How can you have a conversation with people about your faith?
I mean a real conversation.
Not a fight.
Or an argument.
Or a clash of egos.
I mean a dialogue in which you’re hearing the other person, and that person hears you, and both sides are genuinely listening.
Here’s a video by apologist Greg Koukl that’s worth twenty minutes of your time. He presents a game plan for having an evangelistic conversation. But it might not start with evangelism. You’ll probably have to work to get to that point. He thinks that our culture needs much more pre-evangelism than previous generations needed. And that means finding out what the person believes by asking him or her questions and listening to his or her answers. In the video, he gives the example of talking to a lady who identifies as being a witch!
Koukl bases his talk on Col 4:5-6. It reads:
Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one (Col 4:5-6).
He has three takeaways from this passage.
- Be smart.
- Be nice
- Be tactical.
Be smart—“walk in wisdom.” It’s easy to make a fool of yourself when a conversation turns into a debate or a fight. I remember the very first phone call I answered when I started working for GES in 2012. It was from a lady who believed in health and wealth theology and wanted to know if we believed what Joseph Prince believed. At that point, I hadn’t heard of Prince. But once I picked up on her prosperity theology, I immediately started to debate her about it, and it ended up about the way you would imagine—with her hanging up on me! It didn’t have to go that way. I was not wise.
Be nice—“Let your speech always be with grace.” Don’t let being “right” justify your being a jerk to other people. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Canada where they emphasized being “nice,” or perhaps it’s because when you do online ministry you realize that the anonymity of the internet can bring out the bullies. Whatever the reason, I try to be nice, but I don’t always succeed!
Be tactical—“that you may know how you ought to answer.” Being able to know how you ought to answer comes down to studying apologetics. You cannot give good answers if you aren’t familiar with the hard questions and issues that need answering. That’s something that you’ll have to learn on your own. In my experience, churches are weak in teaching their people how to defend the Christian faith. That means most young people go to college or university unarmed—never having asked or answered the hardest objections to Christianity, or the best arguments for other worldviews. Many of my friends left the faith because (in my estimation), they were taught a childish version of Christianity that was easily debunked by their college professors. But instead of dispensing with their childish beliefs, and looking for better Christian answers, they dispensed with Christianity altogether! They threw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. But that didn’t need to happen. Thankfully, Christian apologists have been very active in producing free content online (including Greg Koukl!). Look up names like Lee Strobel, J. Warner Wallace, John Warwick Montgomery, and C. S. Lewis for starters.
As Paul reminds us, “those who are outside” need to hear Jesus’ promise of eternal life, so go talk to them, listen to them, hear their objections, and if you don’t know the answers, get ready to learn!