Looking for a short read that’s insightful and practical? Check out a very accessible book called Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman.
I almost put this on the required reading list for my “Practicing Apologetics and Evangelism” class at Western Seminary, but I ended up leaving it off, thinking the course load was already pretty tough. In hindsight, I should have gone ahead and assigned it. Or at least suggested it as a supplement. It’s a very easy read, but it’s got a lot of great questions you can use immediately when talking to your skeptical friends and family members about spiritual things.
Why is it called “Questioning Evangelism?”
The title could be a bit misleading. But I think it’s meant to arouse your curiosity, which is actually one of Randy Newman’s key points in the book.
Newman says, “At times (far too many, I’m afraid), I’ve answered questions with biblically accurate, logically sound, epistemologically watertight answers, only to see questioners shrug their shoulders.” But he isn’t questioning the task of evangelism at all. No, he’s actually talking about using well-thought out questions as part of our evangelistic strategy. This is what’s behind the subtitle, “Engaging People’s Hearts The Way Jesus Did.”
From the back cover:
This questioning style of evangelism is without formulas, without answers to memorize, and you don’t have to have a Ph.D. in theology to use it. If it sounds too simple, don’t worry. It worked for Jesus; it will work for you.
5 Key Principles for Questioning Evangelism
Early on in the book, Newman sets evangelism in the context of 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, focusing on the importance of dialogue, discussion, challenging questions, and well crafted explanations. He talks about 5 key principles.
- We need to awaken people “lulled into believing the illogical…Rousing them from sleep must happen before we present any gospel content.” For example, he suggests responding to an assertion like, “All religions are the same” with a question like, “Really?” And then begin to draw out the other person by asking something like, “Do you really think your religion is the same as all others?”
- We need to help people see that some things can’t be true. For example, assertions that are self refuting.
- We need to help people see that some things can be partially true–And we shouldn’t have a problem conceding that this or that religion might contain some truth. But Newman follows this concession up with, “So?” In other words, he suggests asking, “What follows from that?”
- We need to help people see that some things might be true (Isn’t it possible that Jesus rose from the dead?”
- We can know the truth. He suggests responding to assertions with questions like, “Have you read something that sold you on that idea?” or “What’s the strongest case for that?”
Newman spends the rest of the book helping Christians think through tough questions their skeptical friends may ask. He also tackles tough questions Christians may be asking themselves. One of the key things I took away from this book was his encouragement to adopt an attitude of unconditional love. Sincerely saying something like, “I’ll be your friend no matter what” goes a long way in opening your friend up to honest conversations about spiritual things.
Example: The Hypocrisy Question
My favorite chapter explores the question, “Why are there are so many hypocrites in the church?” I’ve been asked this question a lot.
Newman suggests avoiding a straightforward answer. Why? Because this attack is often all about discrediting the church and it’s messangers. Your friend probably doesn’t feel outrage or pain over a lapse in righteous living. According to Newman, the motivation is most likely self-justification.
But if they’re in pain, empathize. If they’re legitimately outraged, join them. Newman suggests a response like, “Oh, that is hypocritical. I don’t blame you for being upset.” “You don’t think hypocrisy is the kind of behavior the Bible really teaches do you?
Newman also suggested the hypocrisy question can lead into a discussion of the good news. He says, “Somehow, people got the idea that Christians claim to be prefect.” He talks about admitting our own hypocrisy as the basis for our need for the cross.
J.P. Moreland says:
“This book is must reading for those who want to learn how to bring apologetics into evangelism in a biblical and relationally sensitive sort of way.”
D.A. Carson says:
“This book reflects both a deep grasp of biblical theology and a penetrating compassion for people. How very much like the Master himself!”
I enjoyed Questioning Evangelism and highly recommend it to every Christian who wants to be a better ambassador of Jesus Christ.
Look inside the book, Questioning Evangelism, on Amazon.