Many people are reluctant to share their faith because they are afraid of looking like an idiot. Fortunately, there’s a helpful new book out called How to Talk About Jesus Without Looking Like an Idiot.
In this episode of the podcast I talk with the author of this book, Andy Bannister, about how to grow past being an ‘undercover Christian’ at work, school, and other places outside of church.
We talk about how a right understand of our role in evangelism relieves anxiety about sharing the Gospel, the power of asking good questions, and how we can point people to Jesus more frequently in our conversations.
Enjoy this conversation with Andy Bannister to hear his tips on how we can have natural conversations with friends, family, and even strangers about our faith.
Watch Our Conversation
Listen to the Conversation
Enjoy this episode?
Be sure to subscribe & Leave a Review!
Meet Our Guest
Dr. Andy Bannister is the Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity, speaking and teaching regularly throughout the UK, Europe, Canada, the USA, and the wider world. From universities to churches, business forums to TV and radio, he regularly addresses audiences of both Christians and those of all faiths and none on issues relating to faith, culture, politics and society.
- Visit Andy Bannister’s Website
- Check out Andy’s other books
- Learn about the Solas Center
- Read the first chapter of the book for free (PDF)
Pick Up A Copy!
How to Talk About Jesus Without Looking Like an Idiot: A Panic Free Guide to Having Natural Conversations About Your Faith
Learn how you can grow past being an ‘undercover Christian’ at work, school, and other places outside of church. This book covers the main fears people have in regards to evangelism, how to overcome those fears, and how to engage others with natural conversations about Jesus.
Read the Transcript
Clay Kraby: Many people are reluctant to share their faith because they’re afraid of looking like an idiot. Fortunately, there’s a new helpful book out called how to Talk About Jesus Without Looking Like an Idiot. And yes, that is the real title of the book. In this episode of the podcast, I talk with the author of that book, Andy Bannister, about how to grow past being an undercover Christian at work, school and other places outside of church. We talk about how a right understanding of our role in evangelism relieves anxiety about sharing the gospel, the power of asking good questions, and how we can point people to Jesus more frequently in our conversations. So enjoy this discussion with Andy Bannister to hear his tips on how we can have natural conversations with friends, family and even straight about our faith.
Well, thanks for joining me once again on the Reasonable Theology podcast. I’m joined on this episode by Andy Bannister. Now, Andy is the Director of the Solas Center for Public Christianity which is an evangelism and training ministry. He’s adjunct professor at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto, and he’s also adjunct Research fellow at Melbourne School of Theology in Australia. And we’re going to be talking about his new book, “How to Talk About Jesus Without Looking Like an Idiot.” Andy and his wife, Astrid, live with their two children in Wiltshire, England. Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast.
Andy Bannister: It’s an absolute privilege to be with you. And also very exciting to see you actually have a physical copy of my book, because I haven’t received one yet. Yes, look at that. So exciting to see it’s real.
Clay Kraby: I am prepared to sell this to you and ship it over to England. We can talk about that when we’re done here.
Andy Bannister: Yeah, good stuff.
Clay Kraby: As we get into that conversation about the book, to start things off, could you share a little bit about yourself and your family and what your ministry has looked like over the last many years?
Andy Bannister: Yeah, absolutely. I’d love to, Clay. So, as you said, I live in Wiltshire or Wiltshire, as you wonderfully. Had a very manful crack at it. So that’s about an hour and a half west of London. So I grew up in London. Capital of the UK. Didn’t really think much about evangelism, showing my faith and apologetics, all that kind of stuff, really, until my early 20s, when I got drawn into having conversations with Muslims up in the central London and found them asking me questions that I couldn’t answer. I’d been raised in a Christian home and sort of known Christ since my teens, but I’d never really thought about sharing that faith publicly. My Muslim friends forced me to think about faith and think about engaging with my faith a bit more proactively. That led eventually to theological training and that eventually led to then going and ministering in Canada uh, for six years. I was based in the upper up there in Toronto, or Toronto as they like to call it, did six years there and had we had the kids out there. So my kids are, ah, both British and Canadian. Then came back to the UK 2016 and took over the leadership of Solas. And Solas is the Scottish word, the Gallic word for light, there’s also a bit of play on words there, if you know your Reformation history, the Solas of the Reformation, sola scriptura, and so on and so forth. And I’ve been doing that since 2016. And what Solas does Clay in a nutshell, we do two things. We take the gospel out of the four walls of churches and into the public square. So we love helping churches put on events in places like workplaces, cafes, coffee shops, pubs, bars, anywhere where nonchristians go, because often we find nonchristians won’t cross the doors of a church. So we go to them and we help campus groups put on events on universities and colleges and schools. So we love doing that and presenting Jesus persuasively. And the other half, what we do is teaching and training Christians how to share their faith more effectively, especially in the workplace. I got a real passion for that. For my first job was in the secular world and I was a rubbish evangelist. I was terrified about sharing my faith th at work, didn’t know what I was doing, kept my mouth shut. And the book that we’re going to talk about is, in one sense, the book that I wish the 22 year old me had had access to because it would been really helpful. so that’s kind of us. And yeah. Married to Astrid. Two kids, Chris and Katrina. And we live in the lovely English countryside about an hour from London.
Clay Kraby: That’s wonderful, thanks for sharing all that. So you’re training people to get more comfortable with evangelism, more comfortable with sharing the gospel, more comfortable with maybe engaging in some difficult conversations, answering hard questions. And no doubt the fear is that people commonly say to you is they don’t want to look like an idiot. And so the book is just very plainly called how to Share Jesus or Talk About Jesus Without Looking Like an Idiot. So what was it that drove you to write this book and address that particular fear that people have?
Andy Bannister: Yeah, great question, Clay. I think in a nutshell, three things, very briefly. Firstly was the story I just alluded to there. So, looking back on my Christian journey, my first six years of work, I worked for a hospital in South London. Loved my time there, but I look back now and think, gosh, I really was an undercover Christian because outside of work, I was very actively involved at church, particularly in youth ministry, quite active Christian. But inside work, I kept my faith to myself, I hid it away. I think if at best, probably what I did was try and be a nice person at work and hope that people might go, oh, Andy’s a nice person. He must be a Christian. Which never happened. and there was loads of fears that I think kept me from sharing my faith more actively at work. Fear of looking like an idiot, fear of making Jesus look like an idiot. fear of the implications for my career. Fear of standing out. And then, I guess, fear of being asked a question that I had no idea what to do with. And those fears just closed me down. And then since that time, I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds, probably thousands of Christians whose story is similar. I regularly meet people who are not actively sharing their faith or being nervous about it. And when you say, well, what’s holding you back? Similar fears to my own. So that began making me think, gosh, I wonder if I could draw on my own story. And then that’s the journey I’ve been on, learning how to overcome that. And then the title. Funnily enough, I was doing a training session at a missions conference in Canada, I think Winnipeg, back in about 2012. And myself and the conference organizers were on a zoom call and a call like this, and they were brainstorming the title. And sort of out of the group of the four of us, I have no idea who actually came up with it. Some suggested this is the session title. It went down really well. And since then, I must have taught this material to tens of thousands of Christians around the world. And people began telling me two, three years ago, andy, you should do this in a book. Turn this into a book. So finally I got round to doing it. I think it’s a brilliant title. I can say that because it wasn’t original to me. but what I like, Clay, is that sometimes we mess around with it in titles. We sort of dance around the real issue. And the real issue is people are afraid of looking like an idiot. So let’s write a book, I thought, that does what it says on the can.
Clay Kraby: That’s wonderful. And so, in the start of the book, and then in your recap of what kind of led to it, you mentioned that in your feel like, looking back, you were a bit of an undercover Christian. Can you get a little bit more into that? What did that look like for you? Why is it that you’ve kind of seen yourself in that light in hindsight? And how might someone that’s listening, watching this, recognize I’m acting a little bit like an undercover Christian at work?
Andy Bannister: Well, I say the first thing as I alluded to kind of there was noticing that outside work, very active Christian inside work, didn’t really talk about my faith. A lot. Jesus very rarely came up. That was the first thing. Secondly, looking back, I caught myself really? Where I noticed it was when the what did you do on the weekend? Conversation happened. And I know other Christians for whom this is the issue. So go into work Monday morning. Colleagues might say, how was your weekend? And I would talk about playing football or soccer for Americans. on a Saturday, perhaps. I went and saw a movie with friends on Saturday night. I would gloss over Sunday morning and then talk about the things I’d done. I would never mention church, for example. And quite frankly, I think my friends and colleagues in church, in work would have had no way of knowing, really, that I was a Christian. And then what was hilarious was, after I’d been there for six years, they threw me a little leaving party. I had actually resigned. If your work throw you a leaving party and you haven’t resigned, there is a subtext. But I had resigned. They threw me a leaving lunch. And at this leaving lunch, I discovered that a woman who worked had been working for the same amount of time, about five doors down on the same corridor as me, was also a Christian. And she’d also kept it quiet. So if we’d both been more public, we might be able to help each other, encourage one another, pray with one another. So I kept it totally, totally quiet. And so, yeah, I think that’s what I find, looking back, that real fear of what would happen if I’d been found out. And I say, I meet loads of people like that, who, when I sort of ask what they do, they tell me where they work. And I’ll say, oh, do your friends, your colleagues at work, perhaps know you a Christian? Do you talk about it? And sometimes they’ll look embarrassed. Sometimes people laugh and go, Heck, are you kidding? and it’s got even harder now, hasn’t it? Because this was I’m talking the 1990s now. We’re in an age where if you say you’re a Christian, because of the culture war stuff that has gone on, people announce that maybe get pushed back on, oh, you Christians, you’re transphobic, you Christians, you’re homophobic. People make assumptions about your politics, but more so in the US. But also, I think, over here in the UK. And so no wonder, I think, with a lot of Christians, like, the best thing to do is keep quiet for fear of getting into trouble.
Clay Kraby: Yeah, I was going to ask that because your experience you might maybe characterize it more. You didn’t want to have odd conversations. You do want to not have the right answers. You didn’t want to stumble over your words or present the gospel poorly. When you’re talking to folks now in your training center, have you seen an increase where people saying, I’m afraid to speak up because of ramifications for my work, my career, or whatever else.
Andy Bannister: Yeah, I think absolutely. I mean, I had this happen to a friend of a friend. This happened to he was having a nice conversation, he thought, with a colleague at work. He’d even invited his colleague to an event at the church, like a carol service or something. They’d come, and then in some conversation somewhere, his colleague had just asked him what Christians think about sexuality. And so my friend’s friend had done a very gentle answer, but hadn’t skirted around what Christians think about marriage, and thought this had all gone well. Well, two days later, he summoned to HR and told that he has triggered and made his colleague feel unsafe because of what he said about sexuality. And he’s warned in no uncertain terms, you must never bring religion into this workplace again, or you will be fired. That direct. And the frustrating thing was, my friend’s friend thought it had all gone well, but it clearly hadn’t. So that’s an example. That’s another exciting sort of variant example, I think I used to tell this story in the book. Had a friend of mine who worked in Dundee, a Scottish city where I used to live, working for a small scientific establishment there. Well, the HR department decided they wanted to win some award from a major LGBT charity, so they put this mandate round that for Pride Week. That this dates this it was Pride Week, not Pride Month that every employee was to put a poster, rainbow poster, above their desk to sort of show support for the LGBT community. And my friend obviously felt this went against his Christian convictions, but then he said to me, what do I do? Do I get fired? Is this the point that I take a stand and get fired over a poster? I’m happy to take a stand for Christ, but not lose my job over something as stupid as a rainbow poster. Now, thankfully, that story ended interestingly, because, again, I told this in the book. My friend and I brainstormed this a bit. And actually, what eventually happened there was he went back to HR, had a meeting with the head of HR, and said, I really value working for a company that’s socially aware and into all these causes. However, the LGBT issue is not particularly my issue, and I think it gets a lot of attention anyway. However since I was a student, I have been an avid supporter of the Free Tibet campaign, campaigned and raised money for the liberation of the Tibetan people. So it was all right with you guys. I’m going to put a Free Tibet poster above my workstation for the week that everyone else is doing rainbow flags. He said it was amazing. You could see they wanted to say no but that would have looked like, we don’t like Tibetans. So he was allowed. And he said, amazingly, that actually started spiritual conversations because people said, oh, why do you, why did you why is that there? And he allowed him to say, well, I really care about justice and I care about justice because I’m Christian. He says, Amazing, the conversations that started. So anyway, all that to say, Clay, we live in workplaces where there are all these landmines, I think, particularly around sexuality and increasingly race. I think Christians are afraid of being tarnished with all kinds of labels, unfairly most of the time because people make assumptions. So no wonder I think a lot of Christians default to, I’ll say nothing, I would just be quiet.
Clay Kraby: Yeah, sometimes you have to be wise as serpents, and isn’t it doves? And it sounds like that was a fairly clever solution they came up with. Probably better than stenciling a little Noah’s Ark under the rainbow or something like that.
Andy Bannister: That’s right.
Clay Kraby: so they’re trying to help people overcome these fears that they have, whether it is maybe like an external pressure on them from the rules of a workplace, or probably a lot of times the assumed rules, maybe it’s never really said, they just assume I’ll get in trouble. or people will get upset. Uh, and they might have internal fears where they feel like, I’m not going to do this well, I’m not going to do it adequately, I’m not well spoken, whatever else. what are some of those maybe internal fears that people have that holds them back from evangelism?
Andy Bannister: Well, that’s a great question, Clay, because obviously we talked about the external ones. But I think, yes, you’re right, there are the internal almost, I think, perhaps the spiritual fears, too. So you’ve mentioned one of them, right? This fear of not doing this well. So there can be that fear for Christians, right, that we let God down. What if I do this badly? I haven’t just looked stupid in terms of my colleagues, I’ve somehow sold the gospel short, or I’ve somehow let Jesus down because I haven’t done this well. That can be a pressure. There can be the pressure of, well, what happens if I share my faith with a colleague or a friend and nothing happens? That can be a fear for many. Christians are going, well, okay, does that mean I’m a terrible evangelist, right? If I do the business, I don’t get fired? But there isn’t fruit. And I think one of the wiles of the enemy, actually, quite frankly, is to make us feel that it’s all about us. That it’s all about us. It’s our efforts, it’s our cleverness, it’s our smartness. And if the expected result doesn’t happen, then somehow we’re second rate Christians. And of course, theologically, that is absolutely insane, because we know, firstly, it’s the Holy Spirit’s work. The spirit works through us. But what God asks of us is availability, not necessarily ability. And yeah, sometimes there’ll be dramatic results. Sometimes we’re called to be faithful, even if we don’t immediately see the results. secondly, of course, we are not designed to carry that kind of burden. It’s interesting, in my devotions this morning, I came across that passage in the Gospels where Jesus talks about my yoke is easy and my burden is light. It’s often us who make our burdens heavy and our yokes horribly hard to bear. Jesus doesn’t say, Right, mate, m at you go. And if they don’t become Christians, it’s your fault, and it’ll be their eternity on your head forever. That is not what evangelism looks like, but I think it turns into that. And then the other thing, I think, that goes on that perhaps reinforces those is it’s very easy if you feel a bit inadequate and you feel a bit not very confident and you feel that evangelism is not really your thing is then what happens? You start looking around at others who are very gifted. So people I’m very conscious of this now because I was a useless evangelist early on. Now, I’ve had a lot of experience, I’m afraid people look at me and go, okay, well, Andy Bannister can do this, or Clay can do this, or Bill Craig can do this, or Tim Keller can do this. I’m not called to do that. And I think one of the challenges is sometimes we put these well known Christians who are very gifted at evangelism on a pedestal. We don’t look like them, and then we think it’s not for us. But then I think it’s worth remembering that, quite frankly, I think God would probably rather have m a million $1 apologist than another million dollar apologist of going. Because where that matters is that everyone listening to this will have people that only they can reach. Sure mentioned Keller. You’re very well known. I mean, he can stand and do big platforms, he can’t come into your workplace, he doesn’t know your colleagues, he doesn’t play hockey with your neighbors of an evening out in the street or whatever. You have connections and relationships that potentially only you have. And that’s why I think evangelism sharing your faith is for everybody, because God and the Holy Spirit love to work through those connections and you have connections that are unique to you. So, yeah, I think each one of us have people that God has called us to reach because we are uniquely equipped to do it.
Clay Kraby: And certainly everything we see in scripture reminds us that God is pleased to use humble perhaps unexceptional people to do tremendous, exceptional things so that he is glorified. There are cases, obviously, where he uses these great men to do great things. but nowhere in the Bible do we get the sense that God is interested in sharing that glory with someone who can say, hey, look how great I was at this. Look what a wonderful job I’ve done. The fact that we feel inadequate is probably our primary qualification to go out in obedience to share the gospel like Jesus commanded.
Andy Bannister: Yeah, well, I mean, two thoughts spring to mind. One from the Bible and more contemporary one. So from the Bible, I mean, I use the example in the Book of Jonah is interesting. I mean, probably up there as a contender for the world’s worst evangelist, because in the Book of Jonah, god calls him to go to Nineveh. So what does Jonah do? He runs away in entirely the opposite direction. I mean, literally outright disobedience. God sends a storm and away and all those dramatic kind of miracles. Still, despite the fact God has done all this powerful stuff. So Jonah should have confidence in going to Nineveh. Silly. Doesn’t want to go. He hates the Assyrians, and you can understand why they’re oppressing brutal nation. But finally, he goes to Nineveh. He preaches arguably the world’s worst sermon. Five words in the Greek, in the Hebrew is all he does. And then, bang, huge dramatic outpouring of repentance, and the city is saved. And then, of course, rather than go, oh, that’s amazing. All right. Thank you, Lord. I was pretty useless, but use me. He sits under his tree and has a total hissy fit, because what he actually really wanted was death and destruction to rain down on Nineveh. And God has used him to rescue people. But I look at that and go, the mistakes and the attitude issues that Jonah had, and God still worked through him. So there’s a lesson there. And the flip side as well, I think, of getting too clever. Uh, one of my literary heroes and my Christian heroes from history is a guy who very few people in the States have heard of as an Australian well, originally British, but an Australian Baptist pastor. The turn of the 19th into the 20th century called F. W. Boram. Uh, actually Australia’s greatest author ever. He sold millions of books. Brilliant preacher and pastor and writer. I collect boring books. I was reading his biography of the night, and he told the story of the he was quite he was quite gifted evangelists. People came to faith through his ministry, but he would always look at people who did altar calls. He never did alter calls. And finally he’s convinced, okay, you know what? I don’t think this works, but I’ll try it. And so one night, he’s preaching in Melbourne, Australia, does an altar call, and dozens of people respond, and he’s like, oh, wow, I’d be missing something. This is the formula that I should be doing. Tries the very same thing the following week. Zero response. And he writes about there was a humbling lesson in God saying, I’m going to work through you, but it’s not about method, buddy. And he said, I then went back to the style I’d used for 30 years. And that saw more of a drip, drip, drip study sort of cutting of converts. So I think we have this tendency to put people on pedestals and then try formulae as well. It has to be done this way, has to be done that way. And one of the things I talk about in the book a lot is be natural. If we can learn to be natural with our friendships, natural with our conversations, get to know our neighbors and our colleagues, be open hearted, spend time with people, invest in time hospitality. And then as we do that, learn to have good conversations that are natural and winsome and engaging and sort of baptize that surround that in prayer. God can do amazing things.
Clay Kraby: Absolutely. And one of those keys that you mentioned in the book and really drive home to have natural conversations is the use of questions. So how is it that asking questions can help us to be more comfortable and to also help us to have more engaging, more in depth evangelistic conversations?
Andy Bannister: Brilliant. And yeah, you’re right. Questions are very powerful. And I first noticed this incidentally simply reading the Gospels, I mean, some years ago. And obviously many have noticed this. If you read the Gospels through, it’s interesting to see how often Jesus asks questions. In fact, I think it’s 307 questions he asks. he’s asked, I think, about 83. And he only answers eight directly. Something like that. That ratio. Jesus particularly loved to answer questions with questions. And I think the reason he did this is questions are incredibly powerful. Questions make the other person think. Questions expose motives and assumptions. questions set the effort off you and get the other person engaged. And questions also give a conversation flowing. If a friend says something challenging about your faith, if you think your job is to download a 15 minutes sermon onto them, that’s not a conversation, that’s a lecture. But if you can learn to ask good questions, push back a little, be winsome questions, be very effective. And the book in a nutshell without spoiling all over the book because otherwise people won’t buy it. And my publisher you’ll be we’ll be lots of trouble with tindale. there are a couple of things I teach in the book. There are good questions for when people raise objections to your faith. So simply learning to, say, respond to perhaps a question with the question, what do you mean by that? If somebody says faith is irrational, to be able to go, well, okay, what do you mean by irrational? Help me understand what’s irrational about faith. You’ve simply turned the table slightly. You’ve queried what they’ve said, and you’re making them do some work. And you’ll crack open the conversation a bit rather than feel terrified. if somebody makes an assertion, gently exploring why they think that. so if somebody says, how can you be a Christian? Clay in the 21st century, we’ve got modern science, right? We’ve got artificial intelligence. All that technology and science and faith are clearly contradictory. Uh rather than sort of get all flustered about that to go, that’s really interesting that you would say that. What just have interest led you to that conclusion? What is it that you’ve read or studied or thought about that makes you think that? What’s your evidence for that? In other words? And that can be fascinating because there’s a lot of skepticism out there that’s ungrounded. So those two questions, what do you mean by that? And why do you think that really helpful if people have objections? But for me, the real heart of the book was coming across more and more people, and maybe the same has been true in your life, clay coming across people who are anti Christian. They’re just not interested. They would say they don’t have a religion. They’re not interested in God. Surveys in both the USA and on my side of the Atlantic have shown that the rise of the nuns N-O-N-E-S not nuns is everywhere. One question I teach in the book here is the have you ever wondered question. And with that, what you’re doing with somebody who’s apathetic or agnostic, you’re looking for something they’re passionate about, and you’re asking them, have they ever wondered what the source of this stuff is? And one of the most really obvious ways to do that today is with human rights and justice. If somebody looks at some travesty in the news and says, that’s terrible what Vladimir Putin is doing in Ukraine. That’s awful to say to your friend, that’s interesting. So obviously, justice really matters for you. Oh, yeah. Gosh yes, it does. What’s going on there is outrageous interesting. Have you ever wondered why you care about justice? I mean, after all, if we’re just atoms and particles in motion, who cares what one set of particles does to another set of particles? But have you ever wondered why we care about justice? Or have you ever wondered why we care about beauty or meaning or truth or identity? And the have you have wondered question, which actually originally goes all the way back to C. S. Lewis I think is where where I first picked it up is a great way of starting spiritual conversations with people who, if you said to them, do you believe in God? Or go, no, not interested. But if you come in those other areas there’s all kinds of fruits for rich conversations.
Clay Kraby: Yeah. And questions are tremendously helpful in any challenging conversation, really. I mean, it accomplishes so much. It gives you time to think. You don’t feel like that. You’ve got to respond right away and have some brilliant thought. Uh, you can slow the conversation down by asking good questions. It allows you to answer questions and speak to things that they actually. Have and believe, rather than you’re talking past them on things that they don’t care about. That’s not their concern. That’s not their critique of Christianity or anything like that. It lets you gain information and people everybody wants to be heard and understood. And I think we can show a lot of respect to the other person by seeking to understand where they’re coming from.
Andy Bannister: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. And I think one of the sad things is sometimes Christians have picked up a reputation in our culture for being people who are very quick to talk and very slow to listen. Uh, I told a story in the book of a few years ago. My family and I were on holiday in the English Lake District, beautiful part of the mountain country in England. And over the course of our week, we got to know another family that we met at the local play park. Because they had small kids, we had small kids, and over the week, got to know this other family. They weren’t Christians, but conversations about faith began. And on the last night, we were having, I think, a curry together. And the wife, over the over the tape, over the dinner looked at my wife, Astrid and I, and she said, I’ve never forget this. She said, I can’t work you guys out. I can’t work you guys out. You’re clearly into this Jesus thing was her way of putting it. She said, but you’re not crunchy. And we’re saying to her, I said, Sorry, what do you mean? What do you mean, crunchy? She went, oh, come on, you know, I mean crunchy Christians. I went, that sounds like a cannibalistic breakfast cereal. What does that mean? She went, well, you know the kind of people you can’t talk to about anything because you mentioned any subject and there’s sharp intakes of breath and tuts and that you could see they disapprove of everything you say every time you swear. My husband and I swear occasionally said, we f bombed earlier. Uh, you didn’t bat an eyelids. So what is it about you guys? And that opened up a whole conversation. But what was interesting, it kind of saddened me slightly, because I don’t think my wife and I are particularly amazing Christians. I don’t have our best to follow Christ faithfully, but we have learned to listen to others. And I think that woman had encountered lots of Christians who didn’t and took every opportunity to just be negative and preach at them. And what we found is, if you listen and ask questions and take an interest, then all kinds of things open up. And we see, by the way, a biblical model for this in Acts 17, without doing a whole sermon for you folks listening to this, go read Acts 1716 to 34. Sometime that’s Paul in Athens, and he wanders around Athens. We’re told he sees all the statues and the altars and whatnot. And you’d expect Paul as a good Jew to get irate and cross? He doesn’t. He goes and preaches at the Ariopagus. And his opening remark is, when I saw your statues, I was very impressed. I was wonderful how religious you are. He’s positive and he’s welcoming. And you could see the Athenians warm to him. Now. Then he moves into the gentle critique of, look, this stuff really isn’t on. And you’ve got this unknown God business going on. Let me tell you who that is. But he starts by he takes an interest. He looks, what’s going on? He figures out what the Athenians think. He builds bridges, and then he takes the gospel across that bridge. And one last thought, by the way, Clay. The other thing with taking an interest and asking questions, you can practice this in a very low key way. If you’re listening to this and you’re a bit of a nervous person, you’re like, man, not quite sure I’m ready for this. Well, obviously, buy the book, of course. Why would you not? but practice is next time you’re in an Uber or at the coffee shop or wherever, when you’re engaging with somebody who’s not a Christian, the barista, the Uber driver, wherever it is, another parent at the school gate, think to yourself, can I learn something about this other person in the fight? In my brief interaction? Rather than just sit the back of the Uber and hop out of the end, take some time. Find out about the person who’s driving you. Find out where are they from? They got a family, they’ve got kids. What are they into? You don’t have to be spiritual at this stage. Just learn to ask really good questions. Now, what’s interesting, if you even just keep it at the level of family and work and what they’re into, there will come a point where the other person, just being normal human being, will ask about you. So what about you? What do you do? What are you into? And if you’re that little bit bolder and be praying quietly for that confidence, there’s an opportunity who knows that God may open a natural door for you to say, I’m a Christian, even if it’s something as simple as my family and I lived there for 20 years. I go to the church around the corner. I work at the office building up there. But just take an interest in people. People love it when other people take an interest in them. And it’s a very low key way to build the first steps on a journey towards a spiritual conversation. Yeah.
Clay Kraby: And it builds that relational capital. I think you alluded it to it earlier. Not everything’s going to go from someone’s a committed atheist, a hater of Christianity, and then you have a five-minute conversation with you and they are a follower of Jesus. I mean, Lord willing, you get to experience something as wonderful as that. But when you’re asking questions, you’re having engaging conversations, you’re building these relationships that God can use over time, over many conversations, or perhaps unbeknownst to you some other Christian that’s being faithful in evangelism gets to pick up from there. And you’re building into these things that God can use over time, and asking questions can help you do that.
Andy Bannister: You’re absolutely right. And I love the point you make there about others being involved. Paul alludes to this in the New Testament, where he talks about things in First Corinthians. He talks about one man, sowed another water, another reaped, and really trying to introduce the idea that actually God works through a variety of people. And it’s interesting as well for folks listening to this to ask yourself the question, who is involved in you coming to faith? And for most of us who are Christians, there are multiple people. I look back and go, okay, in my case, it was my mum and dad, because I was raised in a Christian family, had that blessing. But it wasn’t just them. I also had two particularly brilliant youth leaders who were instrumental in m my teens and coming through to faith and then probably in cementing that Christian faith. A couple of significant people early on in my 20s who, in terms of discipleship, were absolutely crucial. So it’s a bunch of people. and that’s true for lots of folks. So, yeah, I think it’s really helpful to think in terms of that kind of evangelism being a team sport, as it were, and an analogy I use in the book. In fact, I quote in the books, it’s not original to me. I’ve got a friend of mine called Randy Newman, not the guy who wrote the lyrics for Toy Story. but Randy Newman is an American Christian writer, wrote a brilliant book called Questioning Evangelism, by the way, which is another sort of take on the asking questions. And Randy talks about the idea of when you think about a scale from A to Z. Look, I’m contextualizing A to Z over here, but A to Z for you Americans and imagine that A is a complete total pagan as far from God as you can possibly, possibly imagine. Perhaps their postal address is 666 Babylon Avenue. And then Z is someone who’s just given their life to Christ. Rather than think about when you meet your total pagan friend, can I have this one magic conversation that gets them from A to Z? That might happen. God does do dramatic things. Look at Saul Paul in the New Testament, and there are contemporary examples. But often what will happen is God might use you of your friendship and a conversation. Maybe, yeah, you’re going to move them from A to C and someone else will move them from C to F and so on down the scale and why that can be helpful takes the pressure off you. And as you’re praying for your friend and talking with them, maybe over several conversations, to just be seeking the Lord and going, lord, could you use me to just move them up that scale? And that success. Looks like they’ve moved closer to Z and away from A, and it might take a long time. one of my closest friends in recent years was a former Muslim, no longer with us, actually, a guy called Nabil Qureshi, very well known on your side of Atlantic, wrote a book called Seeking Allah, finding Jesus Nabil’s Testimony. I remember when I met Nabil and heard how he’d come to Christ, I think typifies that beautifully. I think it was a five year or seven year, one of those two numbers journey from atheist, Muslim, in his case, committed atheist, right the way through to Christian. And the friend who was influential in that a friend of his called David Wood, also a friend of mine, david would say people were saying to him, david, give up on the bill. He’s not going to become a Christian. You’ve been talking to him for a year, two years, three years, four, give up. And David’s answer was always, no, he’s my friend and I care for him. But secondly, I trust God, and I’m going to keep praying and keep praying, keep praying. And that was a five year journey with David and others working with Nabil before he dramatically came to Christ. And then look how God used him to reach thousands before we lost him to cancer a few years ago. So journeys like that are interesting, that show me, yeah, God does not from work to our timetables. So, yeah, don’t think in terms of how do I have a dramatic conversion experience with someone? How can I be faithful and m, how can I help someone along that journey?
Clay Kraby: Yeah. Even just the concept of framing it as can I do something to help move them further along? That can resolve a great deal of anxiety when it comes to evangelism. So can questions. Uh, some people might think that’s really helpful and asking questions really helpful, but what if they ask me a question? And that can make a lot of people nervous. What advice do you have for those whose fear is I don’t know how I would answer some questions that they might have, be they theological be they just more of, like a society concern or a difference in definitions of things. Like, you mentioned the word justice earlier, there’s very different definitions floating around there. So how do you teach people what advice do you give for those that are afraid of receiving questions?
Andy Bannister: Yeah, that’s a great question. first thing I would say we touched on it a little bit is obviously just learn some general conversational tools. And so the heart of this book teaches that very, very practical stuff. If you’re a heavy sort of thinker, it’s still good to learn those. If you’re not, it’s great to learn those too. So being equipped with some conversational tools because that will teach you things like before you even get into answering the question, learning to ask questions back can be helpful. So one thing I teach in the book is when someone raises difficult question and of course, yeah, I understand you might panic, your adrenaline level goes up, your heart rate raises. Just to begin by saying, that’s a great question. Why do you ask? It can be very, very helpful. A good example would be if someone says to you something like clay, how on earth can you believe in a good God when there’s suffering and evil in the world? It’s quite a big, scary question. People listening to this may be wow, I don’t know how to answer that. But it might be that. When you say, that’s a really interesting question. Tell me, why do you ask that? Well, if you discover that the reason they’re asking that is because they’ve just lost a loved one to cancer it may actually be that your role in that conversation is not to try and give some clever theological answer. That’s the last thing that person needs. What they need is someone to listen and weep with them and have them tell them story and say look, I don’t have all the answers and what you’ve been through is terrible. May I pray with you? And I’ve had conversations like that where I haven’t had to draw upon the theology that I do know what somebody wants as a pastoral answer. And that’s also a reminder, by the way, to those of us who are theologically equipped. Sometimes being theologically equipped can be a handicap because we reach too quickly for the let’s go for the smart answer. Uh, where actually the person might need something more pastoral. So beginning by digging into the question, and then the other thing we do in the book is I teach people a fairly straightforward series of steps that we won’t go into now because it’ll take a bit, probably a bit too long to go through, but a fairly simple series of steps that you can work through with any question. That teach you to begin sympathizing a bit with the person I’ve just described, teach you how to begin exploring the question a bit with the other person and unpack it a bit. And particularly as well show how they have some things to answer. A good example there would be the problem of evil. An atheist friends raises that. Well, of course our atheist friends have an issue with the problem of evil. Their problem is how do you define good and evil? If everything is as atoms in motion? What makes one configuration of atoms good and one configuration of atoms bad? Hard to tell. So it’s good to learn how to gently show the person actually, they’ve got some thinking to do here. Uh, and then the next kind of steps along the journey are showing you how to begin digging into the question a bit, but particularly digging in by bringing Jesus into the conversation. Because really, I think our task when we’re given hard questions is not to try and give these amazing philosophical answers, if that’s even possible, but to give a good answer by an answer that points people to Jesus. Because obviously what we want ultimately is for people to encounter him, not just go away. Go my word. I asked Clay, I asked Andy, I asked that Christian friend of mine this question, and they just gave this amazing answer with Latin footnotes and everything. well done. but I also missed something, by the way, that’s not to downplay apologetics or clever answers. I love this stuff. I know you do. And many listeners your show probably do, too, but reminded for us, too, who love this stuff, that ultimately it’s Jesus we’re trying to connect people with, not our own cleverness. And then lastly, I just talk in the book a little bit about there are great ways, I think, to get prepared ourselves. If you get asked a question you don’t know, do not be afraid of saying to your friend, do you know? That’s a really good question. Thank you for asking that. That’s a brilliant question and I haven’t really thought about that before. But if that question really matters to you, if that’s a question that you would really value an answer to, leave it with me and I’ll go and find the answer to that. I’ll do that for you. And we can perhaps grab a coffee in a week or two and then be good to your word. Talk to an older, wiser Christian. Talk to a pastor. great apologetic websites, great apologetic podcasts. I can think of one right now. Uh and so on. And then come back to your friend. And actually, it’s amazing, actually, when you do that, that opens doors. The fact that you’ve taken the time to dig the answers out, the time you’ve gone back to your friend and gone, thank you for that question. It was brilliant. I actually really valued the chance of my own faith to do some digging into that. And look, I think I’ve got what I think is a fairly good answer. Let’s talk about it. the fact that you valued them enough to do that and follow up can be very powerful, too. So just because you don’t know the answer right now doesn’t matter. You are a human being, not a walking incarnation of Chat, GPT or Wikipedia. so just because you don’t have the answer on tap is not something to be afraid of.
Clay Kraby: Yeah. So much of this just boils down to you are a person talking to a person and trying to point them to the person of Jesus Christ. And that is the task of evangelists. That’s the goal of these evangelistic conversations. Obviously you go through a lot of tips and helpful guidance throughout the book. Where can folks go to learn more about you and your ministry and pick up a copy of the book?
Andy Bannister: Well, if the technology works, I should be able to do a quick kind of screen share into Zencaster. So that’s all I’ve got. I’ve only got the virtual cover of the book, mate, not the physical thing you’ve got. So if they go to the Solas website, that’s the ministry that I work for S-O-L-A-S. Solas-cpc.org. And if you want to see the book, put forward, slash book on the end of it. And we’ve got links to almost every country we can think of where you can get hold of it. But also, Clay recommend people check that out because we’ve got thousands of resources, they’re free resources on the Solas website, everything’s free. Not the books, but all the resources and articles and videos. Which means if you want to dig deeper into particular questions, we probably got stuff on there all kinds of resources there to help you both, help you with evangelism, but also that you can share with your friends. So, for example, the wandering question I mentioned earlier we have a series on the Solas website called Have You Ever Wandered? Which is, I think, 26 different wandering type questions deliberately written as articles or videos you can share on your social media feed or with a friend and start conversation. So check out the Solas website and all the resources there, and as I say, links there to where folks can get hold of the book.
Clay Kraby: Excellent. I’ll be sure to include all those and other resources associated with the conversation that we’ve just had at the show notes for this episode at ReasonableTheology.org. So if you would like to pick up a copy and be fortunate enough to have an actual physical copy like I do you can head to that website, you can get it off from wherever you typically get your books. Our guest on this episode has been Andy Bannister, and we’ve been talking about his new book, How to Talk About Jesus Without Looking Like an Idiot. It thank you so much for the conversation, it was really helpful and I really enjoyed it.
Andy Bannister: It’s been brilliant. Thanks for having me on the on the show, Clay. God bless.