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.
Posted on January 5, 2021
Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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I agree with you that questions are so much better than defining statements. I will use this and show others that questions do matter. I would encourage you to reword one thing, “prospects.” It shows that one feels superior to the other individual and wipes out all the good the article says.
I think it’s more cold language and not that of love and relationship. “Prospect” sounds like you are personally going to gain from them. Business style terminology like this can easily give the wrong impression.
Otherwise the points about the benefits of asking questions were good, and very true that “arrogant evangelists are seldom effective ones”.
Love this! You are right. Questions show that we care about the person we are talking to. I especially love your comment that questions invite the other person to express their objections to the Gospel. How can we address them if we don’t even know what they are? How can we love another person to Christ if we don’t really know them. Please keep writing!
Thank you Chuck this is a helpful spiritual guide asking questions which will lead in being more open with the people cause such conversations take away the fear from the challenges people are facing hopefully God will guide us in asking more questions.
Thank you for writing, Precious.
My experience has been that when a person offers new information or a new way of thinking it is helpful to find out where people are starting from. Years ago I was asked a question about our denomination’s liturgy and the phrase offered at Communion: “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast.” The first question in response to that question was “what does it mean to you when you say that?” Until I knew the foundation of the question I couldn’t formulate a meaningful response.
The same applies in other types of evangelism. Without knowing what you are building on you can’t be effective in building.
Plus, as my spiritual director and therapist offer when I make a statement “say more.” That way they have more clarity about what point I’m making and can offer constructive counsel.
Thanks, Les, for your thoughts.