Questions and Doubts Can be Keys to Evangelism
by Rob Haynes
Content Development Team
World Methodist Evangelism
When I talk to some Christians about sharing their faith with others, they seem scared or even threatened. Often their concern is that someone may resist their efforts at evangelism and ask them questions they cannot immediately answer. However, in Scripture we see that God is not afraid of peoples’ doubts. The account of the Resurrected Jesus’ interaction with Thomas in John 20:24-29 is but one example that tells us that God welcomes those who have questions.
Researchers tell us that, in many parts of the world, the numbers of non-religious people is on the rise. People in this group would not readily label themselves as “religious” yet many of them are open to spiritual conversations. Years ago, I worked in a business where I had a co-worker named Bill who did not consider himself “religious.” He would rather spend time outdoors on a Sunday morning rather than in a Christian church. Over time, I learned that Bill had an interest in spiritual things when he started talking about “Bob.” Bob, you see, was the name he decided to give to God. In a bit of rebellion against the religious establishment, he chose this name rather than “God” or “Jesus.” But I learned that he and I held some of the same beliefs about God, as revealed in Jesus. This points to an important point when sharing faith with people who question or doubt: faith-sharing is often a dialogue of questions and answers on both sides.
Sometimes we will share our faith with others, and they will answer with skepticism and doubt. This is no reason to be afraid or to withdraw from the relationship. Rather, we can approach these as open doors to longer conversations and allow God to shape both us and the other person. When we are sharing faith and someone approaches us with questions and doubts, we need not be concerned with having all the correct answers. We can look at it as a chance to learn more about the other person, about God, and about how God is working in both of us.
Maybe you know someone like my old co-worker Bill. If you seek out ways to share your faith you will certainly meet people like Bill before too long. When you do, I encourage you to use purposeful conversations like these to help understand the other person. Pray that the Holy Spirit gives you the wisdom to answer with the Truth of the Gospel. As you do so, I want to offer three questions that may guide your conversations as you talk about Jesus.
- What do you mean by…? Ask the other person to clarify the terms they are using. You may find that the two of you are not even using the same terms. When you think of “God” what are you thinking of? The other person may be defining God in a completely different way. Clarifying these assumptions right away will help you. You can offer a scriptural outlook to the person to correct misunderstandings.
- Where did you learn that..? Find out what the other person is using as their source of information. This will give you some good talking points. Unsurprisingly, my colleague Bill got his information from a variety of sources, some of which were more reliable than others. By offering lessons from the Bible about Jesus, I was able to share with Bill what I knew to be true.
- Have you ever considered…? You can offer a counterpoint in a way that is non-confrontational. This allows you to hear the other person’s concerns and questions. You do not have to come up with an immediate answer to their challenges. Rather, this allows you time to formulate an answer. Has there ever been a time when you walked away from an encounter and thought later, “I wish I had said…” A response like “have you considered” allows you time to go back to other person at a later time and say, “You know, I was thinking about our conversation last week. Have you considered…?” This also shows that you value the person and the relationship enough to keep it in your mind when you are apart.
This line of discussion requires us to be in regular dialogue with others of various states of spiritual growth. It means that we should seek out relationships with others who may not be Christians. For some of us, that is uncomfortable. But take courage! We know that God is already working in that person’s life, already calling them to a relationship with Him. That means that when we listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting we will know when to speak and what to say. This certainly takes the pressure off, doesn’t it? Jesus shows us a purposeful, loving conversation with those who express doubts about faith can have a powerful impact. These conversations begin, and are maintained by, working on intentional relationships with others. Where is God leading you to such relationships and conversations?