Evangelism & Apologetics: Answering the Questioner

by Nate Sala

I have been chewing on a concept that has been slowly percolating in my mind for the last several years. Who knows exactly how it got there. Only the Lord knows. But, as I have been finding my steps in my walk with Christ, there are a couple of things that I have learned pertaining to evangelism and apologetics. One is that not everyone deserves an answer. Both Proverbs and Jesus attest to that. Evangelism and apologetics are not simply about providing the best answer to a challenge or giving the best prepackaged presentation of the Gospel, or even quoting some great verses from Scripture at the “right” moment. This is not a game where you just need to press the perfect combination of buttons at the right time on your controller. This is life and death. This is someone standing on a cliff. And this is you trying to talk them down.

Brothers and sisters, when we are either sharing the Gospel with a nonbeliever or engaging in apologetics, we must remember one crucial thing: We are not answering the question, we are answering the questioner. Notice the difference? Answering the question is simply providing information in a context-less vacuum of sorts. Answering the questioner is dealing with a flesh-and-blood human being with real doubts, fears, and concerns; someone who does not need an excellent comeback but eye contact, a caring heart, and a winsome attitude. Oh, how many times I have witnessed answering the question with sneers, sarcasm, and mockery for those who do not agree with us! Every time we do this, folks, we fail. We fail the nonbeliever who continues down his destructive, eternal path, we fail our duty as ambassadors of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20; Colossians 4:5-6; 1 Peter 3:15-16), and we fail to please God.

In an essay on what he calls “Applied Apologetics” Dr. Greg Ganssle discusses this notion of answering the questioner. We must think deeply about the nonbelievers we are engaging. What are their influences? What do they value? Do any of these things help or hinder the Gospel message? How so? These questions (and more like them) treat those with whom we engage not as fill-in-the-blank test questions but real human beings that should be treated as such. Notice this requires a lot more work than simply talking to someone about God. This entails reading the person you’re talking to, understanding his rationale, empathizing with his fears and doubts, etc. Since evangelism is a process over time, Ganssle has developed what he calls “The Diagnostic Scale” showing where, in this process, someone could be at any given moment. I think this is a great reminder of the real work we are here to do in this world and what it should look like…


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