Answer Questions Like and With Jesus
The best way to respond to many questions we face in evangelism is with a question. And then to point the questioner to the ultimate answer.
Is your preaching and teaching ministry doing enough to prepare your church for the task of evangelism? In this series, Andy Paterson offers biblical encouragement that every Christian has a role to play, free from false guilt.
This is part 19 in the series.
In my last article, I tried to identify the main issues and questions that unbelievers have and broke them down into three areas: the emotional, the intellectual and the social.
Next, we should be ready to answer those issues and questions - with questions of our own.
Question answering questions
We should do this because it’s what Jesus did. Martin Copenhaver suggests that the New Testament records Jesus asking 307 questions 1. This was such a natural thing to do within the honour/shame culture Jesus was in, where unnecessary confrontation would be deemed counter-productive. But that does not detract from its value for us.
We should also do this because it’s a highly relational thing to do. We move beyond firing bullets at the other person from a distance to getting to know them better. As I’ve suggested, so many of the questions that we are asked arise out the questioner’s experience and it’s as we enter into their world that we can begin to grasp better what are the real issues that may lie behind the initial enquiry.
Questions also reveal that we are genuinely concerned for them and don’t see them as anonymous gospel fodder who will be satisfied with the generic answer. We really do care about their circumstances and family, their life experiences, and their hurts. Questions add colour and depth to the person we’re engaging with.
Plus, questions are the ideal vehicle to expose the muddled thinking that sometimes generates the enquiry of our friend. It allows them to think for themselves and own the answers that they come up with. It avoids the confrontational situation that provokes proud people to dig their heels in - which characterises ourselves as well as our questioning friend - and instead honours our friend enough to explore their own thinking and reasoning.
If this resonates with you, you might want to explore further the work done by Randy Newman in this area 2. It would certainly help you to be ready.
Jesus is the ultimate answer
Finally, we need to recognise that it is often very wise to get our questioning friend to Jesus as quickly as possible. After all, he is the ultimate answer to all our life questions and he is the focus of the Bible’s overarching salvation story.
When it comes to questions of suffering, Jesus is the glorious illustration of how God took suffering and brokenness upon himself and can empathise with us in our pain and distress. The cross, like no other place, speaks of the heights of God’s holiness and the depths of his love.
For the person who feels like an outcast or outsider, the story of Jesus continually shouts of one who came to be the friend of sinners; one who had harsher words for the legalistic religious professional than for the seeking soul; one who welcomed the riff-raff of society and melded them together as his disciples.
Well-shaped arguments are fine, rigorous logic has its place, propositions are necessary, but it is Jesus who towers majestically above them all in drawing sinners to himself.
Be ready to point them to him.
Next time: Understanding the questioner.
1 Martin B Copenhaver, Jesus Is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered. Abingdon Press.
2 Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism. Kregel Publications.
3 Paul Williams, Intentional. 10ofthose publishing.