Questioning Evangelism

Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did

Randy Newman, in his book Question Evangelism: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did, presents a type of evangelism—"questioning evangelism"—and he also questions the current practice of evangelism, noting the various strengths and weaknesses of popular trends of the Christian practice. These elements can be seen from the title, Questioning Evangelism. Though Newman certainly does both, the former presentation of this type of evangelism receives the book’s emphasis.

Part 1

Part One is titled Why Ask Questions, where he presents what he thinks to be a better way to evangelize: “It involves more listening than speaking, inviting rather than demanding a “decision.” Perhaps the most important component to this kind of evangelism is answering questions with questions rather than giving answers.”[1] Supporting this claim, Newman pulls from Proverbs.[2] He draws out four main principles from the Solomonic literature: (1) Avoid an argument, (2) Recognize a fool, (3) Remember that people are people, and (4) Remember the power of the tongue.[3] Chapter three then explores the inner-workings of asking questions and how they “pave the way for sinners.”[4]

Part 2

In Part 2, Newman explores various questions that nonbelievers are asking, ranging from “Why are Christians so intolerant” to “What’s so good about marriage?” The main point of this section—which covers over half of the book—is to familiarize the reader with key critical questions that nonbelievers are asking in our time, so that he or she can understand how to respond to such questions, whether they be genuine inquiries or subtle attacks.[5] Here, Newman gives several positive and negative example scenarios of possible conversations regarding the specific questions listed.

Part 3

Lastly, in Part 3,[6] Newman addresses three questions: “The question of compassion,” “the question of anger,” and “the question of silence.” Regarding compassion, he addresses what he calls the “Jonah complex,” a lack of care for an enemy’s salvation.[7] Later on he gives three steps one could take towards a more compassionate disposition towards others:[8] (1) Confessional prayer: “We must confess our lack of concern [to the Lord],” (2) Praying for those who do not know Christ, because through prayer we will be more closely drawn to those people, and (3) Empathy: “seeing things from our neighbor’s perspective. Drawing again from Proverbs, Newman explores the many strings attached to anger.[9] Regarding silence, his main question is: “When is it time to shut up?”[10] Then, drawing once again from Proverbs, Newman develops an argument for why we should intently listen to others.[11] He then provides both positive and negative examples.

Conclusion and Personal Takeaways

I thought the book was incredibly helpful, although it was not at all what I was expecting! I thought the book would be about questioning evangelism—i.e., a reevaluation of the current state (or the state of the year 2004, when this book was published) of evangelism—but it is more about "questioning evangelism" as a type of evangelism. I’ve always thought that listening is key in this discipline, but I have never thought to respond to questions with questions. By showing that this is how Jesus regularly addressed his challengers, Newman had me convinced. Here’s an example of what set the hook for me:

"Answering a question with a question, then, often has significant advantages over using direct answer. 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. Shifting the burden of the response is important because as long as we’re on the defensive, the questioners are not really wrestling with issues. They’re just watching us squirm."[12]

I am on board with this principle. It’s the most biblical and attractive approach that I have been exposed to—and I have seen fruitful results because of it. I highly recommend the book.


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[1] Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004), 26.

[2] His use of Proverbs impressively permeates the entire book and is a compelling ground for this general argument. What Newman is prescribing is anything except novel. On the contrary, as he demonstrates through use of Proverbs, this evangelistic strategy is ancient.

[3] Newman, Questioning Evangelism, 42–53.

[4] Ibid., 54.

[5] Ibid., 75–210.

[6] Ibid., 211–255.

[7] Ibid., 211.

[8] Ibid., 221–225.

[9] Ibid., 221–225.

[10] Ibid., 240–255.

[11] “Proverbs repeatedly encourages us to minimize our words and, by implication, replace them with listening ears,” ibid., 241.

[12] Ibid., 29.