A panic-free guide to having natural conversations about Jesus
ISBN 9 781789 744873
259 pages

You have to feel sorry for Andy Bannister’s children! He is possibly the teller of the worst dad jokes in human history. I am surprised that there isn’t a hazard warning notice on the cover of this book. The cover has the sign: Don’t Panic; perhaps it should say Don’t Laugh, you might encourage him! No seriously, the jokes aside this is a helpful and readable guide to how to speak to people about Jesus.

First, the book deals with the confidence issue. The author deals with a range of common things that make us too afraid to speak about our faith, and using his own story he shows how those fears can be overcome.

Second, the book shows how Jesus models asking questions. This section helpfully shows how we can be too quick to get to the answer, with people being unaware of the need for one.

The four questions he suggests are: What? Why? Wondering? Whether?

He offers the following four examples:

What do you mean by the word god?
Why do you think that all religions lead to god?
Have you ever wondered why we are so drawn to art and beauty?
I wonder whether Christianity makes better sense of human rights and dignity than the alternatives?

Third, the offers advice on how to deal with questions. Here he uses the five steps SHARE:

Sympathise with the person asking the question.
Highlight hidden assumptions made by the questioner.
Apply the Bible to the question.
Retell the gospel to point the questioner to Jesus.
(This section also reinforces what the author has said about connecting the question to what Jesus said, did or a story he told.)
Equip your friend by pointing them to appropriate resources for further exploration.

Most readers would benefit from reading a book like this. It does open up the possibilities of gospel witness and provides some useful tools for engaging in it.

Many books on evangelism suffer from the gift projection of the author and the sense that the evangelistic formula provided is more straightforward in theory than in practice.

Andy Bannister seeks to avoid gift projection, yet I think some people might still be intimidated by this book. While it does avoid merely offering a guaranteed formula, readers might yet ask: why is that the actual non-Christians we talk to seem so much less compliant than those in the books on evangelism?!

This might not be the last word on evangelism for the timid, but it is a good start. Keep calm and read Andy!

John Woods is a writer and Bible teacher based in West Sussex. He is Director of Training at the School of Preachers in Riga, Latvia.