Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did" by Randy Newman

Dr. Dean Smith (Pastor of The Highway Community in Mountain View and Palo Alto) was the professor of my class "Practicing Evangelism & Apologetics" in the Fall of 2009. During that semester we were required to read three books:
1) "The Universe Next Door", by James Sire
2) "The Reason for God", by Timothy J. Keller
3) "Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did" by Randy Newman

The most practical of the three was Newman's "Questioning Evangelism" which helped take readers from merely filling up the head with information, explanations of varying worldviews and philosophies, and formulaic apologetic presentations, and move them towards the Rabbinical style of questioning, one that engages participation in conversations with skillful questions instead of setting up arguments that polarize communicators into defensive/offensive positions with propositional statements and emotionless facts.

Some of the book's standout chapters are:
"Why Are Questions Better Than Answers?"
"Why Are Christians So Intolerant?"
"Why Should Anyone Worship a God Who Allowed 9/11?"
"Why Are Christians So Homophobic?"
"If Jesus Is So Great, Why Are His Followers Such Jerks?"

The titles alone effectively grab the attention of readers who may or may not already hold preconceived answers, and Newman does a great job of unfolding the issues in a considerate dialogue while raising plausible structures for truth and reason, with a healthy balance of compassion and love.

During my early years as a Christian, I read popular apologetic materials like Josh McDowell's classic "More Than a Carpenter" and later Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ" and "The Case for Faith". While there was and still is great value in the direct approach of the Q&A interview model found in these books, Newman (a Campus Crusade for Christ staff member himself) has taken more of the Rabbinical approach to asking questions, not so much with a direct Q&A approach (where the questions and answers are quick and succinct), but rather he suggests the kind of questioning styles that create opportunities to build relationships, earn trust, and allow ideas to grow instead of feeding them to others propositionally.

As Newman writes: "The goal of Questioning Evangelism is to help people know how to think about an issue than what to think...More important, though, readers will grow in confidence, knowing what to ask, because this book is about questions" (p. 15-16).

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