Don't worry, you aren't alone. Most of us have been there at one time or another. I certainly have.
Your heart's pounding like it'll jump out of your chest at any second, your palms are clamming up with sweat, and your knees are shaking like a leaf in the wind. Voice trembling all along, you turn and say,
"Hello. I'm Scotty. What's your name?"
"Hi Scotty, great to meet you. My name's Eric."
Now what? You've introduced yourself and engaged them in conversation at the most basic level, but haven't a clue what say next.
"What do you believe about God?" You quickly stammer out.
"God? Only cotton headed ninny muggins believe in that stuff."
How do you respond? What do you say next? I doubt a real conversation would be this direct, and that the response of an atheist would include a reference to Elf, but it does have a ring of truth to it doesn't it.
We've all been party to or witnessed some awkward version of the above exchange. We mean well, and are willing to step up to the plate, but we haven't the first clue what to do once we get there. Most of the time we don't even get the bat off our shoulder.
Why is that? Don't we have deeply held convictions and reasoned arguments to support what we believe about God, The Bible and reality? Of course we do. The problem is that we don't have a clear, concise game plan. Think about it. Every great success in the world has a plan and works it. They craft it carefully and are ready when the moment strikes. The same is true when it comes to having spiritual conversations, its a pretty good idea to have a game plan.
Greg Koukl has done the heavy lifting for us. He has carefully and thoughtfully crafted a game plan to help followers of Christ engage the world around them in a wise and gracious fashion. This game plan can be located in his book, Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions.
Today, I want to share with you some of the most helpful and insightful aspects of Greg's book. Insights that I hope and pray will help you in your conversations this week, and encourage you to run grab your own copy of Tactics.
Let's get down to business and discuss
1. Leave a stone in their shoe
Greg completely shatters many of the preconceived notions too many of us have when it comes to evangelism. Early on he compels us to start thinking of spiritual conversations in a new light and to readjust our goals from getting to a full on gospel presentation in each and every conversation to "put a stone in someone's shoe". What does this odd but catchy phrase mean? It means leaving the other person with something worth thinking about, something that just gnaws at them in a good way.
2. Get good at asking questions
By asking carefully selected questions you accomplish several things at the same time. You gain control of the conversation, keep it moving forward and keep things civil. Again the goal isn't to share the gospel in each and every conversation, it is to ask the right question and plant the right seed to get the other person thinking. Questions are one of the best vehicles for encouraging thoughtful dialogue. They are non threatening, friendly, and flattering. People love to share their opinion, its just that so few people ever take the time to ask.
Question 1: "What do you mean by that?"
Make them spell out their own view, specifically. In order to have a thoughtful conversation, you need to understand the other person's views. This question helps you gather valuable information on exactly what they think. Instead of staggering through the conversation assuming you know what they mean by this or that, this question is designed to help you get it straight from the horses mouth. You'll be surprised how often you're assumptions are wrong. Better still, you get them to spell it out in exact terms. No more guess work on your part.
Question 2: "How did you come to that conclusion?"
They've made a claim and presented a view, now its time to make them defend it. It's not your job to refute their claim, it's up to them to prove it. Ask them to explain what has led them to drawing their particular conclusions. Intelligent views have supporting reasons. Make them spell these out.
3. Plan ahead
There are certain topics that you can reasonably assume will come up as you're out and about. If you sat down for more than 10 mins. you could come up with dozens of objections that will be thrown your way. Get ready for them. If Adrian Beltre knew the next pitch was a fastball down the middle of the plate, you can be certain it'll end up about 20 rows deep. He's flat hit it out of the park. And so should you. Take some time to formulate and practice responses to common objections. This is where modern technology come in handy. Create notes in your favorite note taking app containing common questions, arguments and claims with your responses. That way you have them right there in your pocket everywhere you go.
No one said evangelism would be easy stuff. Sometimes it leads to some down right nasty encounters. No matter how rude people are, or how poorly we think we've done it, hopefully we'll have left a stone in their shoe that gets them thinking. I have only scratched the surface on the immense help Greg provides in Tactics. It is one of those rare books that becomes a resource you will return to time and again the minute you finish it.