Monday, June 14, 2010

Questioning Evangelism by: Randy Newman

This book is about using questions with people; and answering people's questions with questions. It's about what Newman calls "Rabbinic evangelism". He shows how Jesus spoke to people this way and encourages us to be more interested in others and willing to stop giving answers and start really listening to others.

Is this approach all soft and fluffy, you may ask? He does answer this complaint; for example: "Confronting someone with unpleasant truths doesn't work in sales, but it is essential in evangelism." (p.36) He writes that we aren't to just be annoying parrots or manipulative salesmen. I'm glad he makes that point.

The antithesis he's fighting in this book is using a real unnatural formulaic approach in evangelism. Or, being to quick to pull out our list of answers and give ourselves a gold star. This is a good antithesis. That sort of approach is not really loving or normal. But, I don't know how many of us actually struggle with that.....

I think that this book might be the best for 1. Someone really rude and argumentative - or someone who won't shut up. 2. A new Believer with a lot of non-Christian friends who is overwhelmed and needs to see that evangelism can be a really natural and easy thing. or 3. someone with no non-Christian friends who needs a non-threatening way to begin deep conversations with relative strangers. 4. Someone who doesn't understand the basic features of communication and friendship.

However, I think most people who relate to non-Christian friends are already probably asking a lot of questions. In that sense, I was reading this book and thinking, "tell me something I don't already know." I'm not saying that with a complete bad attitude. It's just that he keeps bringing up the antithesis of people using pamphlets and stuff, and i don't know anyone in this church that actually does anything like that.

What's good about the book = it's super cool how he uses the example of Jesus and the wisdom from the Proverbs to make an argument for being more wise and (as he says) "Rabbinic" in our approach to others. Also, he really touches on big questions that people have (i.e. about sexuality and marraige, problem of evil, etc..) and helps the reader think through how to be wise in the face of such concerns. And I like that he is telling Christians not to just be defensive, and answer whatever question comes up - but he's telling Christians also to be investigative- to push past people's defenses and see what it is that they really think about life and love and faith and reality. In that way, the book has a great message that I really enjoy reading about.

I also really enjoyed all the example-conversations. That does get the mind firing. In most books, I think the examples can be a waste of time - but not in books like this one.

So, overall - I do recommend the book, especially in certain situations (i.e. the 4 types of people i mentioned above). But, I don't think the antithesis he's fighting is one that our church struggles with. In fact, I think that people in this church naturally employ the techniques he's talking about if they have love relationships with non-Christians. This book is about the heart and soul of friendship evangelism - and not just that; but all relationships in general ----- being others-focused! And pushing past the surface of things with questions.