Meet Paul Little
"Lord, you know I always stub my toe when I try to witness. Why must I begin in one of these residences reserved for brainy students on scholarships? They’ll tear me apart limb from limb. I’ll not live the night out!" (Know Why You Believe, introduction by Marie Little)
This was Paul Little’s anxious prayer in 1951, prior to his first evangelistic address to non-Christians as a staff member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. That night one man came to faith, and years later that man’s son became a missionary. So began a quarter century of changed lives—from witnessing, teaching, and writing about the fundamentals of Christianity, and from equipping believers to confidently share their faith.
But Paul Little had not set out to become a Christian apologist. Little graduated from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a degree in accounting. It was while attending school that he first began talking about his faith to others. After graduation his focus switched from accounting to people’s accountability to God, and he began a full-time career of sharing the message of Christ to college students in the United States and on five continents. His wife, Marie, who also worked on staff with InterVarsity, recalls in Paul’s book Know What You Believe that his suitcase was always being packed or unpacked!
Colleagues described him as possessing an intuitive understanding of people. His sincerity and personal integrity were so evident that people would instantly trust him and establish a bond with him. Noted for engaging his audiences with his remarkable wit, he often said "It doesn’t matter what you think of Plato, Napoleon, or Richard Nixon. It does matter what you think of Jesus Christ!"
As he spoke to the bored, the intellectuals, and the athletes on campus, Little noticed that the same 12 questions were commonly asked—wherever he went. After making this observation, he turned to Scripture to frame his answers to these predictable questions. The eventual outcome was his book Know Why You Believe.
One thing troubled him during his interactions with people: the partial truths and misconceptions about the Christian message that he repeatedly heard. So again he turned to Scripture and began jotting down answers. These notes became Know What You Believe. His first book, How to Give Away Your Faith, is an enduring classic on personal evangelism, and has helped millions of people learn how to witness comfortably and confidently, in a friendly and natural manner. Other books by Little include The Answer to Life and Certainty.
In addition to his work with InterVarsity, Paul Little served as associate professor of evangelism at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in Deerfield, Illinois. He died in 1975 in an auto accident. He was not a philosopher. He was not really a theologian. He was a "shirt-sleeve evangelist" (How to Give Away Your Faith)—a good man who loved the Lord and loved talking about the Lord to others.