Friday, April 11, 2014

Rethinking Evangelism: 8 Questions Jesus Asked

I got to thinking about asking questions this past weekend. That’s good, right?
With about 120 other pastors and leaders, I had the opportunity to participate in a four day training seminar with Kevin Greeson in Austin, Texas.

If you don’t know about Kevin’s work, he is the author of “The CAMEL Method – How Muslims are Coming to Faith in Christ.” I had heard of this resource for a few years now but had only limited exposure to it and have just ordered his book.
What Kevin does is simple and reproducible. He asks Muslims questions from their own context, their own understanding -- right from the Qur’an (or Koran). This is what is called ‘Qur’anic bridging.’ The idea is to use what the Qur’an does say about Jesus, or Isa, to probe what Muslims understand, as a bridge back to the Bible, which leads to sharing the Gospel – who is Jesus.
For some reason this method has met with some controversy and pushback, probably because some people just aren’t asking the right questions. Ya think?

We can think we understand how to present 'the Gospel' but do we understand where people are at? Do we think about how they might be thinking about whatever it is they are thinking about? What obstacles of understanding do they have to hearing Jesus’ message?
Greeson’s ‘CAMEL Method,’ a form of pre-evangelism, uses what a Muslim might, or might not, understand about his worldview and his faith, and about the Qur'an, to get them to think outside their “box.”
We all have a “box” we think in and we may seldom challenge our thinking, our presuppositions, to ask good questions. That is why we end up with the same results we’ve been getting. The working definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results, right? But if we are to be more effective at sharing with Muslims, or anyone for that matter, maybe we need to ask better questions?

There’s more to it than that, of course, so I got to thinking about Jesus or rather asking “what would Jesus do?” Isn’t that always a good question? An even better question is "What did Jesus do?"
Jesus always met people right where they were and Jesus asked a lot of questions. Being fully God, certainly Jesus knew what people were thinking but he asked anyway. Maybe we should as well?
The thing about asking questions is that those questions aren’t always meant for us simply to acquire knowledge. Jesus asked questions to get people thinking!  May we could use his model?
We know that Muslims really don’t understand Isa and that the Qur’an contains some wrong ideas about Jesus. By asking questions however we allow Muslims to discover truth for themselves. Yes, we need to be prepared to bridge them into the Bible but we don’t need to be experts in Islam, or for that matter Theologians, to share our faith with Muslims. We just need to love them enough to ask the right questions. Perhaps that applies to more than just Muslims?
Asking good questions allows us to come as learners and come from a posture of humility, if we are sincerely interested in the life of our Muslim friends, and others. It’s arrogance to just tell people what we know. We erect barriers to understanding by doing so. Jesus didn’t do this in his ministry. Rather what we see Jesus doing is asking good questions.
Below are seven powerful questions Jesus asked in different contexts in the Gospel of Matthew:
Matthew 13:51 - “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
Matthew 15:16 - “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. (Probably only Jesus should ask this question?)
Matthew 16:8 - Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?”
Matthew 16:13 - he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
Matthew 17:25 - Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?”
Matthew 20:32 - Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?”
Matthew 22:41-42 - While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
I will get to the eighth question in a moment.  
The two questions that Kevin Greeson begins with in the ‘CAMEL Method’ are these, “Can you help me?” “and "Can I ask your thoughts behind the meaning of two verses in the Qur’an?”  The first question puts us in the posture of a learner, and I know I certainly have a lot to learn about Islam and Muslims. The second question leads into a discussion about  “was Isa only a Prophet?” toward answering Jesus' question “who do people say that I am?”
The third question Greeson asks is this: “What do you think this means?”  Without getting to this question, our Muslim friend is not challenged to think outside their “box.”

Like most Christians (only 1 in 10 having a Biblical worldview), most Muslims really don't understand their faith. Like most Christians, they only know what they have grown up with. But the good news is that many are seeking truth and willing to have a spiritual conversation, if only we know how to lead them their. Greeson shows that asking good questions is the way to accomplish that task.
In the West our teaching methodology, or pedagogy, as well as our evangelism and discipleship, is too often a one-way exchange -- telling others. This gets expressed in how we "preach" the Good News. While Jesus did tell us “that this gospel of the kingdom will be preached” (Matthew 24:14), and Jesus and the Apostles demonstrated this method as well, what we see Jesus doing frequently is asking questions.
“I believe the most important question of all is found in the annals of the New Testament and was aimed at Peter. Jesus asked, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ (Matthew 16:15-16). I believe that if we introduce people to Jesus, he will take the responsibility of asking each person the same question. Jesus revealed himself to every person who earnestly sought him. Should we believe now that he has ceased to do so?”
Not when Jesus’ promise is, “I am with you always to the every end of the age!” (Matthew 28:20).
Are we willing to allow people to discover who Jesus is for them, by asking good questions?   
Asking questions will help us point people to Jesus, more than telling them what we know about him. Real relationships require asking questions for Living Sent Today. 

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