[First, see previous article: “How to Evangelize according to the Bible.”]
Christians know that we are to gather others to Jesus or we will scatter (Matt 12:30). The mission of the church is to make disciples of all the nations baptizing them and teaching them all that Jesus commanded (MAtt 28:18–20). When Christians think of sharing the gospel with others, we often reflect on Jesus’s parable of sowing the seed and the types of soil. Some ground was hard, rocky, or thorny and so not ready to receive the seed that is God’s Word. Jesus taught, “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15 ESV). However, we either are surrounded by hard hearts, restricted by social expectations and, or have limited connections. We are wise to get more info from others and ask them what they think. Jesus asked His closest disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29).
An effective approach to evangelizing is to ask questions to get others thinking especially in a restrictive environment or a difficult circumstance. Anytime that someone comments on a current event whether you agree or not, you can ask, “Why do you think about that?” to gather information about how they support their position. Another way to say this is: “How did you come to that conclusion?” If someone says that she does not believe in talking about religion, you can ask her, “How did you arrive at that conclusion?” and, or “What reasons led you to that position?” Then you can start a conversation by asking her to clarify what she means by “religion” and why she does not talk about religion. That can lead to a friendly discussion about faith and the gospel of Jesus’s resurrection.
The question that Christians should constantly ask those who differ is “Why?” to draw out the person’s thinking and reasoning (if they have thought about why they believe what they believe). Whatever the discussion in any environment even if others expect you not to talk about your faith in God and Christ, you can sincerely ask this question of others and then listen without being argumentative. This can open the door to evangelizing and sharing the gospel of Jesus’s resurrection.
Immediately after Jesus fed the 4,000, some Pharisees came testing Jesus asking for a sign from heaven. Jesus replied, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” What fruit would come from Jesus asking that question? They did not understand that they just missed a sign from God. After this occasion, Jesus’s disciples were discussing not having bread other than one loaf while traveling on the sea (Mark 8:14–16). To get them to think, Jesus asked, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” (Mark 8:17–19). A simple goal is to get others thinking about God, Christ, and their actions.
Jesus was always asking challenging questions and so turning the tables over on those challenging His authority. Likewise, Christians can follow His example and ask others to explain their position. Jesus responded to unbelievers, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46–47; cf. John 8:43; 14:9).
Another way to start a conversation about salvation with a believer is by asking, “How were you saved?” and listen. You can then respond if there is disagreement, “I wasn’t saved that way,” and most likely open the door to tell them how God saved you by raising you from baptism as believers are baptized into Jesus’s death to rise to newness of life (Rom 6:3–5). If someone claims that baptism is not the essential moment of salvation, then we can ask, “Why do you believe that?” They may assert that baptism is a work. Again, we can ask, “How did you come to conclude that […baptism is a work]?” This is really repeating the same question. The Christian can follow this with “Can you clarify what you mean by that?” and eventually come to ask an ultimatum like, “You say baptism does not save, but Jesus and Peter say baptism does save. Who is right?” When the chief priests demanded an account of authority for Jesus cleansing the temple, and Jesus responded, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” (Luke 20:3–4). A question as an ultimatum is a good conclusion to leave someone thinking.
As the church of Christ, we should imitate Jesus by asking questions that will draw out the thinking of others or cause them to pause and reconsider. This can open the door for the telling the message of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection. The apostle Paul taught, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col 4:5–6).