Prospects: Defer Don’t Debate

This is the first principle I learned from Jesus when trying to become more like Him. Clearly, Jesus was the greatest evangelist who has ever lived. While reading through the Bible studies of Christ, I noticed that Jesus did not answer questions. This stood out as a flashing red light to me as an evangelist. I had always thought my ability to answer questions was my greatest strength.  I could not have been more wrong.

Jesus was asked 307 questions during His ministry. If I were standing in an audience where Jesus was teaching, my hand would have quickly risen to ask the Son of God more about His teachings. I was always the student who asked questions in class. The good teachers did not answer. They forced me to go back to my seat and find the answer. When we examine the 307 questions Jesus was asked, we find that He only answered three! (John 18:37; Luke 11:1; Matthew 22:36-37). Jesus’ evangelism strategy was to defer questions. Jesus was not there to prove He knew more or to win the day with His wit. He was there to teach.

Teaching should facilitate learning. Therefore, Jesus asked 183 questions in His recorded ministry. When Jesus was asked a question, He often replied with a question of His own. Matthew 21:23-27 is a good example:

When he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.

Did you notice that not only did Jesus not answer their questions, but He actually said, “I also will ask you one thing . . .” It is hard to miss that Jesus did not answer questions. The purpose of this approach was not to belittle the inquirer but to encourage learning. Moreover, did you notice what his approach facilitated? “They reasoned with themselves.” Reasoning is the key to evangelism. We want everyone to read the Scripture and reason. Good and honest hearts will find the truth (Isaiah 1:18; John 8:31-32).
You can win the argument and lose the soul. Therefore, defer all questions and do not try to convert a sinner by winning a debate. Using the skill of an evangelist, ask your own questions to help a person reason and come to a knowledge of the Truth. Be like Jesus, and you can bring the lost to the Father.

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