Evangelism: a long word for the simple concept of sharing the good news of Jesus. What’s the best way to share your faith? While there are many methods, Randy Newman says one of the most powerful evangelism tools is the one Jesus used most frequently: Questions.
“Why are questions better than answers? When you ask a question, you engage the person in the answering process. That’s what we want to do- engage people in finding the answers–not just have them watch us struggle to find an answer. Jesus did that all the time, and did it masterfully.”
Randy says the “salesman” style of evangelism where we do all the talking might have worked in the past, but today, a more effective path is through dialogue.
“Things have changed so radically. We need to become masters at the two-way dialogue–asking questions, answering questions with questions–making it more back-and-forth, which really involves people in the process.”
“I think that is a mistake we made in the past the Christian church: we all want to try to find the one “sure fire” book to give to somebody, and I don’t know if that was ever a good idea. Our world used to be a lot more homogeneous. Now we’re so diverse and there’s so many different kinds of backgrounds, we need a number of things (to evangelize).”
The more familiar we are with the Gospel itself, in all the dimensions of how it changes our lives, the more comfortable we can be meeting someone else from their starting point.
“The great news is the Gospel is a is a multi-faceted message. At its core, definitely, is forgiveness of sins–Jesus died on the cross to pay for sins–but there are all sorts of implications that flow out of that, like finding purpose and meaning in life, finding understanding about how the world works, getting rest for the weary.”
“A lot of people don’t feel guilty (even though they are) and they don’t feel the need for forgiveness. Now we want to eventually communicate that to them, but we might start more with ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have some kind of framework to help figure out how the world works?’ Or “Why do I have these longings in my life that are unsatisfied?’ That’s a different route to the same core Gospel, but we need to know the Gospel so well, and see all of its different facets, so that we can point people from a variety of directions.”
Randy reminds us that the goal of evangelism is not to say all the right words the right way, but rather to play our part in showing people the reality of how much God loves them. It’s okay to be unsure of all the answers–just start by asking the questions.
“We want to know exactly how the whole thing is going to go before we start and that’s not possible. Instead, just start the process and see where it goes, see where the Lord takes it. Remember that you’re not alone in this conversation, that the Lord is working in the person’s life. so it started and see where it goes rather than having to try to figure it all out and be very willing along the way to go, ‘Hmm, I’ve got to think about that.’”
Discussions about faith are dynamic; they seldom go how you think they will. However, there are three basic skills we can learn help us strike up a conversation about Christ: declaring, defending, and dialoguing.
“Declaring the Gospel is basically just knowing how to state it concisely. We also need to know how to defend the Gospel: what are some of the common questions people are going to ask, and what are some of the good answers? We’ve got a lot of great material to help us with that today. Third, we need to be good dialoguers, how to have a good conversation, and how to be good listeners. Listen to not just the words people say, but the tone of voice, their facial expression, the emotions behind their thoughts. That’s a lifelong skill I think we all need to improve and work on.”
Randy Newman is the Senior Fellow for Evangelism and Apologetics at The C. S. Lewis Institute in the Washington, DC area. He is also an adjunct faculty at Talbot School of Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary and Patrick Henry College.
After serving for more than 30 years with Campus Crusade for Christ, he established Connection Points, a ministry to help Christians engage people’s hearts the way Jesus did. He has written four books and numerous articles about evangelism and other ways our lives intertwine with God’s creation. He is a frequent conference speaker and specializes in helping people of different backgrounds dialogue about issues of faith.