Joyfully Spreading the Word (Book Review)
What happens when you put together a panel discussion of four women from all walks of life, ministering in universities, neighborhoods, and cross-cultural settings to discuss the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ? Well, first of all you get an incredible panel discussion, one that stirs the hearts and ignites the soul for the Gospel. Then, if Kathleen Nielson and Gloria Furman are involved, you will see an idea set in motion on how to involve other women and continue to spread the enthusiasm for Gospel proclamation.
Enters Joyfully Spreading the Word: Sharing the Good News of Jesus. In this book Kathleen Neilson and Gloria Furman along with eight other women from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures and ages join their pens and put together this beneficial, and heart-warming volume on proclaiming the Gospel.
Joyfully Spreading the Word begins with an introduction by Neilson in which she argues for the necessity of women calling women to share the gospel. Every life context, be it a kitchen table, an office desk, or a podium in front of thousands is a venue for evangelism. The introduction led nicely into the book that is broken up into two major sections: Core Concerns, and Representative Contexts.
The Core Concerns section has four foundational chapters for Gospel ministry. Here is how they break down.
Chapter one by Becky Pippert unfolds the “What” of evangelism. She answers the question, what is the Gospel message with an excellent overview of the Bible from Creation, to Crisis, to Christ’s redemption to Christ’s Return.
Chapter two by Megan Hill deals with the heart of the evangelist. Hill references where Paul tells Timothy “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers.” She rightly emphasizes the necessity of a heart that’s been changed by the gospel proclaimed.
Chapter three by Camille Hallstrom and introduced by Kathleen Neilson deals with cross-cultural evangelism. It centers around a play Hallstrom (Founder and Chair of the theatre department, Covenant College) decides to put on. I’ll have to leave it here. I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Chapter four by Eowyn Stoddard unpacks the two-sided coin of gospel proclamation and mercy ministry. She demonstrates there is no conflict between the two; in fact, they go hand in hand.
Section Two, Representative Contexts, has six chapters dealing with the different spaces women are in which provide ample opportunities to proclaim the Gospel.
Gloria Furman leads off this section () with a call for women to take advantage of gospel opportunities in everyday life. Here’s a quote I resonated with, “the ambassador must know the message, articulate it clearly and faithfully, and remember that she is never “off duty… we do not clock out of being ambassadors when we enter our kids’ bedroom, nor when we leave our front door.”
Chapter six by Jamie Love encourages moms, grannies, aunts, and any other woman in contact with children to take advantage of these providentially captive audiences. Using Eunice and Lois, Timothy’s mother and grandmother as role models, Love gives hope for those who labor among children. Needless to say, this was my favorite chapter for many reasons. Two stick out, the author and the grandchildren she referenced.
In chapter seven SharDavia Walker discusses how important and strategic the college/university campus context is for evangelism. The work is hard, unimpressive, and filled with doing the same small tasks each day, says Walker. But through these labors God amazingly redeems and brings His children home to Himself.
Work can be a tricky place to evangelize. Happy Khambule sheds much needed light in chapter eight for those who desire to faithfully proclaim the gospel at the job. One of the most effective ways to witness at work is to be loving and caring. This, according to Khambule is how doors for effective gospel work are opened in the workplace.
Chapter nine by Rosaria Butterfield explores the myriad opportunities to share the gospel among our friends who identify as LGBTQ. She deals forthrightly with the complications and conflicts that often occur with such volatile friendships. Her candor and honesty are breathtaking and instructional. There’s much to learn here from this gospel proclaiming practitioner.
Chapter ten rounds out the book with several cross-cultural gospel proclamation stories. The aim of this final chapter is to encourage women outside of their comfort zones and take to heart the command from Jesus to make disciples of all nations. These stories take you from the home of an American family who took in five Chinese exchange students to a festive “Turkish Coffee Night” with Muslims friends.
From the introduction to the closing stories in chapter ten, Kathleen Neilson and Gloria Furman had the goal of encouraging God’s people, especially women to prepare more diligently and be more intentional in proclaiming the Gospel. They set out to showcase women who not only write about it but are faithful evangelists. I believe they hit the mark. Joyfully Spreading the Word was a real treat to read and an even greater delight to recommend. Pick it up and grab some extra copies for your sisters and brothers in Christ.
16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (ESV)
5:1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.
17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. 22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) 24 The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. 25 So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden. (ESV)