Questioning Evangelism

Posted by tom | Nov 25, 2006

Randy Newman's Questioning Evangelism

Beginning on December 3, I'll co-facilitate an Adult Elective based on Randy Newman's Questioning Evangelism. Looking forward to working with Jim and starting afresh at a new location. I had the opportunity to hear Randy at our Baltimore/Washington Graduate & Faculty Ministry Fall Conference. Check out the notes below. They're rough. I'll try to sharpen them up in the future.

Randy began by sharing how he boards planes praying for an empty seat, confessing that he's truly a non-evangelist speaking to non-evangelists ;-)  Then he spun the plug theory, i.e., every country has a plug near its center. The location needs to be be kept secret or the country will go down the drain, e.g., Atlantis didn't guard it's plug well. We see in Genesis 7 that God pulled the whole plug at once, hence a worldwide flood.

What was his purpose in telling story? It's entertaining, but not believable. Cute, but not substantive. If he were to keep going with more evidence, it wouldn't predispose us to believe it. For anyone in our world today, believing the Gospel is the same. The more evidence we give, the more we want people to believe, the more we find our Gospel is as alien as the plug in the middle of Kansas. Randy didn't know if he was writing a book or long resignation letter. But it helped that Campus Crusade desired to reach a new culture. According to the Gallup Poll in 1950, 94% had organized religious training, whereas in 1989 only 6-13%. We need to create a lot of plausibility structures.

  1. Declare, state the Gospel
  2. Defend the Gospel
  3. Dialogue the Gospel, mix it up, more rabbinic in flavor, knowing how to make questioning evangelism. 

Many times Jesus didn't give straight answers. Natural for Jewish people, not to be funny, but to be engaging. "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Pull out the booklet? No, Jesus responded to different people in so many ways. "Why do you call me good?" He blew it, he's messing w/his head. "No one is good except God." I'm already inheriting eternal life -- no. I kept all these things since youth. Engaging at the very heart. The guy ended up going away. Engage thoughts, hearts, minds. It's a wholistic approach, questions are one thing.

In Acts 17, Paul reasoned with the Jews and some were persuaded. Like Paul's evangelism, our evangelism

  1. may be a more ongoing process than one shot evangelism. Installment thing, I think many evangelism training models assume we only have one conversation, like on an airport. What about the three Sabbath deal? 
  2. may be more engaging dialogue than declaring the Gospel. A dialogical process of getting people together to discuss, to digest.
    1. God is a personal God.  Do you think you can talk to Him?  Do you think He talks to you?
  3. may receive mixed reviews.  Note:  some believed, some rioted where Paul and Jesus spoke.
  4. is bad news before good news. Christ had to suffer. It means that the Messiah didn't come just to teach.  If would have we would not be better off. We would be worse off. We wouldn't be saved, delivered. He wasn't just an example. I have a neighbor who is difficult to live next to. We've lived next to him for 12 years. I just want to pray that the guy moves. I know what Jesus taught.  He's an example.  I need transformation, a Savior. I'm not that great of neighbor either, that gives me a compassion for my neighbor. The cross is the stumbling block. Our challenge is to remove every other stumbling block. Many things are unnecessary without compromising the message. Our goal is to be faithful to the message.

Four principles:

  1. Some people aren't even awake yet, they're not ready to engage in the thinking process for you to tell them things
    1. "It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you're sincere." That's insane, but said even by the highly educated postdoctoral in their field.  It's bumper sticker.
    2. If they're not conscious yet, ask them a question. "Do you really think that?" Practice it in front of a mirror. Francis Schaeffer gradually took them to the end of their presuppositions, e.g., Comet group that all killed themselves. "What is ok and not ok? How do you make distinctions?"
  2. Some things cannot be true. 
    1. "I think all religions are basically the same at the core." Share charts comparing the religions and how that position is indefensible.
  3. Some questions are not sincere, they're not real questions. They're attacks/insults. So one of the worst things to do is respond to the fool. Give a gentle correction. (Proverbs 26:6).
    1. Jesus' authority challenged. "Was John's baptism from heaven or men?" We don't know. "Then neither will I answer your question."
    2. Need to give answers to
      1. "Only you are going to heaven?"
      2. "Are you telling me you're a narrow minded bigot?"
      3. Try to engage "Do you believe in hell?" by asking the question back.  If you receive, "No, I don't believe in hell," reply with "Then why do you care what I believe about a place you don't believe exists." ... If so, ask "Is anybody there? Is Hitler in hell?" If, "Yes," then ask is "Anyone else, really bad people?  Who decides?  How? Ten Commandments? All Ten right? How about 8 out of 10?" Make people wrestle with the Gospel. "Pretty good going to heaven, right?"
  4. Sometimes a partial victory is best, very much the case in our world today. We don't have to move people all the way to a decision, that is the goal, but a whole lot of people in process from A to Z (alphabet analogy of faith decision making) and aren't at T-Z. 
    1. Four Spiritual Laws are great for that crowd, but not L, D, or negative D. Can God do that? Yes, but most people go from M to N or M to R. Meet people where they are at and more and more people are at the beginning of the alphabet.
    2. Two ideas for people early on: How do you believe the Bible. Isn't it at least possible if a God exists, that He'd give us his writing. Get them to maybe before, "Yes." Maybe Jesus was more than a man. Maybe people could rise from the dead, especially important for Jewish people. Consider that this is even worth considering.
    3. How do you know that all religions lead to God, everyone finds God in their own way? Who has influenced your thinking on that? Why did you accept their teaching? How do you know he's in a better place (funeral for a friend)? Say some things and let them out there. What do you think He met? Why do you think Christians do what they do? Story of Randy's Jewish mother's conversion at 75.

Two pictures from the world of sports:

  1. Muhammed Ali defeating Sunny Liston, get up and I'll hit you again.
  2. Derek Redman, 400 meter runner in Barcelona Olympics, pulled hamstring, limped to the finish line (father ran out of stands to help him across the line) . . . need healing

Nurturing friendships beyond tactics, listening is an important part of it.

I asked you first. There is a limit and a transition to let me tell you about my thoughts.

2 Comments & 0 Trackbacks of "Questioning Evangelism"

    i've been talking with a grad student at harvard regarding the shrill approach of too many evangelicals...it's almost cultic, this need for a "slam dunk" to annhilate every "attack" on our faith...i believe it reveals we're unsure of ourselves, don't have reasonable answers, don't have enough trust in God's control and sovereignty...and sometimes think a "great witness" means "wow, i nailed them..." francis schaeffer talked about knowing the best times to "push" and then when to "pull back"...as he ministered conversationally to unbelievers, in a way sensitive to where they were, he often felt that at a certain point they understood what he was saying, and that it would be ungentlemanly to keep pushing for a "qed", and "okay, okay, i surrender...you're right, i'm wrong...woe is me"...in a chess game, it's usually possible 2/3 of the way through a game to see we've been defeated, and really there's no need to be totally humiliated by "finishing the game"...evangelicals often think that to be "faithful witnesses" they must give immediate and quick answers to every question posed by an unbeliever...even though most of the "answers" might be glib and superficial...how much better to just say, "that's a good question...help me understand what you're saying...yes, that is a major concern...right now i don't have any good answers...but let me ask you a couple questions...i'll be thinking more about this, and maybe i'll send you an email so we can continue this discussion"...

    someone said (maybe arthur holmes, former philosophy teacher at wheaton) that "we have nothing to fear under the wide open sky of truth"...truth will win out in the end...but not necessarily now....it's not our job to convert anyone, or to think we have to dump the whole gospel on them with a "15 minute mini-sermon" everytime they say something "religious" to us...during the preparation in chicago for International Teams to europe, one speaker said he has never given a complete gospel presentation at "one shot"...he referred to paul's "one person plants, another waters, but God gives the increase"...for many people, it takes perhaps six years of contact with believers before God changes their hearts..."each conversation with a believer perhaps removes one more veil between them and God...perhaps we will be there when the final veil is removed, and they stand before God with no more objections"...

    there must be something about american evangelism that impatient for quick results, and always needs a "guaranteed method" to solve every problem...those with a strong belief in God's control and sovereignty should be more relaxed in their witness...

    Posted by Miller Peck, Nov 29 2006, 09:14

    With regard to the relation of faith, reason, and certainty, consider Certainty written for the IVP Dictionary of Apologetics by my friend john frame, a conservative bible scholar who is a professor at a seminary in orlando...john studied philosophy at princeton and yale

    Here's an excerpt: But how does that word give us psychological certainty? People sometimes make great intellectual and emotional exertions, trying to force themselves to believe the Bible. But we cannot make ourselves believe. Certainty comes upon us by an act of God, through the testimony of his Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4, 9-16, 1 Thess. 1:5, 2 Thess. 2:14). The Spiritís witness often accompanies a human process of reasoning. Scripture never rebukes people who honestly seek to think through the questions of faith. But unless our reason is empowered by the Spirit, it will not give full assurance.

    Posted by Miller Peck, Dec 12 2006, 12:19
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