Any evangelistic skill requires three skills. The first and most basic involves declaring the gospel, including the ability to clearly and concisely articulate the message of salvation and one's own story or testimony. The second evangelistic skill is ability in defending the gospel. The third skill is built on the foundations of declaring and defending the gospel.
The skill is called dialoguing the gospel. Often neglected, difficult to master, but absolutely essential is the skill of asking questions and bouncing ideas around. We need all three skills if we're to be Christ's ambassadors in the 21st century.
Answering a question with a question often has significant advantages over direct answers. It brings to the surface the questioner's assumptions. It also takes the pressure off you—the one being asked—and puts the pressure on the one doing the asking. As long as we're on the defensive, the questioners are not really wrestling with issues. They're just watching us squirm.
Responding to a question with a question paves the way for a concept that the questioner might not otherwise consider. Many ideas that are central to our gospel message—God's holiness, people's sinfulness, Christ's atoning work on the cross, and people's responsibility—are alien today for many people. Questions bring these concepts into clearer focus for consideration and even acceptance. Let me give you an example:
Non-Christian: I can't believe that you believe Christianity is the only way.
Christian: Then why do you think Jesus said such a narrow-minded thing?
Non-Christian: I don't think Jesus was narrow-minded.
Christian: Me neither. Why do you think He claimed that He's the only way to God?
Non-Christian: Are you sure He said that, or is that just something His followers made up?
Christian: No, I'm really sure that He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."
Non-Christian: Well, I don't understand the Bible all that well. I don't know why Jesus would say those things.
Christian: Would you like to hear what I think He meant?
I'm proposing a style of evangelism that is more dialogue than a sales pitch. If we were to try to convince someone to "buy" the gospel, we'd shy away from some difficult words that need to be said. Confronting a prospect with unpleasant truths doesn't work in sales, but it is essential in evangelism.
Christian: Do you ever think much about spiritual things?
Non-Christian: A little. I think religion is a private thing, though.
Christian: Are you saying that people shouldn't discuss religion with others?
Non-Christian: No, I wouldn't say that. I just don't like it when people blab on endlessly.
Christian: So is some talk about God OK?
Non-Christian: Sure. But not when a total stranger talks to you about God like they talk about the weather.
Christian: Oh, I see. You say it's a private thing because you don't talk about private things with just anyone.
Non-Christian: Exactly. I think your religion is something reserved for only certain situations.
Christian: It sounds like you think religion is very important.
Non-Christian: Yeah, but I don't know what I believe about God.
Christian: Is that something you'd like to find out more about?
Non-Christian: I think so. But where do you begin to find answers?
Christian: I think I've found some good answers. Would you be interested in what I've found?
By asking questions in our evangelism, our conversations can lead to conversions, rather than presentations that lead to preconceptions. An exchange of ideas might lead both participants to the truth of the gospel. For one participant, it will be the first arrival at that point; for the other participant, it will be a rediscovery and a new appreciation of the message of the Cross.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Josh Harris at his blog recommends Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman. Here's an excerpt adapted from the book: