To be honest, I wasn’t excited about reading this book when it arrived at my door. For years, I’ve been inundated with pleas to evangelize with challenges to incessantly invite people to church or use a simple, guaranteed type of formula. These forms of evangelism have been largely ineffective for me, and I’ve grown tired of them. I’ve chosen instead to invest my life in deeper discipleship, all the while feeling a bit guilty for not focusing on the beginning steps of starting a person on the journey. Then I picked up Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did (Second Edition) by Randy Newman. Not only was the physical feel of the book (it’s the kind of book that just feels good in your hands and makes you want to read it, which I’m sure fellow bibliophiles can fully admire and appreciate with me), but I was enraptured from the very first pages of the preface.
Randy Newman talks about evangelism in ways that I’ve been thinking about for several years now, but haven’t heard anybody else express in the same way. As Christians, we need to first and foremost value wisdom as we engage with others. I initially encountered this concept in written form through Miroslav Volf’s A Public Faith, yet now I got to read what this concept of living the wisdom of Christ in our interactions with others could look like in evangelistic conversations. Newman communicates this excellently by sharing principles on how to engage then providing numerous examples of how the principles may look in practice. He never shares things as a formula to memorize, but rather as principles we can embody and learn to contextualize. Each spiritual conversation with an unbeliever is unique, so he invites readers to also provide a unique and personal response. I absolutely loved how Newman’s content and communication style helped me to think outside of the box for my own friendships. Throughout reading this book, I’ve been reflecting on past conversations and relationships where Newman’s approach could have been much more useful. I’m now excited to adopt many of his ideas in future conversations.
My only disappointment of this book came in the second section. Divided into three sections, Newman’s book explores in Part 1 Why Ask Questions?, in Part 2 What Questions Are People Asking?, and in Part 3 Why Aren’t Questions and Answers Enough?. Though I highly enjoyed Part 1 where Newman lays out his principles and appreciated Part 3 where he addresses the limitations of this approach, the chapters in Part 2 appeared out of date. I imagined that the purpose of creating a second edition was to update the original content of the book to become more timely for today’s social issues, but it seems like the editors were lazy and didn’t account for all of the changes that have occurred in our culture since 2004 when the original book was published. This lack of update was highly apparent in the chapter on homosexuality. While the publisher may have made minor edits, the majority of sources cited are now over twenty years old. Only two suggested readings were included that have been written after 2004. Considering how much literature and research has been published in the last decade, it’s a real shame that neither the publisher nor author found it beneficial enough to include anything new. With such a polarizing issue in today’s culture, this chapter needed to be entirely rewritten rather than only minimally edited. What worked in 2004 does not work in 2017. Age throughout the book also showed in the types of illustrations and stories used. Whether another story about September 11th or a reference to the old reality television show Elimidate, a significant number of stories failed to be relevant to the current cultural landscape. If nothing else, they could have changed Al Qaida to ISIS. (Sorry, if that’s a low blow, but hopefully you see my point.)
Overall, I’d recommend Part 1 of this book to all of my Christian friends, also informing them that if they read Part 2 to take everything with a grain of salt.
Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
* A special thanks to Kregel Publications for providing a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.