Engaging with Jewish People: Understanding Their World, Sharing Good News is the latest resource in The Good Book Company’s “Engaging With” series. Engaging with Jewish People is an introductory work that explains the beliefs commonly upheld by Jewish people, and how Christians can reach out to them with the gospel. This book is designed to instruct Christians in ways to engage with Jewish people without causing unnecessary offence: to be certain, the gospel is offensive to those who do not believe, but it is important that Christians seek a deeper understanding of what Jewish beliefs are, how they are practiced, and what the different sects of Judaism believe in order to reach out to Jewish people effectively. The book ends with the author sharing effective methods for Christians to share the gospel specifically with Jewish people.
Author Randy Newman was raised in a Jewish home, and later in life became a believer in Christ. Throughout Newman’s pursuit of Christ from Judaism, through the confusion that he battled with for many years, Newman is able to clearly explain the various sects of Judaism, what they value and accept as true, what they view Christianity as, and what would be effective methods for gospel ministry to Jewish people. Through Newman’s experience both as a Jewish person and as a believer, he is skilled to write a book on this topic.
Throughout Engaging with Jewish People author Randy Newman gave the reader glimpses into Jewish culture and what it was like to be raised Jewish. Throughout the book he provided helpful commentary that allowed the reader to get a clearer picture of the Jewish experience. In the first chapters of the book, Randy Newman leads the reader through an introduction to understanding Jewish people. In order to effectively minister to a people group, it is essential to have a high level understanding of who they are, and what they believe. In chapters one and two of this book, Newman provides this understanding to the reader as he guides them to get to know the Jewish culture better. The second portion of this book deals more strongly with how Christians ought to engage with Jewish people. Through this section of the book, Newman guides the reader with how to pray with and for Jewish people, how to point them to the Scriptures, common objections that may arise, and how to connect them to Christ by speaking with wisdom. The first half of the book creates a strong foundation for the second part to rest on: before we can engage, Christians must understand. The second half of the book is focused on ways to engage, which is also helpful. There are many assumptions that are often made in evangelism, specifically that the methods that you used that were effective with one person will be effective with another person, regardless of what their religious and cultural backgrounds are. This is commonly not the case, as the book explains. It is important to ask questions and interact with ones religion in order to effectively communicate the gospel to them.
Author Randy Newman did an excellent job of conveying Jewish culture to the reader. The book engaged the reader through providing interesting Yiddish language that is used by Jewish people such as naches (that is, pride or joy) and oy (that is, oh woe is me). Newman started the book out by engaging the reader through walking through four aspects of Jewish life: pain, pride, pleasure, and promise. This was especially helpful as it shaped the perspective that the reader has about the pain that Jewish people have experienced throughout history, and how that has shaped a sense of pride in their sustained existence. Jewish people have overcome adversity numerous times, which causes a sense of pride that they are still here. Newman also addresses the love of pleasure among Jewish people, and the celebrations they enjoy with delicious foods. While talking about the love of pleasure and good foods among many Jewish people, Newman informs the reader that one area of struggle for many Jewish people is the fact that they perceive lack of pleasure and a sense of boringness among Christians. This is an obstacle for Christians to overcome in order to minister effectively to Jewish people. The background provided in this section was pertinent in engaging the reader and allowing the reader to be culturally aware of the difficulties and triumphs of Jewish people.
Engaging with Jewish People also provides helpful stories at the end of each chapter that lets the reader attach a person to the story. It can be difficult to contextualize in a hypothetical situation, but once a face is attached to a story it becomes much easier to emphasize. Newman recognized this, including several stories to help the reader best relate to Jewish people and what they have gone through as a people group.
Newman also recognized the importance of using Scripture throughout Engaging with Jewish People, both to show Christians what Jewish people believed and how they got there, and to show Christians what verses are important to go through when evangelizing to a Jewish person. Newman shared many Scripture passages in the book that are essential for Jewish people ot understand in order for them to come to Christ. In sharing these Scriptures, Newman gives the reader a thoughtful strategy with effective methods that Christians can use in order to share the gospel with Jewish people. In this, he guides the reader to a non judgmental look at Jewish beliefs. Newman is able to provide an uniquely well-rounded perspective as someone who was raised Jewish and came to Christ. He is compassionate to the believes of the Jewish people, but he also recognizes that there is a deep need for Jewish people to come to salvation in Christ. He recognizes that even though Jewish people often live good lives, the only way to be saved is through faith in Christ, alone. Newman’s history of being raised as a Jewish person, and being surrounded even now by Jewish family members, gives him greater compassion and a longing to see Jewish people come to Christ. Throughout Engaging with Jewish People, Newman conveys his deep desire to see Christians effectively share the gospel with his people. His longing for his people to come to Christ is so evident throughout the book that it drives the reader to also long for this and to seek opportunity to share the gospel with lost Jewish people.
Engaging with Jewish People is a short book, at only 128 pages, but do not make the mistake of thinking that as a short book it will be a short read. This is a book that should be slowly and thoughtfully read, as the reader takes time to seek to understand the Jewish worldview and how the church of Christ can bring the good news of Christ’s life to this people.
The Good Book Company is committed to publishing excellent, biblical, Christian resources, and this is one of the top books they have published in recent years. The entire “Engaging With” series is one that Christians ought to be excited about, and consume eagerly. It is incredibly important for believers to have a high level understanding of the various worldviews and religions that they are interacting with and sharing the gospel with, which makes Engaging with Jewish People and the other books in this series a valuable resource. If you have Jewish friends and want to know how to best reach out to them, this book is a must-read. I enthusiastically recommend Engaging with Jewish People to any believer who frequently interacts with Jewish people and wants to be better equipped to share the gospel with their Jewish co-workers, friends, or family members.
Newman, Randy. Engaging with Jewish People: Understanding Their World, Sharing Good News. Epsom, England: The Good Book Co, 2016. 128pp. Paperback, $11.99.
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Thanks to Good Book Co for the review copy!
[Disclosure: this book review was written in partial fulfillment of the requirements TH 331 World Religions at Boyce College]