Questioning Evangelism (Book Review)

I recently had Randy Newman’s book suggested to me as a great text on evangelism. I just want to share my initial online research with you. I think I can put some of the concepts mentioned in these reviews/summaries in to practice straight away. I am looking forward to getting a copy in a few weeks time. I will let you know more about it after I have read it. If you have read it and put it in to practice please let me know.

Summaries at:

Book excerpt from Amazon:

A review on Questioning Evangelism from Amazon:

“Randy: How’s the weather down there?
Grandma Belle: How could the weather be in Florida in the middle of July?

Randy: How’s your family?
Aunt Vivian: Compared to whom?

In this way Randy Newman starts off his book on evangelism. Responding to a question with a question was the daily routine for Newman as he grew up in a Jewish home. Yet he points to Jesus, the master evangelist, as the supreme example in this. For Jesus answering a question with a question was the norm; a clear concise direct answer was a rarity. Take the rich young ruler for example – if ever there was a great opportunity to demonstrate how to explain the gospel this was it. Yet when asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus responds, “Why do you call me good?”

Newman argues that so often we are too quick to answer, and that as we answer with our perfectly accurate answer, they aren’t listening anyway. His point is that we need to engage their minds as well as simply present the truth. He says, “Answering a question with a question… brings to the surface the questioner’s assumptions. It also takes the pressure off you… this is important because as long as we’re on the defensive, the questioners are not really wrestling with the issues. They’re just watching us squirm.”

Throughout the book Newman illustrates with excerpts from his own work as a college evangelist over the last 20 years. With great openness he shows, not only the times he got it right, but also the times he got it wrong, and the lessons he learned from each occasion. He also gives practical suggestions throughout for questions you could ask, as well as giving dialogues to show how a conversation might go. These illustrations go along way to making the book practical, applicable, and easy to read. There is also a gentleness throughout the book that is extremely winsome. His way is not a triumphalist approach to evangelism, seeking to display wisdom and crush the opposition with knowledge, but a gentle way, seeking to understand the questioner, and seeking to provide real answers.

The book is divided into three sections, each full of useful content:

Part 1 – “Why ask questions?” – deals with the rationale and principles behind asking questions.

In Part 2 – “What questions are people asking?” – Newman shows how to, and how not to, answer questions like, `Why are Christians so intolerant?’ `Why are Christians homophobic?’ `Why does a good God allow suffering?’. There is a lot of practical wisdom packed into these chapters.

The third part – “Why aren’t questions and answers enough?” – he turns the focus towards ourselves and deals with our lack of compassion for the lost, the problem of when our disgust at sin becomes disgust at the sinner, and how we can fail to listen.

Newman speaks about recognising the `fool’ of Proverbs who shouldn’t be answered, of how and when to ignore questions, he speaks of asking questions to discover what really lies behind the original question, of grasping the hurt that someone has been through that may be disguised in a casual question.

As well as providing a useful method for evangelism Newman also conveys a lot of useful facts on a variety of topics that will strengthen the believer in their faith. This is a great book that will equip you for evangelism, and give you a way of thinking that will be much more useful than simply learning a set of rules or facts.

Buy it and implement it”


6 Responses to Questioning Evangelism (Book Review)

  1. georgiearm says:

    sounds good – look forward to hearing what it’s like. Real “how to’s” are what we need as well as a good foundation to build on.

  2. I had a concern about the author’s understanding of the motive for evangelism and true and false conversion:

    Second, we’re frustrated by the lack of lasting fruit. If you’ve ever led someone to Christ, and later found that person totally uninterested in spiritual growth, you know the pain to which I’m referring.

    Yeah, it is painful when people will not listen, but it is not up to us to do the work of saving people – all we are called to do is faithfully share the gospel. Our ultimate motive in evangelism is to Glorify and enjoy God. We do of course want people to have their eyes opened and to respond to the call of the Gospel, but that is not in our ability to do. That is the work of the Father drawing them by the Holy Spirit.

    I was, however, impressed by the author’s explanation of how he used questioning when confronted with college sceptics:

    Once a team of skeptics confronted me. It was during a weekly Bible study for first year college men in a dorm room. The host, in whose room we met, had been telling us for weeks of his roommate’s antagonistic questions. This week, the roommate showed up—along with a handful of likeminded friends. The question of the gospel’s exclusivity arose, more as an attack than a sincere question.

    “So, I suppose you think all those sincere followers of other religions are going to hell!”

    “Do you believe in hell?” I responded.

    He appeared as if he’d never seriously considered the possibility. He looked so puzzled, perhaps because he was being challenged when he though that he was doing the challenging. After a long silence, he said, “No. I don’t believe in hell. I think it is ridiculous.”

    Echoing his word choice, I said, “Well, then why are you asking such a ridiculous question?” I wasn’t trying to be a wise guy. I simply wanted him to honestly examine the assumptions behind his own question.

    The silence was broken my another questioner, who chimed in, “Well, I do believe in hell. Do you think everyone who disagrees with you is going there?”

    I asked, “Do you think anyone goes there? Is Hitler in hell?”

    “Of course Hitler is in hell.”

    “How do you think God decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell? Does He grade on a curve?”

    From there, the discussion became civil for the first time, and serious interaction about God’s holiness, people’s sinfulness, and Jesus’ atoning work ensued. Answering questions with questions turned out to be a more effective, albeit indirect, way to share the gospel.

    From Questioning Evangelism in Rabbinic Questioning

  3. billphillips says:

    Answering questions with questions sounds like a really good idea. The only problem is if you’re really slow-witted, like me, it could be difficult to come up with new questions on the spot. I guess after you’ve done it a while, you would develop some standard questions.


  4. That is a good point. I am not that smart either. From what I have seen of this book and Randy’s second book Corner Conversations he gives lots of examples like the one above to help evangelist come to terms with what it would look like. I saw some examples where he did it in a Drama script format – you could easily act it out in a Church performance.

    Yeah, I think standard ‘good’ questions would emerge after a while. It is a bit of a change from trying to ‘tell’ the gospel. Perhaps one could arrive at the same place in the end but use questions to get them there. I do know that it is possible to lead and direct a conversation through the particular question one asks.


  5. Pastor Chris says:

    I think his book is an excellent approach. The questions asked get behind the questions asked. We are not so much telling information as we are leading people TO their own discovery of the truth by using questions to point the way.

    I’ve listened to several of the on-line audios of conversations where clearly the evangelist is in charge. The questions when used are yes/no leading people logically to a predetermined conclusion. Several times, it seems the evangelist is not really listening to what the person has to say, but only to use what that person says against them.

    What I like about Randy’s approach is that its much more relaxed and gentle. The conversations have the same destination — to help a person discover their need for Christ. Yet they are not pushy or even agressive. I use this approach alot — to get at the question behind the question.

    Pastor Chris

  6. […] ideas on the task of personal evangelism. I was so excited by the chapter extract on Amazon that I did a short post about it. Well I’m now almost half way through. I think the writer is a bit careless for good theology […]

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