Intentional - a book review
Taking people to JesusFriday 6 October 2017 by Ad Taylor-Weekes
Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with someone else, talking about something like the Big Bang theory, feeling out of your depth, wondering how you ever got there and wishing you could turn the conversation naturally to the gospel? Or perhaps your problem is a different one: you never seem to be able to turn any conversation naturally to talking about Jesus. If these aren’t your questions, feel free to stop reading this blog post and find the one on perseverance or something else!
If, however, this is something you’ve come up against then the little book, Intentional, is one that may help you, as it has helped me. There are several reasons I like the book: 1) you can read it in a couple of hours 2) it makes you feel, “I can see myself doing that” 3) it’s very practical.
The author’s approach to talking about Jesus is very simple: 1) respond to a question/statement with the words of, or a story about Jesus 2) ask a question that will lead you to… 3) naturally talk about the cross.
For example, let’s say the question is, “How do you know God exists?” How would you answer that? Perhaps you’d start to talk about revelation: God has revealed himself through general revelation (Creation) and special revelation (His Word and, supremely, His Son.) That would, of course, be faithful and true. But there are a couple of problems with it: 1) it keeps it all pretty intellectual 2) you could see how that answer might then move on to other questions such as the origins of the world etc. That can particularly be a problem when the person you're talking to has clearly become an expert on that already.
So, how else could you answer the question? Well one way, from the life of Jesus, is to talk about Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4:35-41. At the end of the story the disciples asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” One reason at least why Mark has recorded this story is to show us that Jesus is God – the only one who has authority over the wind and the waves (Ps 89:9) So, we know God exists because Jesus rocked up.
Step 2, asking a question that will lead to Step 3, talking about the cross, might go like this: "Have you ever wondered about why God might come to earth?"
Of course you may think this is all a good idea but lament the fact that no-one asks you anything in the first place! And this can be a problem - people aren't very good at asking questions sometimes (including us perhaps?) After all, that would show an interest in someone else, thoughtfulness and the willingness to appear like you don't know something. But questions can also surface as statements. "How do you know God exists?" is the question behind the statement, "That just proves there's no God."
Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow, in the Porterbrook course, include a good section on this in their module on Evangelism. It's in Unit 9, called "Casual conversations about Jesus." There's an exercise there that invites us to think about how we'd point people to Jesus from his life and words in the following situations:
- kids sulking on the way back from playing football that the teams were not fair
- someone complaining about the state of the local area and the negligence of the council.
Where would you go?
One challenge for us, of course, is to know the life and words of Jesus really well – not a bad challenge. So, I’ve begun working through Mark’s gospel, trying to learn the words or stories about Jesus, and asking myself, “What questions could this part of Scripture help to answer?” Another book, the Mark Experiment, is a great resource for trying to commit more of Jesus’ words and life events to memory…but that’s a different book review!