I was listening to a podcast recently from Stand to Reason. The podcast was with Greg Koukl and a man named Doug, an atheist. They were having a very thoughtful and mostly polite back and forth about God and His existence. When the conversation did get a little heated it was quickly calmed down by Greg’s demeanor and desire to understand Doug. In addition, Greg did a great job of insisting that Doug understand what he was trying to say and not let his answer be limited to what Doug wanted to hear. It was wonderful to observe an artful communicator at work. I thought about the necessary years of studying, training and practice that Greg must have undertaken in order to keep himself in the moment. The ability to focus, represent himself and the message he wanted to deliver as a good ambassador for Christ. That podcast is here it is well worth a listen.
We, Christians, get questions about our faith that are meant to stump us or back us into a defenseless position.
Typical questions like, “Can God make a rock so big He can't lift it?” Another example of that is “If God is so good why does He allow suffering?” I think you get the idea. The intent is to either trick, trap or otherwise forced you into a defenseless position or one where you have to agree with the questioner or sound like a lunatic. Christian critics always try to position their worldview as the most reasonable. The reality is both sides have a burden of proof. One really needs to look at the evidence and decide which is the more reasonable conclusion.
First and foremost I want to be very clear. There are no magic words that will help you win anyone over to accepting Christ. The Holy Spirit has the biggest role to play here. All we can do here is be ready to present our faith and God’s truth in the best possible light.
There are many ways to try to get our message across. We have all seen people that do street evangelism. Some have a very aggressive style. While I am not a big fan of this presentation method. I do understand and respect their desire to defend our faith and I have seen them be successful at winning people to Christ. Some folks quote scriptures at people. They get the label “Bible thumpers”. Others try a scare tactic, the world is coming to an end and so on. While I don't want to say one way is better than another. I will say that everyone should find their voice for Jesus and find a way to have a defense for their faith.
Today’s culture labels Christians as “unintelligent”, “stupid”, “mindless” and worse. Comedians like Bill Maher intimidate us into silence. People emulate that approach and pick up one line attacks and we have no answers. We can and must do better. The evidence is on our side if we dare to take the time and energy to learn, study and practice presenting the mountains of evidence that God has provided. As one of my favorite podcasters J. Warner Wallace (Author of Cold Case Christianity) puts it we must “train” ourselves. This way we can reason with and defend the reason for our belief. Like Greg, we need to keep our composure. This way we can come across as inviting, reasoned, willing to listen individuals but also provide well thought out answers in defense of Christ.
I love the Apostle Paul’s example: We see him in Galatians 1:11–2:3 Meeting Jesus, studying and then confirming his studies with peers.
11 ... I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. 12 I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ…..
18 ... I went to Jerusalem to get to know Peter, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. 19 The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother.
2:1 ... I met privately with those considered to be leaders of the church and shared with them the message I had been preaching to the Gentiles. I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing. 3 And they supported me ….
It took time for Paul to understand and consume God’s revelation, He was not a lone wolf. He sought out other like mind people and confirmed his message. In Acts, we get another glimpse of Paul.
... And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ."
What jumps out is that first Paul had a “custom”. A quick search of an online dictionary describes the use of the word custom in this situation is “a repeated practice”. We think of a custom is something you do all the time. It is something predictable, repeatable, practiced and planned.
Paul met these people where they were at. Gave them home-court advantage. However, he had a customary way of approaching them, over a period of time. It was not a tweet, a one-liner, or a single verse or a quick prayer or an offer of a quick prayer. It was three days of reasoning with them. Aside from reasoning with people he gave them evidence for Christ. He came prepared with facts, data and a way to present the material. He had a customary way of approaching them.
A critical flaw in my thinking has been, we are not meant to go it alone. We are created for a relationship. The last lines in the section of Galatians 1:11–2:9 stand out for me.
Galatians 2:9 In fact, James, Peter, and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers. They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews.
Paul needed to be encouraged. To do that we need to surround ourselves with other believers that can help our thinking, training and encourage us. Help us hone our message create a customary way of approaching nonbelievers that is thoughtful engaging and inviting.
Author - Guy Yasika
Looking to profess my faith to anyone that will listen.