Remember the day before a test at school? If you’re like me, you spent that evening cramming as much knowledge as you possibly could into your mind in the hopes that most (if not all) of it would somehow stay there until morning. The next day you walk into class, but you’ve loaded so much information and expectations onto your shoulders that you’re incredibly anxious and there’s a sinking feeling in your gut.
This is how a lot of us feel when sharing our faith with our friends and neighbors. We approach them like we’re taking a test. Sometimes we remember everything we planned to say. Sometimes we stutter and stumble and start and stop our way through long-winded speeches. On top of that, halfway through our speech these folks clam up, fold their arms, and shut down.
Friends, there is a better way to reach the people in our lives for Christ! Instead of memorizing long speeches that culminate with the sinner’s prayer, just ask questions. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting we remain unstudied when it comes to the Gospel (or theology or apologetics). I’m also not advocating to ask any old random question. Rather, we should ask the right questions at the right time to lead someone to confront the consequences of their beliefs. It is this very act of asking the right questions that tests and tills the soil of a person’s heart to receive the Gospel (by the power of the Holy Spirit).
Here are two good reasons to use questions in your evangelism and apologetics:
- Questions develop relationship: The ancient Roman poet Publilius Syrus once wrote, “We are interested in others when they are interested in us.” If you treat your conversations like you would a first date and ask the right questions, you are instantly showing someone you care about them. Why? Because asking questions shows a person that you care enough about them and their thoughts to hear what they think. And you appreciate them enough to listen intently to what they have to say. Asking a question has the power to bring down walls of defenses and to keep the person you’re talking to actively engaged.
- Questions can be an excellent teacher: Jesus, the ultimate Teacher, asked folks a lot of questions. Sure, He gave speeches but He also posed effective questions and let people wrestle with their implications. I think this is because Jesus knew that asking the right questions is an excellent method of teaching someone what you want them to know. Galileo said it best: “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to find it within himself.” Sure, you can explain to someone why they’re wrong about their beliefs but there’s a great chance they’ll clam up, fold their arms, and shut down. If you ask a leading question that exposes a flaw in your friend’s thinking, and your friend can’t answer it, he is faced with an uncomfortable dread, what Francis Schaeffer described as standing, “naked and wounded before the truth of what is.” That is a much more effective teacher than any speech you could ever make!
Of course, asking these kinds of questions won’t be effective unless you have love for the people you’re in relationship with. Paul makes this very clear:
“if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing… I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2-3).
That’s why all of this hinges on making friends instead of speeches. If you can do that, if you can have good relationships and ask the right questions with folks, your conversations will flow more easily and effectively towards your faith and the Gospel message.