Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Book Review: Questioning Evangelism

Questioning Evangelism. Randy Newman. 2003. Kregel. 272 pages. [Source: Bought]

What is Questioning Evangelism about? Is it anti-evangelism? I want to clarify from the start that it is not anti-evangelism. He is not questioning IF Christians need to evangelize. Rather he is insisting that they do need to evangelize, they just need to go about it better. He is "calling Christians to use questions in the venture of evangelism."

In the opening chapters, he mentions three basic skills needed to evangelize.

1) The first and most basic involves declaring the gospel, including the ability to clearly and concisely articulate the message of salvation. Declaring the gospel also includes the sharing of one’s own story or testimony. Every Christian needs fluency in articulating how the Lord changed his or her life and the difference that change makes daily.

2) The second evangelistic skill is ability in defending the gospel. Anticipating common questions, acquainting oneself with helpful discoveries from the past, and planning how to deliver this information in a logical sequence has to be part of “always being ready to make a defense” (1 Peter 3:15 NASB).

3) The third skill—and this is where Questioning Evangelism fits in—is built upon the foundations of declaring and defending the gospel. That skill is called dialoguing the gospel. Perhaps the most important component to this kind of evangelism is answering questions with questions rather than giving answers.

You might be thinking, is this biblical? is this right? Newman knows this, I think! And he writes, "I once did a study of how Jesus answered every question that was asked of Him in all four gospels. Answering a question with a question was the norm. A clear, concise, direct answer was a rarity." He continues, "Answering a question with a question, then, often has significant advantages over using direct answers. It brings to the surface the questioner’s assumptions."

The more I read, the more I liked the book. I could sense he genuinely cares that the gospel stays intact and is not compromised. Care more about the person and having an actual conversation with them, listening to them, seeking to understand them, and care less about staying on task and on script. Forget trying to get someone to make a decision during the course of one conversation. Forget about trying to check off from a list all the essential doctrines of the faith. Be in the moment, and, realize that God is sovereign. You are not responsible for persuading someone to come to faith.

I think one of my favorite, favorite chapters was on compassion. He writes, "When we plead for God to draw people to Him, we ourselves are drawn to those people. Making lists of those who are our “Ten Most Wanted” and keeping them in our Bibles can prompt prayers as well as soften hearts."
Answering a question with a question is part of a different style of sharing the Good News, one that I call rabbinic evangelism. Rabbis, using this style of debate, train their disciples to think about God and life. The method was used in Jesus’ day and is similar to what happens today in training schools called “yeshivas.”
Rabbinic evangelism is not simply a rational, logical argument. We must avoid the danger of thinking that a person’s reception of the gospel is simply based upon his or her ability to reason.
Rabbinic evangelism also is not a sales pitch. If we were to try and convince someone to “buy” the gospel, we’d shy away from some difficult words that need to be said.
Our failure to practice good listening hurts our attempts to convey the Good News.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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