"But I don't know all the answers..."
The second article in our three-part series, "But I'm not an evangelist...", thinking about common hesitations towards evangelism.
I was puzzled when one of my classmates left our A-Level history exam an hour early. We had sat in the exam room together and turned over our papers at the same time. I couldn’t believe he had answered several difficult questions about Tsarist Russia in such a short period of time.
As it turned out, the reason for his swift exit was that he hadn’t answered any questions about Tsarist Russia whatsoever. Having decided that he didn’t know how to answer any of them, he bravely attempted to complete an entirely different section of the exam paper on a period of history we hadn’t studied. Needless to say his results were nothing to boast about.
We panic when we don’t know how to answer questions. If we try to blag our way through, we only expose our ignorance further. That fear can even stop us from inviting questions in the first place.
“I don’t know.”
To an outwardly confident and generally articulate person like me, these are dangerous words to say: “I don’t know.” They feel like an admission of failure. They make me feel weak.
And of all the occasions where I might admit my failure and acknowledge my weakness, I find the most uncomfortable is when I am in a ‘gospel conversation.’ I have a friend who has begun talking about faith for the first time, and then she asks a difficult question, and then… I’m stumped. I don’t have an answer. So I say, “I don’t know.”
It feels like failure; like weakness. But it shouldn’t do so. In fact, saying, “I don’t know” could be one of the most powerful and effective evangelistic strategies out there.
“I don’t know. Let’s find out together”
At the Apple Store, if a member of the customer service team is unable to answer a query, they do not call for their supervisor. Instead, they are trained to say this mantra: “I don't know. Let's find out together.”
Think of what it communicates to someone enquiring about the Christian faith when we answer their questions like that. It shows that we do not consider ourselves to be religious gurus with our own wisdom. Rather, it shows that we have confidence in the Bible as God’s word, which is able to make us wise for salvation (as the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16).
This should not surprise us. Paul himself wrote that this was his evangelistic strategy, not to make himself seem clever but to point people to the wisdom and power of God in Jesus Christ:
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)
When we are sharing the good news of Jesus with others, it is not our clever answers or quick-witted responses that will convince them to commit their lives to him. Rather, it is the good news of Jesus in the Bible that we are called to make known.
If we follow our, “I don’t know,” with the invitation, “Let’s find out together,” we are leading others to the best possible place to explore Jesus for themselves.
Written by Alastair Gledhill, Product Development and Communications Manager