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Examples of Paul’s effective strategies are provided for the reader to apply in teaching others. Explaining the good news to new believers effectively will assist readers in being ambassadors for Christ. Paul’s teaching strategies for individual ministry and small groups, and, mentoring other future teachers are highlighted.
In this article you will learn:
- How to be a good listener and keep the focus on the other person
- How to use questions to dig deeper into the person’s beliefs and thoughts.
- How unbelievers hear Christians.
- How to listen, respond, and speak with a purpose.
- The importance and use of simplicity, explaining, and proving.
The Living Word:
Romans 12:6-8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
6 Since, then, we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, if it is of prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, let him do it liberally; he who leads, let him do it diligently; he who shows mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
2Timothy 4:3-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
3 For there will be a time when they will not put up with sound teaching, but in accordance with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
Proverbs 16:23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
23 The heart of a wise person instructs his mouth,
and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
As we are teaching others about the Word of God, our goal is to shine a light not only their minds but also their hearts. (Eph. 1:18) Therefore, as Christian apologetic evangelists, we are to do more than simply convey biblical information. Proverbs 16:23 says: “The heart of a wise person instructs his mouth, and adds persuasiveness to his lips.”
|16:23. A wise teacher chooses his words carefully. His wise mind guides his mouth, literally, “causes his mouth to be prudent.” As a result, his words will help and heal, not hurt. Listening to such a person makes you want to learn.|
The apostle Paul undoubtedly applied this principle in his teaching work. When he was in Corinth, “he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:4) According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary, the Greek word here rendered “persuade” means “Generally, to persuade another to receive a belief, meaning to convince, and in this sense used mostly with the acc. of person (Acts 14:19; 18:4, “he . . . persuaded the Jews,” meaning he sought to convince them; 2 Cor. 5:11). With the duplicate acc. of person and thing (Acts 28:23, “persuading them concerning [the truth about] Jesus”). With the acc[usative]. of person being implied (Acts 19:8). Used in an absolute sense to persuade of alleged error (Acts 19:26). Followed by the acc[usative]. of person with the inf[initive]. meaning to persuade to do something, to induce (Acts 13:43; 26:28).” By means of his convincing arguments, Paul was able to move his listeners to change their very way of thinking. His ability to persuade was so powerful that his enemies feared him.
Acts 19:24-27 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, an eloquent man, arrived in Ephesus; and he was well versed in the Scriptures. 25 This man had been orally instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; 26 and this man began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
We must keep in mind that, while we cannot deny that Paul’s teaching was a display of human ability (remember from whom we got our human abilities), it was also a product of the Holy Spirit and God’s power. He told the Corinthians, “and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:4, 5) Because all genuine Christians have access to the Holy Spirit and the power of God, as well as their own God-given abilities, all of them have the potential of becoming persuasive teachers. The question is, how? Let us take a moment to look at some really effective teaching methods.
Be a Good Listener
Luke 8:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
18 Therefore, take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.”
Jesus’ caution to his audience about how they listen proves just as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago. If one only hears the words, but not what lies behind those words, he will find himself in trouble with his spouse, children, employer, and everyone else he communicates with daily. More importantly, it could jeopardize one’s hope of eternal life. We need to consider more than the words themselves.
We must hear the words that are spoken, as well as the way they are said, the tone and the body language, to get the sense of what someone means. A common complaint of wives to husbands is that they passively listen to them, blocking out much of what they do not want to hear, because they oppose, or are not interested in what their spouse is saying. Sadly, we tend to be less appreciative of those who are closest to us than total strangers. Active listening is a form of listening that result in the speaker and listener having a full understanding of what is meant. There are seven points to active listening:
(1) Pay close attention to what is being said; listen to the ideas behind the words. Do not just hear, but also feel the words. Let the speaker know that you are listening, by leaning forward a little, looking at him, not staring, but having intentional eye contact.
(2) Look at facial expression, the tone of the voice, the inflection of the voice, the mood and body language. Get at the feelings behind the words. People generally do not say all that is on their mind or convey their true feelings at times, so the listener must pay close attention to the non-verbal signs.
(3) Turn off your internal thinking as much as possible. In other words, do not be thinking of how to respond to certain points while he is still talking, because you are going to miss the qualitative whole of what he has said.
(4) Let the speaker know you are paying attention by nodding from time to time, as well as acknowledging with verbal gestures.
(5) Reiterate is not a common word, but it means to repeat what you think the person meant by what they said, but in your own words, to see if you understood them correctly. “So, you mean … right?”
(6) The person you are speaking with will acknowledge that you are correct, or he will correct you and will restate what they meant, and likely in a more comprehensive way since you misunderstood. Pay even closer attention as they explain again, what they meant.
(7) When they have explained their message again, you must repeat your reiteration.
Considering how to listen proves vital if we are going to be an effective evangelizer. There has been no greater teacher than Jesus Christ because he was an effective communicator, as well as an active listener. While some may be effective speakers, very motivational and moving, they lack teaching skills. Every time we open our mouths to share the Good News with another person, be it five minutes, or an ongoing study with them, we must build a relationship with them.
Do Not Allow Yourself to Get in the Way
Passive involvement in a discussion can lead to getting in the way of our own objective. One must be aware that not everyone has taken the time to read a book on effective communication. Therefore, a person in the conversation may be someone who goes on for some time and gets lost or sidetracked with other subjects not relevant to the discussion. If that occurs, respectfully redirect them, or briefly explain that it would be best to stay on topic and offer that person the point that they were making.
Overzealousness also proves another way that we get in the way of our own objective. A trap that one can fall into with a very active mind is anticipating what the speaker will say. It can be rude to interrupt them by finishing their thoughts, or worse, to assume what they will say, and then offer feedback on one’s assumption. Many times, that leads to the response, “I was not going to say that at all, what I was going to say was ….” Each time one interrupts the other speaker unnecessarily, that person withdraws further and further from being an active participant in the conversation. Rather, let the person finish their thoughts, and hold off for a few seconds to see if they will start again before you respond.
The person, who may seem like a Bible critic, can make a believer defensive, which can unnerve most evangelists. If someone approaches a believer with an alleged error or contradiction, what should we do? We should be frank and honest. If we do not have an answer, we should admit such. If the text in question gives the appearance of difficulty, we should admit this as well. If a believer remains unsure how to answer, simply say that you will look into it and get back to them, making certain that you return with a reasonable answer.
However, do not express disbelief and doubt to people who have legitimate concerns about the Bible, because they will be moved even further in their disbelief. Moreover, it will put them on offense and place the believer on defense. With great confidence, tell them there is an answer. The Bible has withstood the test of 2,000 years of persecution and is the most printed book of all time, currently being translated into 2,287 languages. If these critical questions threatened its credibility, the Bible would not be the book that it is.
The evangelist must keep Paul’s words “knowledge puffs up” at the fore of his thinking because as one grows in knowledge and understanding, it is too easy to fall prey to a haughty spirit. After the evangelist has spent hundreds of hours listening to unbelievers talk about the Bible, one will hear the same thing many times. This is like watching the same uninteresting movie dozens of times. This can cause the evangelist to start speaking in a disdainful tone to the person who is speaking. It may be blatant, or even subtle, but the unbeliever will notice it, and while they may respectfully finish the conversation with the evangelist, they will not care what the believer said before the end of the conversation.
Proverbs 16:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
18 Pride goes before destruction
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
In the end, God has given each of us the right to make our own decisions. The evangelist that respects another person’s right to their views may win the day in the end. If a Bible critic goes through a conversation with both speakers having an equal time, they will feel that they were respected. They will be open to speaking to another Christian at another time. We must keep in mind that we are planting seeds of truth. Life experiences have a way of altering heart conditions. One unbeliever may have something happen in their life, which makes them more receptive to Bible truths, and the next Christian they engage will have success in watering those seeds.
Getting Beneath the Surface
In witnessing to others, there will come times when one feels the other person is holding back. The unbeliever really does not want to go deeper into the conversation because perhaps she does not want to offend. Maybe she views the Bible or God as foolish, and anyone that holds them as truth, just as foolish. Therefore, they just give surface answers to finish the conversation. Gently and respectfully ask some questions that will probe beneath the surface answers that she has been supplying. One could ask, “Can you tell me more about …? What is it that has brought you to this conclusion?”
In some cases, people hold back because of past hurts. Maybe their child died, and this has only reinforced to them that there cannot be a loving God. They may not feel like sharing the hurt, so he attempts to get out of the conversation. If a couple of tactful questions might get them to open up, go ahead. However, if it seems that additional questions will do more damage than good, let it go because they will respect the believer for handling the conservation that way. On the other hand, if the searching questions prove effective, and the person becomes emotional in explaining why they have not been able to accept God, do not get analytical; rather, be a comforter who is an empathetic and understanding listener.
How questions are asked can make all the difference. If one seeks answers that lie beneath the surface, we should avoid the “why” questions, because they come across in more like an interrogation. This may make the other person close down even further. You can use qualifiers to get deeper. Thus, it would not be, “Why do you not believe in God?” Rather it would be, “What has contributed to your understanding of God?” Another way might be to ask, “How have you have come to your current position on God?” Searching questions at the right time come about because a believer has been an active listener.
How the Unbeliever Listens to Us
Getting a sense of how one is listening to us, will enable us to determine if more time should be given to this one. The person we are talking with may very well be what is known as a judgmental listener. They are listening to us to ascertain whether we are right or wrong and are labeling us in their mind (‘that was foolish’), as opposed to hearing what we are saying. Then, there is what is known as the distorted listener. In other words, this one does not hear us clearly, because he is viewing us in a biased and prejudiced way (‘Christians are such fools!’). There is the stereotype listener, who also fails to hear our real message because they are labeling us in their mind, as “just a woman,” “Bible thumper,” “so naïve,” and so on.
There is also the resistive listener, who will not be receptive to anything that is not a part of his worldview. Moreover, anyone in opposition to their worldview is viewed as the enemy, and they resist anything they say, no matter how reasonable it may be. They think things like, ‘Why do these people not see that science has displaced the Bible as a book by man.” We also have the interpretive listener. These view everything through their preconceptions, ideas based on little or no information, just personal bias. They incorporate their life experience into what they are hearing, making snap interpretations of our every word. They filter everything through their worldview, their knowledge, and understanding.
Then, there is the association listener, who evaluates our Christian visit with everything bad they have ever heard of Christianity and the Bible, and we are guilty by association. No matter what we say, it is ignored, because they see us as a member of a group that they perceive a certain way. Of course, this could go the other way if they have a favorable view of Christianity. While these are the negative side of listening, it can give us an idea of why and how we could be shut out, before we ever get started. If we feel that we are unfairly dismissed, we could ask some open-ended questions such as ‘how do you feel,’ ‘what do you think,’ ‘what do you believe,’ or ‘how do you see these questions.’ Open-ended questions enable us to get to their heart condition, enabling us to formulate our arguments better.
Lastly, there are the persons that all Christian evangelizers are looking for, which is the receptive heart listener. One who has a receptive heart will let reasoning from the Scriptures in receptively, which will build confidence in what we are saying is true. We will be able to plant seeds of truth within this person’s heart; which God will make grow. In writing to the Corinthians, who were caught up in arguing over who was greater (Paul or Apollos); Paul made the comparison of a Christian evangelist with that of a farmer. The Apostle Paul planted the Corinthian congregation. Apollos came later on the scene and watered the Bible truths that Paul had already planted. Apollos with his passion and force, as well as his authoritative Scriptural refutations of the arguments that had been raised by the unbelieving Jews, was very beneficial to the Corinthian Christians. However, it was God, who made those truths grow.
1 Corinthians 3:1-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
3 And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to fleshly men, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, for you were not yet ready. But now you are still not able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?
God Makes It Grow
5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 Now he who plants, and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Keep in mind, that the receptive heart listener is not just the person, who shakes his head yes, as he agrees with your every word. Peter was sent to the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-38), who had rapid spiritual progress, while the Apostle Paul was sent to the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill.
Mars Hill (Areopagus) was a “prominent rise overlooking the city of Athens where the philosophers of the city gathered to discuss their ideas, some of which revolutionized modern thought. Paul discussed religion with the leading minds of Athens on Mars Hill. He used the altar to an ‘unknown god’ to present Jesus to them (Acts 17:22).”
The point is that the Apostle Paul was sent to people who were very knowledgeable, intelligent, and wise, people who only lacked the light to see the real truth. This was no easy assignment, but in the end, “some men joined [Paul] and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.” (Acts 17:34) Yes, Paul reasoned from the Scriptures in the synagogue with the Jews, and he reasoned with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, who also conversed with him. It says that he was “explaining and proving.” This illustrates that a receptive heart listener also includes those who require us to reason from the Scriptures; therefore, we have to have the ability to reason from the Scriptures. – Acts 17: 2-3, 17-18.
Effective Listening and Responding
In trying to communicate with strangers, it can be quite a challenge at times. We may deal with biases, prejudices, a person in the middle of life trauma, someone who has had bad experiences, someone who just lost a loved one, and many more communication challenges. We will be able to overcome some of the anxieties of starting a conversation, by taking a moment to consider some of these challenges.
One of the ways to deal with a challenge is empathy. We, in our hearts must place ourselves in their shoes, getting their mindset. Just because a person comes across abrasively about talking about the Bible, this does not mean that we let them go. There may very well be a reason as to why they are not open to a Bible conversation. This is where insightful, thought-provoking questions, can get at the significant part that has closed them down.
By employing active listening and allowing the person to vent, we will understand whatever issues we need to overcome. We might ask, ‘tell me, what caused you to be unable to talk about the Bible?’ This will let them know that we are open to listening. While they are expressing themselves, do not be tempted to resolve their issue, just listen as they fully explain. First, make sure we respond in a calm voice. Then reiterate what they said in a summary point, which will let them know we were listening and can appreciate their experience. In the end, we may not agree, but we can empathetically understand in some way.
Now, if we have a solution to what was mentioned in their past experience, offer it at this time. If we do not have a biblical answer, be honest, saying something like, “I can understand, and while I do not have a ready answer for you at this time, I will research it at home, and we can talk again.” This lets them know that we are going beyond what one would expect and that we are very concerned about them.
Speaking with Purpose
When we are communicating with another, we need to know what our purpose is and stay focused. This will help us with the preparatory work that goes into good communication as well. One of the best ways to have confidence in our success is to know the subject well and care deeply for the ones with whom we share it. If we are a serious student of God’s Word, who passionately talks about it with friends and family, always sharing new things that we have discovered, half of our battle is over in becoming a good communicator.
When sharing a biblical message informally with a person that we have never met, it is more beneficial to begin the spontaneous conversation on a current event so that we can build a little rapport. This generates a minor emotional bond or friendly relationship between us and the other person based on mutual liking, trust, and a sense that we understand and share each other’s concerns. For example, we may be sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, and lean in and ask the lady next to us, “have you seen the news about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting?” Spending a few minutes talking about the issues of that tragedy, and then transition to the Bible, by speaking of a time when those things will be no more. In addition, our current event need not always be a tragic one.
When going out into the community to share our faith with others, we will come across a variety of responses to our Christian message. Some will be interested; other will be uninterested, while a few will be quarrelsome or even aggressively confrontational. In the case of the last two, we must keep in mind that our evangelism purpose is not to win debates with strangers. If the person we are communicating with becomes argumentative, it is best to leave on a respectful note. It is not our goal to push ourselves, or our beliefs on another, as it will only further upset and alienate them.
If we are going to garner the respect of the person we are speaking with, he needs to feel that we have the knowledge about what we are discussing. He needs to feel like we are the expert in the conversation. If he periodically asks questions about the Bible, and we are coming across in a hesitant, unsure way, he is not going to have confidence in our purpose for being there. We need to empathize with how the other person is viewing us. Do we come across as believable? If they are going to accept our words as true, we have to establish credibility with them at the outset, conveying confidence.
To establish that we are honest about the truth is, do not rationalize, justify or minimize anything that we know is true. If they make accusations that we know are true, admit them, and go on from there. Keep in mind that reasonable answers are not the same as rationalizing justifying or minimizing. For example, rationalizing is an attempt to justify irrational or unacceptable behavior (i.e., make excuses). If someone has stayed away from Christianity, because of all the scandals he has seen in the news, and we say, “Well, we do our best. These things happen in an imperfect world.” This will come across as though we are dismissive of their feelings, appearing as if we are not troubled by immoral, unscrupulous activity. It would be better to show our righteous indignation and be troubled over the scandals.
Another way to keep our credibility intact is to be a person of our word. If we have a good visit at a person’s home and ask if we can return, and they agree to something like, ‘the same time next week.’ If we fail to follow through and do not return for another two or three weeks, this will remove our credibility. The person may have avoided doing something else because he knew we were coming and is now angry for being stood up. He is now wondering if he should give us a second chance. If they have given us permission to come again, ask for a phone number, in case we have to cancel. Also, if we are fortunate to start a regular weekly Bible study with them; be there consistently, because inconsistency corrodes credibility as well.
Being truly genuine is another way to keep our credibility intact. We have chosen to visit the people in our community because of your love for God, and our love for neighbor. It just makes sense that we are going to be sincerely involved in their feelings and issues, making them important to us. This should be evident by our tone of voice, our facial expressions, and our body language. It is another mark of respect when they can see that we are truly listening to their concerns, which gives them confidence that our biblical counsel (i.e., guidance) is going to be beneficial after all.
Another way to gain or lose credibility is failing to provide evidence for the claims that we make. No one is expected to have an answer for every biblical issue, but one too many, “I do not know,” “I am not sure,” “I will have to look into that,” and they will begin to doubt the credibility of the Bible itself. Regular inabilities in our defense of God’s Word will erode the credibility of the Bible and Christianity. As the apostle Peter said, ‘always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.’―1 Peter 3:15.
Roadblocks to Successful Communication
At times, there will be occasions when we will have to offer constructive criticism to the person we are speaking with, be it a person we just met, a person we have been visiting for some time, or a person in our Bible study group. The most important thing to keep in mind is that constructive criticism is directed toward the issue, not the person. If it is a Bible student of ours, do not offer any constructive criticism in the beginning. Take a moment to have some social discussions about things that set the mood as friendly, and then offer the feedback. If the person is relatively new to us, simply be as kind and as tactful as we can, and our love and concern will shine through. If there is a Bible verse, read it, and let it do the speaking for us, because people are more receptive to the Bible counseling them. Constructive criticism can make one wise and is necessary for growth, but too much of any good thing can have the opposite effect. If a person is excessively barraged with constructive criticism, he may just give up altogether, wondering why he should even try.
The way we express, ourselves will be a determining factor in our success at times. If we are one who tends to use positive ways of saying something, we are likely to elicit positive results. While some authors use the second person pronoun “you,” this is not an effective way to offer advice or feedback in a conversation because it is as if you are pointing your finger at them. For example, “you unsuccessfully, “you ignored,” “you assert,” “you say that,” or “you state that.” These same statements could have started, “May I recommend that” “one possibility open to us is,” “we can,” and “what could be considered is.” When we use pronouns that include “you,” leaving out the second personal pronoun, it generates more of positive atmosphere.
What is our purpose in evangelizing our communities? It is to carry out the Great Commission that we have been assigned, to make disciples for Jesus Christ, to bring persons into the faith, who will become our spiritual brother or sister. For a person, rightly to become a disciple Christ, it is essential that he clearly understands what he is being taught. It is also essential that we make ourselves available to teach.
Romans 10:14-15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how will they hear without someone to preach? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who declare good news of good things!”
Many have used these two verses as the foundational texts for sending missionaries around the world for centuries. However, these verses and others are just as important to the evangelism work that needs to be carried out by every Christian in their local community. Perhaps we should consider dialing back sending missionaries around the world and focus on evangelizing our own communities.
Christianity today, has sadly, fallen away from the evangelism that they had been assigned, the preaching and teaching of the good news, the making of disciples. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Ac 1:8) The first-century Christians were very zealous when it came to sharing the good news and biblical truths with others. In fact, the new believers were taught the basics of the faith, before they were baptized. Once they were baptized, they were immediately involved in spreading these same biblical truths to others. This is why just seventy years after the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ; there were more than a million Christians spread all throughout the then known world of the Roman Empire. Christians today, should have this same zeal because Jesus gave only one command that was to be carried out after his departure, the making of disciples.
Again, missionaries have been sent out throughout the last few centuries, but this is not the first-century way, it is the way of the last few centuries. However, over the last few decades, many trained in missions have come to realize the error of their ways. They have tried to grow the church by going outside of their community, to grow it back to their community. This may have been mistake number one. The other alternative was to grow from your community out to the rest of the world. Their second mistake was to use just a select few (missionaries), believing they were going to get the Great Commission accomplished. Of late, we hear much about having missionary churches that evangelize their own community, with their own members. Perhaps this is the best approach.
1 Corinthians 9:16 Updated American Standard Version
16 Now if I am proclaiming the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe to me if I do not proclaim the good news!
9:16–17. Paul wanted to continue the practice of preaching without pay. He explained that he could not boast simply because he preached the gospel. He insisted, I am compelled to preach. In other words, he had no choice. God had called him to preach, and he had to fulfill that obligation or fall under divine judgment.
How did Paul enhance his preaching ministry? He preached voluntarily so he might receive a reward. Paul frequently spoke of himself and of other Christians being motivated to service by a desire for reward and praise (Rom. 2:29; Gal. 6:4–10; Col. 3:24). Eternal reward motivated him as it should all believers. Paul did not want to lose his eternal rewards for preaching willingly and eagerly and without pay. If he preached begrudgingly or received pay, he believed he would be doing nothing more than simply discharging the trust committed to him. To raise his preaching above the level of mere obedience, Paul voluntarily gave up his right to remuneration.
The Value of Simplicity
Much of God’s Word is deep and quite complex, as it is filled with poetry, idioms, hyperbole, and apocalyptic language, figurative and symbolic language, religious terms, many different genres, and so much more. Therefore, as teachers, and evangelists, we need to simplify it, so that it is easy to understand. Once we explain a meaning behind a complex text and walk through how we got there, the truth is relatively simple. What we face in talking with people, are those who have read literature that misrepresents the biblical truth. Therefore, it is our goal as a teacher, to make the Bible easy to understand. If we are skillful at our task, we can take that complex and deep information and convey it simply, clearly, and accurately. Our goal as a teacher is never to make the information more complicated than it has to be. We need not add any more details than is necessary to convey the intended meaning. When we read a Scripture, we should ignore the urge to comment on every aspect of the text. For example, Matthew 24:14 reads, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Are we using the verse because we are focusing on the gospel being proclaimed, or the fact that it is to be proclaimed in all the inhabited earth, or that it needs to be proclaimed before the end will come?
Over time, we will notice that we have acquired just a few main points for many different doctrinal beliefs, as well as a Scripture or two for each belief. We will be able to talk, share, and defend such beliefs as inerrancy, providence, foreknowledge, the length of the creative days, what the image of God means, atonement, salvation, sanctification, justification, eternal security, the biblical view of baptism, the gifts of the first century, and so on. In time, we will find that these are easily referenced from our long-term memory. In the beginning, if our Bible has a concordance of Bible words or even a small Bible dictionary at the end, we can highlight these terms and there will usually be Scriptures with them. We may even write brief notes about context, historical setting or original language words. The more you discuss a belief, the deeper it is embedded in our memory and the more we will attain the ability to speak about it unrehearsed.
Once we have garnered the ability to speak from our memory and can effectively communicate with others, there is another successful tool in producing an impact. At the beginning of each belief, we might have what I call an impact statement, which is the best and most dramatic evidence we have, which is to be delivered from a couple memorized sentences for effect. Then, in the end, we have another impact statement, or simply reiterate the one from the beginning. Lastly, if we are using Scriptures and we have our Bible with us, it is best to open it up and have them read from it as we point to the text under consideration, having a significant effect.
Effective Use of Questions
Luke 10:25 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
A historical note here, “a lawyer” or “an expert in the law,” (HCSB), is not a lawyer, as we would think of one today. A lawyer was someone that was an expert in the Mosaic Law. However, this person would have the same level of education on the law as a lawyer would today, many years of study and memorization. Thus, this man would certainly know the answer to such an easy question as the one he asked. Now, if a believer is asked an easy Bible question, we might be tempted to just offer an answer. Certainly, as the wisest man ever to live, Jesus could have easily answered the question. Instead, Jesus wanted the man to offer his own thoughts, insights or understanding. However, Jesus knew this man was “an expert in the law,” and he recognized the man would have had a certain perspective on his question. In other words, the man was not asked because he did not know. Thus, Jesus asked,
Luke 10:26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
26 And he said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”
The man answered correctly,
Luke 10:27 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
27 He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
The conversation could have ended there. Again, the man knew the Mosaic Law, but seemingly wanted to see if Jesus would agree with what he knew. Jesus gratified him, letting him feel good, by giving the correct answer. Jesus responded:
Luke 10:28-29 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
28 “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Here again, the man looks to prove himself righteous, and Jesus could have just stated the truth, even the Samaritan. However, Jesus having insight into the setting, the Jews detested the Samaritans; so, while he would give the correct answer it would be disputed in a long, back-and-forth conversation, and the Jews who listened would have sided with the man. Thus, Jesus boxed the man into giving an answer by having him reason on an illustration.
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Luke 10:30-37 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
30 Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and laid blows upon and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by coincidence a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And on the next day, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’
36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
This man had to admit the elite in the Jewish religion, the priest, and the Levite, had not been neighborly, but the Samaritan proved to be a good neighbor. Jesus moved him to reason out a new way of viewing exactly what “neighbor” meant. Instead of letting the man walk him into a long debate, Jesus made the man do all of the reasoning in the conversation and moved him to admit something no Jew would ever utter, as well as grasp a whole new understanding of what it meant to be a neighbor. Jesus took this approach because the circumstances called for it. However, on another occasion, a scribe, another expert in the law, asked him the same question and on that occasion, he chose to give the direct answer. (Mark 12:28-31) Circumstances vary.
What lessons can we take in from the example that Luke provided us? (1) Jesus used Scriptures initially to answer the man’s question. (2) Jesus proved perceptive enough to take notice of the man’s agenda. (3) Jesus did not simply answer the easy Bible question but shifted the responsibility through a question of his own, by asking the man how he understood the law, giving him a chance to express himself. (4) Jesus complimented the man for a discerning with the correct answer. (5) Jesus made sure the man and the listeners made the connection between the initial question and the Scriptures. (6) Jesus used an illustration that was able to reach the heart and mind, where the answer was kept to the forefront. (7) Jesus moved the man to reason beyond his basic understanding of a neighbor.
Explaining and Proving
Acts 17:2-3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”
We have already spoken about the fact that Paul reasoned from the Scriptures. However, he did more, as one can see from the above, he explained, proved, and made an application. Many times, you may read a Scripture to someone, and while it seems straightforward enough to you, but the listener fails to see the point. You may do as we mentioned previously, highlighting a word or phrase or a part of the text, and then explaining the verse. We are doing that with Acts 17:2-3, as we highlight explaining and proving. You could also offer to walk them through the context like we did previously with Acts 17:2-3, when we backed up to verse 1, to show that Paul reasoned from the Scriptures because he talked with Jews in the Synagogue, people, who would be familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures. Another option is offering them additional texts that support the one the evangelist used. If the listener does not grasp the text and the explanation, add an illustration like Jesus did over forty times. Then again, asking the right questions might get the listener to reason on things further.
The person who makes a claim has the burden of proving it by offering sound arguments. As stated previously, one must give evidence that reasonably satisfies any statements that made. Never be troubled over a listener asking for proof, as they have every right to do so. By thorough arguments, rational reasoning, and serious appeal, you can overturn any faulty reasoning of the one who is listening.
When an evangelist talks to a person who makes a claim, he is then responsible for proving it. He may begin with a wrong proposition that forms the basis of his argument or from which a conclusion is drawn. Maybe, the sources he is using are biased, which can be pointed out to him. Additionally, you might note that part of his argument is superficial. Moreover, many times, if you know the issue well enough, one may notice the listener offering evidence yet failing to mention any facts that support his argument. Then again, one might point out that his evidence is not really evidence at all, but simply appeals to emotion, as opposed to reasons.
For Christians, the Bible is primary evidence, while other sources are secondary. However, as already stated, the majority of people no longer hold the Bible as an authority. Therefore, the evangelist must be versatile by being able to use both in conjunction with each other, or depend on the secondary evidence, until the listener begins to see the value and reasonableness of Scripture. For example, one may use the universe as evidence of a Creator.
The universe reveals God’s existence. It is evident that the things which constituted the universe could not have made themselves (see Cosmological Argument). There must be “a first cause eternally existing, of a nature totally different to any material existence we know of, and by the power of which all things exist; and this first cause, man calls God” (ibid. 26; cf. 28). Paine also argued from motion. Since the universe consists of matter that cannot move itself, the origin of the rotation of the planets is impossible unless there exists an external first cause which set them in motion. This First Cause must be God (Aldridge, 6:17). He also argued from design (see Teleological Argument). Since the “work of man’s hands is a proof of the existence of man,” and since a watch is “positive evidence of the existence of a watchmaker,” then “in like manner the creation is evidence to our reason and our senses of the existence of a Creator” (Complete Works, 310).
If an evangelist witnesses to someone who sees the Bible as the word of man, not the word of God, how should one respond? Seeing what Bible scholars such as Dr. Norman L. Geisler or Dr. Gleason L. Archer have to say may be helpful. However, the evidence is not the fact that they are saying it is the Word of God, but rather what they provide as evidence. Support from someone that agrees with you, especially the like of the above scholars is evidence, but it is low-level evidence. One could use science by starting with what Scripture says first, and then use science to confirm or give support.
Regardless of whatever one attempts to prove, the level of evidence required will be dependent on the person to whom you are talking. The average person may not need more than Scriptural proof, with some outside sources. Some may require a tremendous amount of evidence. A few people will not be convinced because no amount of evidence is going to persuade them to change their mind. Their heart and mind are closed to the light of truth. They are mentally blind. The evidence that will satisfy this person may not be enough to satisfy another. Therefore, one must pay attention to the listener to meet their needs sufficiently.
One must appreciate that the evangelist seeks redeemable ones, namely, ones who hearts, and minds are open to truth or can be opened to the truth. Believers do not seek people with closed minds and hearts. Jesus said, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” (Matt 7:6) One will recognize those who will not listen after some experience in witnessing. One sign is they present a claim that that the Bible is the word of man, not God, and is full of errors and contradictions. Ask for one, and they provide one that they feel is the nail in the coffin of the Bible. The evangelist offers them a reasonable answer, which they cannot dispute, so they act as though they never raised that issue and go on to another. The evangelist then gives them a reasonable answer to that one, which they cannot dispute. Instead of showing appreciation that they have received answers to these supposed issues, they act as though they never asked and move on to the next. Therefore, the pattern will continue as they do not seek answers, as they have a closed mind and heart. Our task is to reach those who willingly want to come to Christ.
Article Study Guide
- How can a teacher be a good listener and keep the focus on the other person?
- What are the ways you can use questions to dig deeper into the person’s beliefs and thoughts?
- What are some of the ways that unbelievers hear Christians?
- How can you listen, respond, and speak with a purpose?
- Why is it important to use simplicity, explaining, and proving?
Being an evangelist in today’s world has challenges that require Christians to work at their skill level. Increasing the skills of listening, questioning, explaining, and proving, will be of great value to you in your work. Always consider how unbelievers listen to Christians and thoughtfully approach each person with respect and confidence when you speak. Just like Paul, we know there are many people who will listen and receive Christ and others who will not.
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 Or to tell them what they want to hear
 Anders, Max. Holman Old Testament Commentary – Proverbs: 13 (p. 208). B&H Publishing Group.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).
 “Mars Hill”, in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al., 1084 (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003).
 The person we are speaking with may have reservations, because of all the scandals within Christianity. On the other hand, he may not accept Christianity, because of its history in the Crusades and Inquisitions. Another may have had real issues within the church of their past. These should not be quickly dismissed. Rather, they should be dealt with appropriately in the conversation, with empathetic, active listening, and righteous indignation over any injustice. Again, some may bring up (1) the Inquisitions, (2) the Crusades, (3) Christian nations going to war, (4) sex scandals in the churches, (5) hypocrisy and worldliness of the church, to name just a few.
 Quotation from Isa 52:7; Nah 1:15
 Richard L. Pratt Jr, I & II Corinthians, vol. 7, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 148–149.
 That is an expert in the Mosaic Law
 The denarius was equivalent to a day’s wages for a laborer
 Notice the hatred ran so deep between Jews and Samaritans that when asked by Jesus, who was the neighbor I the illustration, he did not say, the Samaritan, but rather, “the one who …”
 Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 573.