so. In some instances, the question asked is not the real question. There may be more substantive or more pressing questions behind the one that comes out of someone’s mouth. In fact, I think we would be wise to assume that is often the case.

Lesson 8 – Unasked questions may be more important than asked ones.

My conversation with Lawrence illustrates this point. Lawrence was a very intelligent, double major in his senior year at an academically rigorous university. He had left behind any interest in or respect for religion after graduating from high school. The faith of his mother was superstitious, weird, anti-intellectual nonsense that no thinking person should consider for more than a passing moment. Or so he said.

During his sophomore year he was invited to an event sponsored by a Christian organization on campus. Some intelligent guy was going to field questions from the audience—questions that had anything to do with God, religion, or faith. Lawrence decided to go for three reasons: 1) The girl who invited him was good looking. 2) There was going to be pizza. 3) He was sure he could stump the speaker.

After a short presentation by the speaker, Lawrence asked, “What about aliens?” The speaker asked for a bit of elaboration. Lawrence explained, “Doesn’t it destroy your whole religion if there are aliens on other planets? I mean, how do they get to know God where they are?”

The speaker probably could have attacked Lawrence for his lack of sincerity or offered an answer about God providing other revelations besides the Bible for other planets. He chose instead to say, “I really don’t know much about aliens. I’m sorry. I’m not the best one to talk about aliens.” But then he wisely added, “What I do know is that God gave our planet the Bible, and I think you might want to go to the 6-week Bible study of the Gospel of Mark that we’re starting next week.”

Lawrence decided to do just that, albeit with his attitude of “I can outsmart anyone” firmly in place.

When I asked him if there were any major questions he had during that 6-week process, he thought for a minute and then said, “Yeah. You remember that story where Jesus cast the demons into the pigs? Whatsupwiththat?”

I laughed and he did, too. I followed up with, “Did you ask the Bible study leader that question?”

“Yeah, I did. The first thing he said was, ‘I’m not sure.’”

I interrupted. “Was that bad that he said that?”

“No. Not at all. In fact, I thought it showed some humility. I liked that.”

“Ok,” I said. “Did he ever offer an answer?”

“Yes. He said, ‘First, I think the story teaches us not to mess with demons. They must be pretty evil beings, and we shouldn’t just laugh them off. The second thing is this: There must be a big difference between being a pig and being a person.”

I thought that was a pretty good answer—not award winning or tremendously compelling but not bad. I asked Lawrence if that was satisfying to him.

“Yeah. Actually, it was. But you have to remember my background. I grew up going to a church where they told me not to ask questions. ‘Just believe in Jesus, and you won’t have any more questions’ was kind of what they told me. And I always thought that was stupid. But when this guy answered my question about the pigs, I figured, there probably are answers to a lot of my questions, and it’s not bad to ask them.”

I was intrigued. I asked him if he then asked some of those other questions, and he said he didn’t. It was enough to know that some people respected his questions and there probably are answers for whenever he wanted to get around to asking them.

Two things stand out to me: The respect for the question and the respect for the questioner. To be sure, some questions are insincere, and we should identify them as such. But in a lot of cases, we would be wise to:

  • Treat the questioner kindly, regardless of the depth or sincerity of the question.
  • Admit when we don’t know the answer. Offering to think further or do research to find answers shows respect as well as humility.
  • Consider that offering an answer to the stated question may indirectly provide answers to many other questions or set people free to explore topics they’ve long neglected.

All this requires discernment, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading, concern for people, and careful listening. Evangelism involves far more than conveying the content of the gospel, providing answers, and asking for decisions. It is at least all of those. But it’s also a lot more.


Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.


Finding Faith before Finding Answers

My research about how college students become Christians included some investigation of their questions. What intellectual obstacles did they have to overcome before embracing the gospel? Were there frequently asked questions that Christian apologists should move to the top of their lists of roadblocks to belief?

This touches upon numerous debates about the role of apologetics in evangelism. Do “answers” really help people move from darkness to light? Aren’t we assuming a level of intellectual strength which conflicts with a belief in total depravity? Isn’t apologetics for believers, not for outsiders?

If I’ve gotten your hopes up for a resolution for these debates, I’m about to dash them. “My research is inconclusive for a satisfactory answer to those questions.” (That’s a line that many researchers hide behind, and I’m inclined to join them there. Sorry).

Here’s what I did find: Quite a few people did have questions they felt they needed to have answered and, when they heard a substantial answer, they moved quickly to a point of conversion. Almost as many people voiced a question they thought prevented them from believing, but somehow they came to faith without getting a satisfactory answer. In other words, they converted before getting answers or without getting answers.

It is this second group that intrigues me. In fact, as I reflect upon my own conversion, I believe the problem of evil (“Why did the guy down the hall from me fall to his death in a horrific accident?”) was the biggest obstacle to receiving the offer of salvation in the Messiah. But I came to faith without getting a satisfying answer. In fact, to this day, I still struggle with that issue—but as an insider of the family of God, not as an outsider.

 Lesson 6 – There’s far more to evangelism than just providing answers to questions.

I don’t think the questions people voiced were mere smokescreens. They were sincere in their request for answers. So I don’t want to dismiss all questions in that way. Nor do I want to see the task of answering questions as absolutely crucial for conversion to occur. The process is more elaborate and people are more complex.

A recurring theme I heard was that people sometimes just need to know that there are answers that others have found convincing. Or, looking from another angle, some people needed to see that Christians had considered these questions before and were not morons. Sometimes the shocking realization that Christians have tackled the very same question that seemed insurmountable to the inquirer was all they needed to cross from doubt to belief. For some, the realization that answers existed served like the breaking of a dam that allowed a flood of faith to wash over them.

What are some lessons we can apply to our evangelistic efforts?

  • We must equip ourselves with answers. We’re told that we need to “know how [we] should respond to each person” (Col 4:6). There’s no substitute for “being ready to make a defense” (1 Peter 3:15).
  • We should dialogue with people to find out their motive for asking. And we should try to discern the level and type of emotion behind their words. Some questions are attacks. Some are sincere. Some are merely curiosities. Some are packed with pain. I tried to address these dynamics in my books Questioning Evangelism and Bringing the Gospel Home.
  • We should not be afraid to urge people to embrace belief even without answers to all their questions. This requires balance and discernment on our part. On the one hand, we should not be dismissive of their questions, assuming they are all smokescreens. On the other hand, we need to remember that conversion is more than a cognitive experience.

So, keep reading your apologetics books and prepare yourself to answer questions. But remember that those evangelistic conversations take place under the sovereign hand of a saving God who works in powerful ways that transcend the question-and-answer exchange.


Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.


Weaving Evangelism into Small Groups

These blog posts center around the notion of “integration.” When I call myself an integrationist, I mean that I look for wholeness and seamlessness in all of life. One area where compartmentalizing (the opposite of integration) has hurt the church is the isolation of evangelism. Outreach has often been seen as a separate or unusual “program” in the church rather than a core component of its existence.

The recent coining of the word missional to urge churches and other ministries to pursue a more outward face shows the need for weaving evangelism into the regular life of a church or ministry rather than viewing it as an appendage.

One idea I would like to propose is the weaving of evangelism into the small group structure of a church or ministry. Small group emphasis is nothing new and something to be appreciated and emphasized. It is within the small circle of close-knit brothers and sisters that spiritual growth, supportive prayer, and rigorous Bible study can and does occur.

Why not have these very groups also serve as the encouragement and strengthening sources for personal evangelism?

Here’s how it can work:

In any small group, one person will serve as an “evangelism advocate.” (It is best if this person were not someone with the gift of evangelism. Those people tend to make all the non-evangelists in the group just feel guilty). The evangelism advocate is the one who makes sure that personal evangelism by all the individual members does not get ignored. They make sure, when people share prayer requests, that intercession for witnessing gets included. They also check up on what people shared in previous gatherings.

So, for example, the evangelism advocate could say things like this:

“Fred, you mentioned last time that you were hoping to bring up the topic of spiritual things with your co-worker Jack. How’d that go?”

“Doris, you asked us to pray that you’d get up the nerve to give your sister a copy of Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. Any news?”

“Joe, you asked us to pray for your time with your next-door neighbor on that fishing trip. What did you find out about his level of spiritual hunger?”

“Sue, we prayed last time, that your ongoing conversation with your boss could turn to spiritual topics. How should we pray tonight?”

The result could be that people would see their evangelistic efforts are part and parcel of their spiritual well-being as much as their Bible reading, prayer lives, resisting temptation, and all other components that often get discussed in small group. They would also see that evangelism is a process that needs ongoing tending and, often, some prodding.

I think it’s worth a try.


Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.


Lament for the Loss of My Dad

I was driving in my neighborhood recently when I saw a car with some very unusual wheels. I’d never seen such odd shaped tires or such strange connections between wheels and chassis. I thought, “I should call my dad and see if he’s ever seen such a thing.” My father had a long career as an automobile mechanic and loved to talk about cars. He would know what I was looking at and could explain the physics, logistics, and cost of using those kinds of tires.

But I caught myself and realized I could not call my dad. He had died the week before.

A flood of tears clouded my vision and prompted me to pull over to the side of the road to allow the emotions to take their time to wash over me. I’ve decided to not see sorrow or grief as things to avoid. Instead, I want to view them as precious. They show me just how strong a bond I had with my father, how beautiful the ties of family can be, and how full our lives can be as we appreciate all the emotions involved.

My dad was 90 when he passed from this life. I am comforted beyond expression that he came to faith in Yeshua as Messiah late in life. In fact, he may have been past 80 before he came to that realization. He lived a long full life and breathed his last breath with minimal suffering. The fact that the Lord took him so gently and quickly continues to bring a certain kind of bittersweet joy to me and the rest of my immediate family.

I find myself feeling flooded these days – flooded by a wide range of emotions, flooded by so many memories (some which make me smile and some which make me reach for the tissues), and flooded by thoughts of what this experience of grief is all about.

There are so many things I could say. I could recount his life as a survivor of a dysfunctional family long before the word dysfunctional became a cliché. I could retell of his heroism in World War II or his long (66 years!) steadfast marriage to my mom. I could tell you stories of how my dad loved to laugh. (And I bet you’d start laughing when you heard them). Or I could tell you the beautiful story of how, after so many, many years of being angry at God because of all the evil things he had seen in his life, he came to faith in the Savior and saw God transform him into a kinder, happier man who admitted he did not know everything and, more remarkably, he no longer needed to.

But, instead, I want to focus on the unique dynamics of being an adult man who loses his father. I sometimes think we reduce death down to common denominators and, in the process, fail to grieve purposefully. Some non-Christians try to diminish a full appreciation of death because it’s just so hopeless and sad. If I did not have the hope of the gospel, I certainly would avoid the topic of death as much as I could. Some Christians also diminish the complexity and richness of the reality of death by merely wanting to know if the person was “saved.” If so, “there’s nothing to worry about.” On some level, that’s true but it fails to consider the complex nature of being human. (Why would the Bible have so many lament psalms and lengthy descriptions of the pain of losing someone to death if “all that matters” is whether someone is in heaven or hell?)

I’ve been greatly helped by grief counselor Helen Fitzgerald’s The Mourning Handbook. What a great collection of practical suggestions Fitzgerald has compiled for anyone facing the loss of someone they knew and loved.

The most helpful chapter for me was the one entitled, “Differences that Matter” where she shines a light on the distinct experiences of death in a wide variety of situations – loss of a child, sibling, parent, friend, etc. whether suddenly, after a prolonged illness, and so many other variables. Sadly, she admits, “little has been written on adult child grief,” the very experience I currently wade through.

Fitzgerald primed the pump for me by considering that when a grown adult loses a parent, several factors could be in play:

-       It feels like the loss of your childhood. “Who else cares that you teethed on a certain chair in your home except your mom or your dad” (p. 143). In my case, I could ask, “Who else wants to know what kind of car I rented recently when I was out of town or who else wants to discuss how smooth the ride was?”

-       It is the loss of unconditional love. “Parents often provide a kind of love that is not duplicated elsewhere in our lives.” (143). Even if there are some sources of unconditional love, they’re not the same or as lifelong as what we receive from a parent. Of course, no parent provides such “unconditional” love all the time. But if there ever has been someone “always on my side” caring deeply about every detail of my life (even to the point of asking how my gas mileage has been), it was my father.

-       It can feel like “the loss of a certain sense of security.” I find myself envisioning a roof being lifted off of me. I’ve moved to the top floor of some building and discovered there’s no protection from the outside world. I’m now “the oldest generation” to a certain extent.

I could go on. And, in fact, I will – but not in a blog. Some processing needs to be as private and as individual as the loss it’s grieving. I still want to dig into the distinct issues related to being a man who loses his father, a music lover who grows in appreciation for a father who always had music on in the background, and someone who loves to laugh for more reasons than finding some things funny. And I’d really like to figure out what kind of tires that car had.


Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.


Reaching out in a Morally Confused World

Ten years ago, sociologist Christian Smith coined the now famous phrase “moralistic-therapeutic-deism” (MTD) to summarize the prevailing worldview of today’s youth. He first attached this description to high school students, ages 13–17, interviewed by his team of researchers from 2001 to 2005. His findings are reported and interpreted well in his 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.

Four years later, he reported about follow-up interviews with some of those same students in Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. In that second work, he stated, “MTD is still alive and well among 18- to 23-year old American youth” (Souls in Transition, 155).

When I interviewed 40 college students who had recently come to saving faith, I specifically looked for evidence of MTD in the testimonies I heard. Would these college students’ stories still echo the themes Smith reported almost ten years earlier?

The short answer is “Not really.”

Here’s a longer answer.

Lesson 6 of my 21 Evangelism Lessons:

We need to treat individual people as individuals and resist the pull to treat them all the same.

Smith summarized the “creed” of MTD as “something like this:”

  1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life, except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die. (Soul Searching, 162–163).

Here are some of my thoughts about Smith’s five points. I’ll use letters instead of numbers because I am not making a point-by-point response.

A. Smith’s summary is too monolithic. Some of the students I talked to would affirm some, but not all, of the points above. Some have not thought as clearly as even these rather vague statements would imply.

B. Smith’s statements are either too simplistic or too complex, depending on whom you talk to. Several students believed that life was about far more than just “being happy and to feel good about oneself.” Some might even be offended if their views about God were summed up by Smith’s statement #2. But others were just confused and very frustrated with that.

C. Smith’s statements seem to imply settled conviction and relative happiness. I didn’t hear that from too many of the students I talked to. When they described their “faith” before becoming Christians, they showed a kind of paralysis in making thoughtful decisions about anything serious. Our culture’s drumbeat of open-mindedness has actually produced shallow thoughtlessness.

People who do research in the social sciences often confess that summarized descriptions of many people describe no one in particular. The very act of making a conglomerate description of different people’s experiences can distort or water down our understanding of those experiences.

It’s like the joke of the biologist, physicist, and statistician who went deer hunting. The biologist shot and missed the deer by 5 feet to the left. The physicist shot and missed the deer by 5 feet to the right. The statistician stood up and cheered, “We got him!”

If someone asked me to summarize today’s college students’ worldview, I would try as desperately as I could to decline the request. If pushed to support or reject Smith’s MTD slogan, I’d say that today’s students are moralistically inconsistent, therapeutically confused, and religiously so relativistic as to be hopelessly vague—and so indoctrinated in the importance of so-called “tolerance” as to be incapacitated to make logical decisions about faith. Thus, they are starved for a message that has any substance whatsoever and may be remarkably open to the gospel!

In other words, we need to be very good listeners who resist the temptation to pigeonhole people into neat acrostics of summaries of belief.

Some may hear about MTD and despair at how far we have fallen from a Biblical worldview. That would certainly be understandable. But that very same fall, I believe and pray, may set God’s people up to proclaim good news to people who will respond like parched mouths longing for springs water that well up to eternal life.


Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.


Evangelizing in a World Drowning in Sexual Problems

When people ask me what major lessons I learned while conducting interviews of new converts, my first thoughts go to the reality of pain. Many of these students talked about struggles, hurts, and wounds. And most of those difficulties pointed to sex. This generation has a lot of sex, watches a lot of porn, experiences a horrific amount of abuse, and can’t quite figure out how to think about this ever-present-but-seldom-joyous issue of sex.

Lesson 5 of my 21 evangelism lessons:

Evangelism today occurs in a world that is drowning in sexual problems, misunderstandings, and a hardening against the gospel as a result.

During the sexual revolution of the 1960s, when people rebelled against the “traditional” view of sex (i.e., it was to occur only within lifelong, heterosexual marriage), people knew they were rebelling! They thought the old ways were constrictive, repressive, and boring. They saw their experiences as liberating, avant-garde, and revolutionary. But, somehow, they still considered their practices as non-normative.

Today’s college students are so far removed from that time, they think their hooking up culture is the norm. They can’t imagine why or how anyone would or could wait until marriage for sex. There’s no reason they shouldn’t take birth control pills, carry condoms, and know where to get an abortion if an “accident” should occur. The ones having sex on the first, second, or third dates (certainly no later than that!) think they are the norm and would feel guilty if they weren’t in bed that early in a relationship.

And yet the painful expressions on their faces, the shameful tones in their voices, and their bewilderment at how such a “natural” act has delivered such pain haunts me even a year or more after concluding my face to face interviews.

They had sex because they felt they had to, even if they didn’t always feel like they wanted to. A few men expressed profound disappointment that sex left them feeling “empty,” “lonely,” and “aching.” Women freely offered confessions of doing things they wish they hadn’t. Some said they now realize they were raped, even though they didn’t think so at the time. And several said they “wondered what was wrong with me” if they didn’t want to join in the “hook-up-with-as-many-people-as-possible” culture.

Both men and women told me they felt relieved when they became a Christian, met a group of peers who thought sex should be postponed until marriage, and didn’t feel pressure to repeat things they now regret. In a few interviews, I said they didn’t need to tell me things they didn’t want to and, in most cases, they said they felt better after confessing out loud what had haunted them for a while. Quite a few of my interviews required tissues.

How does this impact our evangelism efforts? Here are a few reflections, but I think the church needs to do a lot of brainstorming about ways to alter our pronouncement of the good news to an audience involved in, pressured by, and damaged by sex outside of God’s parameters.

  • The starting point of our preaching, teaching, and discipling about sex must be about the wonder and beauty of this God-created gift. Only after reflecting on the ways the Bible praises this most enjoyable part of married life can we then talk about “limits” that are prescribed by God as ways of protecting something precious.
  • Our discipleship should remind people that what God most cherishes the devil most hates. We shouldn’t be surprised by the schemes of the evil one. If sex is as profound, powerful, pleasurable, and protected as God’s word says it is, it’s no wonder that Satan would want to destroy it and make it the very opposite—meaningless, painful, alienating, and full of regret.
  • We also need to train new believers (and seasoned ones, too) to think Biblically about how our world will hate them. Jesus didn’t save such bad news for advanced lessons for only a select few. He spoke of persecution in Christianity 101 (e.g., the beatitudes in his Sermon on the Mount). The Christian view of sex has always been mocked and considered ridiculous. It has mostly been the minority perspective. And the persecution because of moral “narrowness” has sometimes gotten quite intense. It got John the Baptist beheaded.

For a host of reasons, the church has sometimes thought shallowly about sex, going no further than “thou shalt not.” That hasn’t served us or the people we want to reach very well. We now need to reflect deeply about the beauty of God’s gifts and the power of cleansing offered through the gospel to those who need it so desperately.


Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.


Why Christian Books Might Not be the Best Evangelism Option

In this series of blogs I’ve been sharing some things I concluded after interviewing 40 college students who had recently come to saving faith. In this entry, I will discuss something I’m confused by. I simply don’t know how to interpret the responses I received to my question, “Was there anything you read that was influential in your becoming a Christian?”

In more than half of the interviews, the response was a blank stare, followed by an awkward silence, and concluded with something along the lines of, “No. Not really.” As someone who writes books, loves books, gives away books, suggests books, and has far too many items in my Amazon Wish List, I was rather disappointed.

When prompted with, “Well, how about the Bible?” only 22 out of the 40 said yes. I was relieved. But only slightly. Several remarked how odd it was that they were drawn to reading this “big book” they had never taken an interest in. One woman remarked how odd it was that she took her “big fat” Bible on a family vacation, having never read a word of it. She proceeded to tell me she read it “every day” on that vacation  and “really liked it.”

A few spoke of intense reading sessions (one lasting over three hours) where it all started to make sense. And a few remembered specific verses that helped them cross from unbelief to salvation—John 3:16, various stories from one of the gospels, and a few key passages in the epistles (2 Cor 5:21, for example).

But consider this excerpt from my interview with JJ (not his real name):

R (Randy, interviewer): In that timeframe was there anything that you read—books, websites, articles, anything written that played a part in the whole thing?

JJ: Not that I can remember. The only thing I can possibly think of that I possibly read was the actual Bible. I don’t think I ever like (pause) I’ve never read a book written by a Christian author. I can say that. I would love to and I have a few I need to go look into but nothing to sway me one way or the other. I didn’t read anything on the internet, or article from anybody to say yes or no. It was just kind of (voice fades off).

R: Okay. When you said about reading the Bible—what are the parts that you read on your own. Not talking about in Bible study or when someone is preaching a message. Just sitting on your own? Reading?

JJ: I think I just kind of started at the beginning. I said I’m just gonna start at Genesis and see where it takes me. Genesis is a long and sometimes scary book. That’s kind of where I started.

R: Just on your own? And how far did you get?

JJ: Maybe not even halfway through Genesis.

R: Okay. All right.

JJ: And kind of (voice trails off).

RL Any New Testament books?

JJ: I might have read the Gospels. I can’t remember and (pause) it was a year ago I should be able to remember.

R:That’s okay.

JJ: Maybe I just jumped around the Bible. I can’t really (pause) I never had a specific plan (pause) just open it up and see what it’s like.

On the other side of the spectrum was a handful who read a lot. One young woman said, “I read everything I could get my hands on.” Another read the entire Bible twice on her own, “mostly to try to disprove it,” but then found she couldn’t stop reading it for more positive reasons. Only a few could remember other books that influenced them and no specific book dominated the list. Three students mentioned Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. Two mentioned Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. Two read Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ.

But one young woman read most of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. One guy read J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. And one very thoughtful young woman read most of Grudem and Piper’s Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

If you don’t have a headache yet, consider that a few spoke of “non-religious” books that made them think about God, including George Orwell’s 1984. And one young man, who said he had “never” read anything that he could remember before becoming a Christian, has since read numerous works by John Stott, C. S. Lewis, and John Owen! Do you see why I have difficulty interpreting this data?

My tentative conclusions lead me to suggest the following applications for anyone reaching out to the lost:

  • Don’t give up on giving away books or suggesting them. But develop a varied list of materials with a wide range of intellectual depth and reading difficulty.
  • But don’t depend on books alone. Some people won’t read anything.
  • Some people don’t have the reading skills to understand the Bible on their own. But they will respond to group or one-on-one Bible studies.
  • Don’t let trends of the lack of reading discourage you. When God’s spirit awakens someone to the gospel, he may also be starting them on a path to a lifetime of the deepest reading imaginable.

Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.