As a meditation on the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John, A Credible Witness pairs Jesus' meeting there (with the Samaritan woman) with the current American minority paradigm. The Samaritan woman's ethnicity, gender and social status parallel many people in America, and seeing the 2000-year-old meeting through this lens can facilitate a modern understanding of its implications.
Brenda Salter McNeil clarifies what, in her opinion, evangelism should address for it to be relevant in today's largely post-modern world. She argues that, unless the Gospel (as presented to sinners) addresses socially pertinent issues and cultural topics, it will not have the desired effect.
Meet Jesus and Sam. Evangelist and teacher Brenda Salter McNeil thinks evangelism that only introduces people to Jesus is incomplete. The picture is much larger than that, she claims: Christ's death and resurrection reconcile us to God and to each other across gender, race and social lines. Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman, introduced here as Brenda's friend Sam, gives you the full picture of gospel reconciliation--reconciliation to God and to each other. In her powerful, prophetic way, Brenda expounds their interaction recorded in John 4 and shares her own story of coming to Christ and learning to relate to other Christians. A Credible Witness tells you why both types of reconciliation are necessary, and moves you to be a person whose evangelism happens through a right relationship with God and others. "In today's world," Brenda writes, "we too are called to embody more than one type of reconciliation. The good news brings us to God, and it also brings life and healing to a broken, dying and divided world. Anything less is not the gospel."
Brenda Salter McNeil is a dynamic speaker, author and trailblazer with over twenty-five years of experience in the ministry of racial, ethnic and gender reconciliation. She was featured as one of the fifty most influential women to watch by in 2012 and is an Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies in the School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University, where she also directs the Reconciliation Studies program. Salter McNeil was previously the president and founder of Salter McNeil & Associates, a reconciliation organization that provided speaking, training and consulting to colleges, churches and faith-based organizations. She also served on the staff of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for fourteen years as a Multiethnic Ministries Specialist. She earned a MD from Fuller Theological Seminary, a DMin from Palmer Theological Seminary and was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters from North Park University. She is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church and is on the pastoral staff of Quest Church in Seattle. In addition, she serves on the board of directors for Wycliffe USA and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA and lives in Seattle with her husband Dr. J. Derek McNeil and their two children.
McNeil's thin but meaty book is organized around a close reading of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). Even those who consider this story one of their favorites will gain fresh insights from McNeil's analysis.
"Brenda Salter McNeil paints a wonderful picture of the power that our credible witness can have to a divided world. I wholeheartedly commend this book to anyone who wants to build bridges of reconciliation like Jesus did."
Unless we engage the theology of evangelism as a part of the larger Gospel, we will certainly re-create the dichotomization of left-right Western Christianity we've suffered under over the last 100 years. Hats off to McNeil for this early move in her book.
"Through real-life stories and practical insights, Brenda Salter McNeil draws our attention to dynamics and values we often fail to address in our comfortable, lowest-common-denominator, minimalist efforts at evangelism. Dr. Salter McNeil gives us the vocabulary of justice, partnership, reciprocity and authenticity that, if heeded, gives us an opportunity for a genuine, authentic and credible witness to an increasingly diverse and rapidly changing cultural context."
No congregation in our postmodern, multiethnic, global world can afford to train evangelists without equipping them to understand dynamics of power and race. A Credible Witness is a labor of love that will make a great first step for churches on the road to effective witness in our complex times.
. . .calls all of us, regardless of ethnicity, to examine our following of Jesus to see if our lives include vital relationships with representatives of all other followers.
Using the narrative of John 4, McNeil explains why our evangelism can't just introduce people to Jesus and hope they hit it off. It has to be a force that can overcome barriers of gender, race and social status. These themes should be central to evangelism today, she argues, not the secure-a-better-afterlife themes of yesterday.
"A church that is not unified is a scandal and a contradiction of the gospel. This book is a good place for us to begin in our contemplation of the biblical mandate for us to love one another. Brenda Salter McNeil allows us to look deeply into one African American woman who exemplifies how each of us can be empowered to overcome the social forces of history that have kept us from experiencing the 'tie that binds.' Her book will guide us on a journey to becoming a countercultural people who truly live out the values of the kingdom of God."
"Drawing from Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, Dr. Salter McNeil engages the text in a fresh, insightful and relevant manner that urges the reader to move beyond the limitations of individual evangelism and embrace the much-needed reality of holistic reconciliation. Weaving aspects of her personal journey with the Samaritan woman's story, Dr. Salter McNeil exposes and expounds on the often-neglected interpersonal issues of sexism, elitism, ageism, racism and schism in an affable, poignant and yet convicting manner. I highly recommend and encourage everyone to acquire, read and above all live out the challenges and enduring principles graciously presented by Reverend Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil in A Credible Witness."
"McNeil sensitively shows us that if our love for Christ doesn't extend to caring for our cities and for the poor, if there isn't a commitment to racial reconciliation and justice as well as passionate concern for personal salvation, then our witness will be ineffective. This is an important contribution to the field of evangelism. I recommend it enthusiastically!"
"Brenda Salter McNeil has done some wonderful critical thinking about evangelism and how the gospel is to be presented with justice and in a holistic manner. She details how community, race and culture need to be considered in our sharing of the good news. This is a must-read for serious-minded people striving to follow Christ in a postmodern world."
"It's so simple: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. And yet the church today still struggles with 'But who is my neighbor?' Brenda Salter McNeil goes right to the heart of the problem of our faltering witness: We lack the urgency to bring down the barriers that divide us in the church, and we don't know how to live the gospel in a multicultural society. The chapters on intentionality and needing one another are themselves worth their weight in gold. If only we will listen!"
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