Questioning Evangelism is (unsurprisingly) a book that aims to transform the way that we view evangelism. With such a universally important and practical topic on the table, we all hope that some wise advice could help us. This is especially true if, like me, you are not a naturally born people person. Some people are gifted at evangelism, but while I try, I am definitely not one of them. I often end up in discussions where I am being asked the sort of questions where answers sound defensive. I genuinely want the person to be engaged in the discussion, rather than have an argument, but our world views collide, and I am always the one left justifying my position, while society agrees with their views, so no explanation of their viewpoint is required. I can leave these conversations feeling exhausted, wondering how I ended up on some random topic of the bible, and not having clearly presented the gospel at all (does this sound at all familiar? I am convinced I am not the only one whose attempts at evangelism look a bit like this). While I know that God can use anyone’s rubbish attempts at evangelism to convert someone, wisdom in how we present the gospel and Jesus through our conversations shouldn’t be neglected.
This book doesn’t aim to address why evangelism is important (though the last couple of chapters try to address some aspects), but rather uses years of accumulated experience to try and help us engage non-Christians in more meaningful discussion. The principal being proposed is one where we answer a non-Christians question, with our own question, so that rather than trying to sell them a neatly packaged 2 minute gospel, their world view is challenged. Once they are engaged, the gospel can then be shared more naturally. This is termed as dialoguing the gospel, as it aims to enable deeper conversations that focus upon understanding and challenging our friends/colleagues/neighbours, as well as presenting them with the gospel.
As a whole I think the concept is worthwhile, and, as Randy points out, one that Jesus used often. Rarely did Jesus ever answer someones question directly, and he would often reply with seemingly unrelated questions:
“By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” 29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” (Mark 11:28b-30)
Modelling Jesus and the apostles in our methods of discussion is not a bad place to start. The book takes common, difficult to handle topics, which often arise in discussions with non-Christians, and presents some theology and example conversations. In an increasingly secular, “post-truth” world, how do we discuss God’s truth, and our need for the gospel? Maybe challenging people’s logic and perceptions is an important step in the evangelistic effort.
The example conversations show how a Christian might lovingly turn a conversation around, such that the non-Christian must also examine their own world view. I don’t agree with the theological reasoning in some the conversations, which I feel is the book’s greatest weakness. I can see many people learning the arguments provided in the conversations, so if any of them are inconsistent with the bible, this could be very unhelpful to non-Christians (I will post the details about this in my in-depth review, In Depth Review of Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman).
Overall though I believe this book is helpful, and can allow us to stop trying to “sell” people the gospel, and instead challenge them to seriously consider the gospel as a feasible world view that they should explore.
Image courtesy of Randy Newman, who I would like to thank for this. In the effort of full disclosure, I bought the book myself and wrote both the general and in-depth review without Randy’s knowledge. I only reached out to him after publication of both parts, and he provided me with the image without reading my review. Therefore, Randy giving me the image does not mean he endorses or agrees with my review.
If you want to find out more about the format of my book reviews see: https://assuredinchrist.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/how-book-reviews-are-going-to-work/