Are you good at asking questions, former procrastinators? I long to be better at that. Learning how is a way to say “yes” to God because question asking is a thought-provoking and caring way to get to know someone and to share the truth of the gospel.
In Questioning Evangelism, author Randy Newman helps us learn how to engage people’s hearts the way Jesus did. Questions can show our genuine interest in others, that we want to hear what they think, that we’re willing to interact and not merely lay on them a preplanned presentation.
Yes, we must “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (I Peter 3:15) Yet we must listen to know when they’re asking – and what.
Newman says listening might be the most effective tool we have in sharing the gospel, but also the most neglected. Listening, he says, can prime the pump of thoughtful dialogue.
He suggests avoid telling a story to match or top your listener’s. Ask for more details of their story instead of telling yours. Avoid using too many words or seeking to fill silence. Silence provides time to think and leaves the door open for future conversation.
He reminds us “Gracious listening flows from a heart that has been humbled, stilled, and transformed” by grace. It puts the other person first. Humbled, stilled, transformed by grace takes away lots of worry and panic. When I listen well, I communicate sincerity and am more likely to think of helpful questions.
Restate what you understood the person to have said and ask for clarification or correction, Newsom urges. Recognize the emotion behind their words and acknowledge the importance of the matter to them. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” or “That bothers me too.”
Questions can help reveal the true nature of the other person’s questions, shed light on where they’re coming from and what matters to them.
The author points out that sometimes a good question is “Would you like for there to be a God? Would you like it if Jesus turned out to be Lord?” Maybe they’d see what they want is controlling their ability to see truth. Sometimes we think something because we want to, not because it’s true.
Newsom addresses several topics (hypocrisy, why does a good God allow evil and suffering, etc.) that can interfere with someone’s ability to hear the good news. These merit our attention so we can be respectful and honest in our conversation.
Responding to a question with a question is more indirect but often more effective. If we genuinely care for others we want to be “more engaging, less confrontational.” It means more heart, less fear for both people. That appeals to me.
What helps you listen well and ask questions?