Randy Newman: Unlikely Converts

Improbable Stories of Faith and What They Teach Us About Evangelism

Unlikely Converts
(Kregel, 2019)

WHO: Randy Newman, a senior teaching fellow with The C.S. Lewis Institute in Washington, DC.

HE SAYS: “We need to do more than just listen for the question behind the question. We should ask God to show us the drama behind the question behind the question.”

THE BIG IDEA: Hearing people’s conversion stories can help us proclaim the gospel more fruitfully.

THE PROGRESSION:
Part 1, “How People Come to Faith,” explains to readers that conversion happens gradually, communally, variously and supernaturally. Part 2, “The Power of Story” shares how our stories relate to God’s story. Part 3, “How Christians Can Proclaim Good News,” helps those who may not feel like strong evangelists see that they can share the good news carefully, fearfully, kindly and prayerfully.

“To us they may look like unlikely converts. But to God, terms like unlikely, difficult or impossible simply do not apply.”

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A CONVERSATION WITH RANDY NEWMAN

How can pastors encourage those in their congregation who may be more reserved to be confident in sharing Christ?

Several thoughts come to mind. First, don’t tell your people that evangelism is easy. Don’t imply, from your success stories, that it always goes well. Share about your own reluctances or struggles in evangelism. If you have no struggles, realize that you’re unusual and most Christians will never be like you.

Second, tell them that God uses the timid and shy and weak to accomplish his purposes. The power of the gospel, not the courage of the proclaimer is where they need to focus. God will use them despite their weaknesses. Preach on 1 Cor. 2:3 and point out Paul’s “much fear and trembling.”

What led you to write this book at this time?

I interviewed over 40 recent converts as part of my doctoral research. It was a requirement for a degree. But hearing the stories was so encouraging to me that I felt compelled to tell others about how God can and does work in the most unlikely of situations. I do a lot of teaching and training in evangelism and I see that most Christians need encouragement to reach out. Many of them think their non-Christian co-workers or friends are beyond hope. The stories I heard made me realize that no one is ever beyond hope. God can and does reach people with his gospel.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

Obviously, I hope people will be encouraged to start gospel conversations. I also hope the book will energize them in their prayers for lost people. And I also hope it will help them see how great the gospel is and how wonderful it is that we who have come to faith have a great treasure in our salvation.