Friday, 19 May 2017

How do you ask questions?

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew how to ask questions in a way that was extremely effective whenever you shared the gospel? Being able to do this would mean that your conversation and communication would dramatically improve.  In fact, I am certain that questioning in the right way can really open doors for us to share the good news more successfully.
I heard it said recently that Jesus was the great questioner.  I believe that is true because you only have to look through the scriptures to see that Jesus asked people many questions as He conversed.  He knew exactly what He was doing, completely understanding how to ask questions in a way that would elicit the answer he was looking for.  He had the uncanny ability to do this to get to the truth within people’s hearts.  He is the best example for us to follow, and as I’ve said many times before, He is without a doubt the best model of an evangelist that we could wish for.
I could have used many examples of questions from the gospels.  I have chosen the direct questioning Jesus used with Nicodemus in John chapter three.  This is the well-known passage where Jesus explained about the necessity of being born again.  We know that Nicodemus struggled to understand this, which caused Jesus to ask the question, “‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things”?  John 3: 10
I love this question because it exposed the truth. Jesus was basically saying, “If you really knew who is really standing before you talking, you would know what I am saying is the truth.
Key point: The truth of the matter is that most people who come to Christ on a one to one basis, do so through conversation and questioning.
One thing is certain, when we get down to witnessing with the aim of having meaningful conversations, we will have to ask questions.  There is simply no way to get around it. The truth of the matter is that most people who come to Christ on a one to one basis, do so through conversation and questioning.
I have taught communication-based subjects for a number of years.  Here are three examples of questioning that yield results.
Open versus closed questions: Closed questions typically invite a short answer, or very often a yes or no reply.  Whereas, open questions invite a longer response because they require more thought than a simple one-word answer.
As well as this, using this type of questioning gets the person you are in conversation with to think about their answers and consider how they will reply.  This enables us to uncover exactly what a person thinks or believes.
Closed question – “Do you believe in God”? Answer “No”.
Open-ended question – “What do you think happens to people when they die”?
This question could receive a short answer, but in most cases, in the process of a genuine conversation, you will receive a longer response which could lead to a lengthier interaction.
Probing questions: These are questions that enable you to get nearer to the truth.  They get below the surface and when used effectively they help you to understand more about your hearer’s knowledge and beliefs.  The important point to remember here is that you should not pump people for information like an interrogation, as this will put them under pressure and drive them away.  Plan to ask these types of questions carefully and strategically.
When you receive answers, make sure that you demonstrate that you are listening intently to what they’re saying.  This shows you are interested and that you value the person you are in conversation with. “We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” James 1:19-20
You can even use questions that repeat the person’s previous answer. This further demonstrates that you been listening attentively, which importantly develops trust to a greater level.
Probing question examples  –“I think that it is really interesting that you say that you believe there is no heaven.  Could you tell me why you believe that”?
“Could you tell me what has happened in your life to make you believe something like that”?
Socratic questioning: This is a technique named after the Greek philosopher Socrates.  It is widely used in teaching circles to help students learn involving the use of follow-up questions (Sometimes known as three or five level questioning) to gain understanding. This again revolves around understanding a person’s beliefs and knowledge. It also works very well in one to one discussions and is great for gospel sharing.
If you are not careful here, it is very easy to get into a grilling and interrogation mode again. Avoid this by good listening as well as giving feedback before moving on to another question.
Socratic questions example  – Why are you saying that? -What do you mean by that? – Can you give me an example? – Can you rephrase that please?
When you have talked about your faith, what kind of questions have you been asking? It’s worth considering and looking back over previous conversations to ask yourself whether the outcomes were positive or negative.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

A simple request

It is very likely that at some time in the past you have been at a function or a busy meeting.  While you were in conversation with somebody you said something like, “Oh, I must introduce you to……………” or, “Come and meet……….”.
We do this because we really want the individual we are in conversation with to meet to the person that we value so much.  We have a great desire to want to connect them; we want them to get to know each other because we feel it is so very important.
Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. And when Jesus saw him, he said, “Simon son of John, you will be called Cephas.” John 1:42
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. John 1: 45 – 46
Introducing people is a perfectly natural thing for us to do.  The fact is that we do it very often, and we do it without thinking about it.  The question that we should be asking ourselves is, “Isn’t that how we should be when it comes to letting people know about Jesus?
Witnessing I believe is quite possibly the Christian believers greatest fear.  From conversations and teaching many people on the subject of one to one evangelism, I have discovered that most of this fear is involved with a concern that people will judge us for the wrong reasons and end up possibly even avoiding us.
We have a natural tendency to want to preserve friendships and relationships and worry about damaging them.  It was once said, that we care more about friendship than we actually care about our friends.  It’s very that this is the case when it comes to witnessing to people who are close to us.
In times that we do feel fearful, we need to remember this important scripture. Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” Proverbs 29: 25
It is a wonderful reassurance to know that when we are afraid, or are a little worried we can rest assured that when we put our trust in Jesus He will always keep us safe.  Want a promise!
I read recently that witnessing is one of the most neglected commands in all of Scripture.  We know in many cases that bible reading and prayer are also disregarded by many Christians.  Experience tells me that witnessing has to be the least practiced of all.
As a result of meeting with Jesus, Andrew, realised something that was very important.  It was the fact that he mustshare his good news with his brother, Simon. We also read that Phillip did the same with Nathaniel.
Key point: When someone has tasted and seen that the Lord is good, their most natural response is to want to share Jesus with others.
Andrew and Philip both went and found Peter and Nathaniel to tell them about what had happened.  The reality is, that when someone has tasted and seen that the Lord is good, their most natural response is to want to share Jesus with others.
Andrew and Philip were so convinced that Jesus was the one that they didn’t just tell people about it; he took them to meet Jesus in person.  This is a great example for us as we know from research that people are more likely to come to church for the first time if the person who invites them actually meets them and goes with them.
When we are offering an invitation, all we are saying to the person is “Come and see”.  It is not a complicated evangelism strategy.  Just a simple polite invitation to an event or meeting when we ask something like, “Come and see what happens, I am sure you’ll enjoy it”.  It’s not a pressure question; it’s just a friendly request. “Why not come and see”?
I think that the interesting point to note is that immediately after Andrew and Philip found Christ they quickly became concerned that others should find Him as well. When we come to know Jesus as our saviour, the immediate impulse we have is to tell someone about the one who saved us from a lost eternity.
From teaching personal evangelism, I have learned is that sometimes it can often be easier for us to speak to someone else’s brother or sister because we feel less pressure.  Family relationships can often make witnessing difficult, but we must be concerned for those who need salvation in our own families and don’t know Jesus.  We need to pray for opportunities and open doorways to let those that we love know about what Jesus can do for them.
It is often the case with new believers that their changed life speaks volumes.  The difference in the way that they live their life is immediately noticeable.  This creates spiritual curiosity and earns them the right to share the good news or even invite someone to church.
In the case of people who have been Christians for some time.  We should set an example of consistency and live an evangelistic lifestyle with the love of Jesus shineingfor people to see.  If we show love first, opportunities will come.
When Andrew and Philip basically said “Come and see” they were excited, enthusiastic and passionate.
Next time you want to invite somebody to church, why not model the same behaviour and say “Come and see”.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Huh? Contextualising and culture?

Have you noticed the cultural changes that have come about over recent years?  I am approaching my 60th year as I write this.  As I look back over my life I realise that there have been vast transformations to the way that people live today.  Added to that, the church is changing as well.  Some of it is good and some of it could be considered to be the opposite.  The Apostle Paul demonstrated that he was well aware of cultural differences when he spoke to the philosophers of his day.
As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Acts 17: 2-3
As the way of life continues to change, we need to be mindful of the ways that we communicate the Gospel so that it is effective.  I am not saying that we alter the message so that it becomes easier to hear because it is more acceptable and palatable.  I am making the important point that we need to be more culturally relevant and contextualise what we are communicating.
A simple way of explaining culture would be to say that it is, “The way of life of a group of people”.
Key point: There are cultural differences right on our doorstep, in the towns and cities where we live
You probably have met people who go on holidays to different countries explaining that they would like to experience a different culture.  There will of course, be many differences between a western country compared to places like Africa and the Far East for example. I believe that we need to remember is the fact that there are cultural differences right on our doorstep in the towns and cities where we live.
The trend in recent years, when discussing methods of evangelism has been to consider the roles of modernity and post-modernity in society.  In other words how modern culture has changed over the years and its effect on people hearing, understanding and appropriating the Gospel message.
In my role as a teacher of adults over the years, I became aware that younger people viewed the world and tended to think quite differently from the way that I did.  Very often they would have a completely different outlook on life with more liberal views and a very different use of language.  Besides that, today people are more aware of religious differences as well as having more modern views on marriage, gender and much more.
The fact is though, that all people need Jesus. There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Acts 4: 12
It makes good sense then to consider the way that we share the message of the Gospel so that people are more willing to listen.  We can open the door for doing that on a one to one basis, by building relationships and bridges so that we can share our faith with people who have developed trust and faith in us.
When opportunities do arise and we are able to talk about Jesus, it is worth considering contextualising the message we share so that the Gospel can do its work.
Contextualisation is a way to tailor the presentation of the Gospel message to the wider sociological context in order to achieve a greater understanding and, therefore, a greater acceptance of it.  In other words, to consider how other people live so that we can communicate in a way that is relevant and understandable.
For example, I could stand on a street corner with a microphone in an area that is culturally different from my own shouting, “Jesus can sort your life out.  He loves you and He wants to live in your hearts. He really does”!
As believers, we know that all of that is true.  Jesus can get our lives into order when we accept Him, and we understand that He definitely desires to come into our hearts.  We also know without a doubt that He loves us because He took our place on the cross when He died to make a way for us to have eternal life with Him.
Making the statement about Jesus sorting out our lives in the way I have said, would probably mean that it would go right over many people’s heads because it is quite possible that they had never heard the Gospel before, or even be aware of who Jesus is.  So it is vital that we not only think about what we say, as well as how we say it so that we can reach people who need Jesus.
Today some churches refuse to adapt music or programs to their surrounding cultures. The Gospel truth always remains, but very often it is fixed in a rigid framework that hardly allows any room to contextualise. At the other end of the scale, there can be over adaptation where the message is presented in ways that are more easily understood by the people who are listening, but the truth is sometimes compromised.  Without a doubt, the latter is dangerous.
It is evident then that we need to find a balance.  We must be able to present the message in ways that are easily understood while ensuring that the truth remains distinct from untruth. It is essential that the truth of the Gospel must always remain while aiming to share it in a culturally relevant manner, making no attempt to “sanitise or sweeten” the message of the cross in order to avoid offending people. “But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” 1 Corinthians 1.23
Scripture shows us that Daniel and his three friends were fully immersed in the Babylonian culture.  However, they did not give in to any influences that could have drawn them away from their God. They were willing to engage, which earned them an audience with the Babylonian king. We know that their refusal to compromise truth eventually led to the king’s acknowledgement of God.
When Paul spoke to the people in Athens in Acts 17, he made use of the Athenian style of argument and speaking as well as using their own writers to make his point. In other words, Paul understood Greek culture and contextualised the Gospel in order to share it effectively.
Take a moment and consider how you share the Gospel.  Do you need to be more aware of culture and contextualising?