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Help Them Understand What They Believe
(Conversational Evangelism: Third Type of Conversation)
Bible study on evangelism, conversational evangelism.

In our series on Conversational Evangelism, we're investigating four types of conversations we have with people, when talking about God and His church.

So far in this series, we've talked about the first two types of conversations:

  • Learn about people and their religion.
  • Identify common ground, based on God's word and authority.

In this article, we'll explore the third type of conversation:

  • Help them understand what they believe.

Ask Questions To Help Them Learn About Their Religion
God commands us to walk wisely toward outsiders, making the most of our opportunities with gracious speech that's seasoned with salt (Col. 4:5-6).

Asking questions is very important to carrying out this command.

Jesus used questions to teach people.

  • Matt. 16:13-16 He used two questions when teaching the apostles about His church.
  • Lk. 20:1-8 He answered the Jews with a question when they confronted Him.

Paul also used questions when communicating with people.

  • Acts 21:37 He asked a commander if he could speak, before addressing the commander and subsequently addressing the Jews.

No Pressure
A "no pressure" approach to evangelism is usually the most effective. Asking questions is one way to help us speak with others without pressuring them.

  • Acts 18:24-27 Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos aside and explained that his teaching on baptism was wrong. Their approach was one of gentleness; they didn't embarrass Apollos or make a spectacle of him, but took him aside and explained his error.
  • Acts 21:37-21:1 Paul asked to speak, and politely waited until he had permission, before addressing the commander and the Jews. He was polite, gentle, and courteous. His speech was gracious, as though seasoned with salt (Col. 4:5-6).
  • Acts 24:1-11 Paul displayed the same character when making his defense before Felix, after the Jews falsely accused him.

Questions Help Us. . . .
To bring people to Christ through the gospel, we must have a strong desire to understand their beliefs. Asking questions is critical to getting to know people well enough to help them spiritually.

Questions help us clarify religious terms, so we can communicate effectively. Terms like faith, believe, repent, confess, and baptize must be understood before a person can understand salvation.

Questions help us clarify beliefs, so we understand what a person thinks, and why they think it. Questions like, "When is a person saved?" or "Why are we baptized?" or "Does someone have to repent before they're saved?" or "What does a person have to confess before he's saved?" help us learn about their beliefs regarding salvation.

Questions help us expose uncertain beliefs, so we know their doubts. Sometimes, people question or disagree with doctrines in their church, such as once saved always saved. When we uncover these uncertainties, opportunities for Bible study may result. When we hear someone say, "I'm not sure about. . . ." or "I don't believe. . . ." we should pay attention. We can also ask questions like, "What does your church believe that you don't believe?"

Questions help people see discrepancies in their thinking, and hopefully realize their religious thinking is incorrect in some way. It often encourages them to investigate God's word to discover the truth. We can ask questions like, "If once saved always saved is correct, can a Christian engage in blatant sin, refusing to repent, and still expect God to save him?"

Questions help us introduce, and teach Bible principles. Questions like, "What does Jesus tell us to do to be saved?" or "What does 1 Peter 3:21 mean regarding baptism?" or "When were Paul's sins washed away in Acts 22:16?"

Questions help us stimulate thought and interest in Bible study. When people have questions about the things they believe, realizing there are discrepancies in their thinking, they often want to search God's word for answers. At this point, we should let then know we're available to help them find the answers in the Bible.

Questions help us place the burden of proof on individuals espousing false doctrines. Sometimes, people want us to prove them wrong, alleging they can believe something unless it can be proved wrong. This is not a Biblical approach to God's word (1 Cor. 4:6; Col. 3:17; 2 Jn. 1:9). Asking pertinent questions, helps people espousing false doctrine to prove it with God's word, as Jesus did when the Jews confronted Him (Lk. 20:2-4).

Questions allow us to discuss religion in a non-defensive way. Most people get defensive when someone tells them their beliefs are wrong. By using questions, we can help people consider whether their beliefs are right or wrong, without telling them. This provides a non-defensive way to communicate. Make sure your questions are from your heart, truly caring about the person and their thoughts, rather than being accusatory in any way.

Help People Who Are Misinformed
By asking questions, we can help people understand what they believe, often helping them discover where they've been misinformed (taught wrong, or made false assumptions).

Paul's sermon on Mars Hill helps us analyze the process whereby people may discover they've been religiously misinformed.

  • Acts 17:22-23 Paul began by stating what they were doing.
  • Acts 17:24-25 he showed the inconsistency of their religion.
  • Acts 17:26-27 he showed them why they were doing what they were doing, although their worship was wrong.
  • Acts 17:28 he quoted their own poets to prove his point secularly, in addition to the religious proof.
  • Acts 17:29 he then concluded from the religious and secular evidence, that God was not an idol made with hands.
  • Acts 17:30 he proclaimed that God now requires all men to repent.
  • Acts 17:31 he introduced a hot topic to stir their minds (resurrection).

There are many instances today wherein people learn they've been misinformed. Two of the most common ones are:

  • Some people believe they were baptized, but learn that baptism is immersion, discovering that they were not baptized but rather sprinkled.
  • Some people believe they were baptized for the remission of sins, but discover their church does not believe that baptism is for the remission of sins, identifying an incorrect assumption.

Help People Who Are Inconsistent
On Pentecost, the Jews learned they had been misinformed about Jesus, understanding their religious beliefs were inconsistent with Scripture.

Peter, in his sermon, went into great detail, proving that Jesus was the Messiah from scripture, convicting the Jews of killing the Messiah with lawless hands.

As a result, people with good and honest hearts asked, "Brethren, what shall we do" (Acts 2:38)?

Peter exhorted them to be saved from that perverse generation, commanding them to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. That day, about three thousand people received the word and were baptized (Acts 2:39-41).

Gospel: The Power of God
While conversing with people, asking and answering questions, remember that the gospel is the power of God to salvation (Rom. 1:16).

It's important for us to bring everything back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing else has the power to change a person's heart, and convert him to Jesus.

Therefore, it's important to be good Bible students, studying the things we're discussing with people, from God's word. Then, talking about them, from God's word.

Let Then Know You're Available For Bible Study
When people begin to realize they've been misinformed or made false assumptions, it's a good time to let them know you're available for Bible study.

Most of the time, it's best to introduce the idea of Bible study in a way that doesn't require a yes or no response, just let them know you're available to study with them, if they're interested.

If a Bible study materializes, you can study with them yourself, or ask another Bible teacher to teach the class. Either way is effective. Most importantly, use questions to stimulate spiritual conversations, and everything else will work itself out.