A Lesson in Tactics and Evangelism from a Samaritan Woman

In a recent podcast, Drew and I outlined a few of the tactics and concepts from Greg Koukl’s excellent book, Tactics. One of the most important lessons he teaches in the book is that the best way to engage a person in a conversation about Christianity is to ask lots and lots of questions. Don’t launch into a sermon or give a laundry list of arguments for God’s existence. Just start by asking some questions.

There are plenty of examples in the Bible where Jesus and his apostles used this same method. However, there’s one that is often overlooked even among those familiar with the tactics. John chapter 4 describes the encounter Jesus had with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well. Long story short, he asks her for a drink of water, tells her everything she ever did, and declares himself to be the foretold messiah. It’s a great passage, but her response gives us an interesting lesson in tactics and evangelism.

1. Could this be the Messiah?

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. -John 4:28-30

She’s clearly sold at this point. But she doesn’t go to all her friends and say, “I’ve found the Messiah, and his name is Jesus!” Instead, she tells them what happened and asks a question. She draws their attention and piques their curiosity. This is a practice we can all implement without much difficulty. Think about how you could apply a similar principle. Questions like, “Who do you think Jesus of Nazareth truly was?” “If God became a human, what would that look like?” “Could the Bible actually be true in what it says about Jesus and history?” There’s plenty of ways you can apply a similar way of thinking to start good conversations.  

2. Letting Jesus Speak for Himself

One of the other key points to learn from the Samaritan woman is that she leads it all back to Jesus. This is perhaps one of the best ways to use a personal testimony for evangelism. She doesn’t say, “I’ve just had the most amazing personal experience that changed my life.” She says “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” The focus is in the right place. But even more remarkable is the result it yields. Her initial testimony intrigues them. Later on, after many of the Samaritans heard from Jesus themselves, they are convinced.

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. 42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” -John 4:39-42

We’ve talked a lot about testimony before, and why you don’t want to rely on it too heavily for evangelism. Part of the danger of an amazing testimony is it can end up with people believing more in you, than in Jesus. You never want someone to be in a position where your conversion and changed life are the rock on which they stand, because then if you stumble they will to. We’re all flawed Human beings that nobody should trust for their eternal life. However, what the Samaritan woman did was use her testimony as a bridge to Jesus, and getting them to hear Jesus for themselves. She tells them what happened to her, but doesn’t leave it at that. It has to point back to him as the root and source or else it is ultimately meaningless.

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