Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did

by Randy Newman
2004 / 269 pages

If you have read Greg Koukl's book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, you will appreciate an earlier book that covers much of the same ground. Randy Newman's Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did deals more explicitly with developing relationships based on sensitive questions - and answers both wise and compassionate to the questions of non-Christians both genuine and obstructive.

Newman starts by justifying the use of questions in evangelism, by appealing both to the example of Jesus Himself and to the guidance of Proverbs. His use of Proverbs is one of the strengths of the book in Part 2.

Part 2 deals with "What Questions Are People Asking?" - questions like
  • why Christians are (seemingly) so intolerant, homophobic, or hypocritical;
  • why to worship a God who allows evil;
  • why the Bible is reliable; and
  • what's so great about marriage.
What makes Newman's discussion of these issues so valuable is that he distinguishes between the responses of the one who genuinely want to understand and the one whom Proverbs calls the fool.

Part 3 is the most penetrating: "Why Aren't Questions and Answers Enough?" Newman deals with roadblocks to our evangelism: our lack of compassion, our anger, or our compulsion to speak when silence is necessary (for instance, when dealing with people's pain - or their foolish arrogance).

Finally, the Epilogue reminds us that our personal relationships with non-Christians is the most significant factors in our witness to them, and a Study Guide pulls it all together.

The major caution I would give involves some of the references Newman makes - at least in my edition - to other authors or groups that are either not orthodox (Brian Maclaren) or as credible as they once were (Exodus Ministries); however, Newman's points don't depend on their support. I have not read the introduction by Lee Strobel (it was not in my edition), but the value of Strobel's support is weakened by his tacit acceptance of theistic evolution. As well, some of Newman's evangelistic questions in Part 3 may or may not be acceptable within a Reformed understanding of evangelism.

On the whole, though, Newman offers much food for thought, and much room for self-examination in an area of our Christian life that I certainly know I need to work more with. If you want to read about how to engage hearts the way Jesus did, you can find Randy Newman's book here, and here in Canada.

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