In The Coffeehouse Gospel, Matthew Paul Turner seems to be addressing the twenty-something crowd with two main evangelistic concerns: not sharing their faith, and sharing their faith with an unloving, impersonal approach.
Turner, the former editor of CCM Magazine has a very fluid, vulnerable, and often whimsical writing style that makes for an easy, enjoyable read. He builds a great case for pushing us to be personable in our approach to non-believers. Turner includes several conversations he has had with non-believers to demonstrate how practically his personal approach works.
I also appreciate that Turner includes a whole chapter on “Knowing the Basics.” This chapter outlines a very fundamental understanding of the Gospel using the Apostles’ Creed and the “Romans’ Road” (or “Romans Pathway” as he likes to call it) as a framework for what to share. My only complaint about this chapter was the lack of anything on the Lordship of Christ in the believer’s life.
The overall look and visual flow of the book is nice--and very hip--especially for the targeted audience of this book. The smallish nature of the book makes it unintimidating and appealing.
This quote from the final chapter best sums up Turner’s focus and approach: “So many times, our attempts to be evangelical seem calculated, stiff, and abnormal. It doesn’t have to be that way. This is where our story paves the way for faith sharing to be simple, natural, and seamless. The key to talking about faith in everyday conversations is allowing God to speak through us – letting His love come through each word, facial expression, and gesture.”
My biggest concern about The Coffeehouse Gospel is Turner’s continual urging for us to tell “our story.” I know his point is for us to be natural and personal, but it also conveys the idea that the Gospel is our story and not God’s Story. In an age of tolerance, this can facilitate the thinking of a typical non-believer that says “that’s great for you.” However, thankfully Turner does clarify this in the final sentence of the book by stating, “All of us must answer the call of Christ to be active participants in His story and learn to share our faith daily through conversations.” I wish this is how he defined the “Gospel Story” from the beginning.
At times, it appears that Turner’s concern for offending the non-believer out of sensitivity is actually conforming to the modern wave of tolerance and political correctness. Although he challenges us to be sensitive and not bombastic in our approach, believers also must remember that no matter how loving and kind they are, the truth of Christ is offensive to many (Scripture teaches that).
Conversely, readers will find in some of his encounters with non-believers, Turner is very open about their sins. For the more conservative, or younger readers, this may catch them off guard; for others, the honesty will be refreshing.
All in all, Turner has done a great job at challenging a new generation to share Christ’s story unashamedly, lovingly, personally, and accurately, with the above exception. He has a great sense of humor and humility in sharing his own evangelistic encounters. A new generation of Christians will benefit from Turner’s challenge and example. – Todd Burgett, Christian Book Previews.com
Written for anyone who’s ever struggled to share their faith with others, The Coffeehouse Gospel shows Christians how to evangelize effectively by sharing their personal stories of how God has impacted their lives. It includes questions and journal sections to help readers articulate their own spiritual experiences and show them how to be ready to defend and express their faith.