As a professor of evangelism and missions, I hope that one of your 2021 New Year’s resolutions is to evangelize more often and more regularly. If so, I encourage you to use more question marks (that is, ask questions) than exclamation points (make strong, forceful statements). I am not suggesting we compromise or soften the truths of lostness and salvation, but I am suggesting we need to ask more questions as we get to the gospel truth. Here’s why:
- Asking questions shows humility. In general, questions are an admission that we don’t know everything. We do have the only answer in Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we know everything. Arrogant evangelists are seldom effective ones.
- Asking questions says, “I care about you.” When you ask questions—particularly about the person you’re evangelizing—you show concern. You treat the person as a person, not as an evangelistic project.
- Asking questions says, “I want to know what you’re thinking.” Evangelism thus becomes dialogue more than monologue, which promotes ongoing conversation. Because evangelism is seldom a one-time event, this conversation is important.
- Asking questions helps move the other person toward a personal discovery of Jesus. For example, asking the question, “How do you take care of your soul?” leads the person to at least consider the importance of soul care. That’s usually better than saying something like, “You have to deal with your soul!”
- Asking questions invites the prospect to talk about his or her obstacles and objections to the gospel. If we don’t know those concerns, we might not be addressing the very issues that stand in the way of the prospect’s following Christ. Questions offer an opportunity for the prospect to share honestly without fear of ridicule.
- Asking questions softens conversations about those obstacles and objections. Particularly when those objections are blatantly unbiblical (e.g., “I don’t believe Jesus is the only way to God” “I’m a good person, so God will accept me,” or “My lifestyle of _X_ is okay”), it’s easy to get passionate—even unkind at times—in our response. Simply asking more questions can still answer the objection without getting defensive.
- Asking questions can be clarifying for both the evangelist and the prospect. Asking “Why do you think that way?” or “Can you explain that more so I know what you mean?” informs the evangelist and pushes the prospect to consider his or her thinking processes. Both are good results.
I pray 2021 will take you into many more gospel conversations. May you ask more questions, and may non-believers find their answers in Christ.