Let me answer this by giving an example of a college student that I met at a secular university who proudly introduced herself as an “ex-Christian.” She had begun to question God after prayers for a cancer-stricken loved one seemed to go unanswered. Often rejection of God comes from a hurting heart. It might be a personal tragedy, trial, or even an encounter with a religious person who was a poor example of Christ or a poor witness.
So how can we be convincing in challenging someone to return to Jesus? The same strategies that are effective when witnessing to the lost apply are effective when witnessing to the wander. In loving and ministering to all people, empathy, discernment, and a listening ear will take the conversation much farther than a data dump of biblical facts.
Strategy 1: Ask questions.
With friendliness and a winsome spirit, try to connect with the person who voices skepticism. Ask questions such as, “Have you always felt this way or did something happen that caused you to change your beliefs?”
Strategy 2: Listen
Listen carefully to the other person’s position, trying to understand the real obstacle to faith. Restate what’s been said so that you are sure you really understand. Try to steer the conversation toward the subject of Jesus, just as the Lord did when talking with the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-26.
Strategy 3: Focus
Stay away from rabbit trails. Ancillary issues can confuse, but they will often fade away when the discussion focuses on Christ.
Strategy 4: Pray
Even as you’re talking, silently pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work in the situation. The person may have someone he/she needs to forgive, or there may be another burden that “colors” the picture. Ask God to open their ears.
Strategy 5: Don’t converse to “win.”
There’s nothing to “win.” The title of a C.S. Lewis book, God in the Dock, implies that people attempt to keep God on the witness stand. They consider the Bible guilty until proven innocent. Some of the more vitriolic say they have come from churches where questions and critical thinking were off limits. This is sad because one of our duties as Christians is to worship God through continual nurture of the intellect (Matthew 22:37; Romans 12:2).
Our goal should never be to win arguments. We are simply called to testify in hopes of convincing skeptics to consider the facts with an open mind and allow the Scripture to vindicate itself under cross-examination.
Most Important: Be Bold. Be Kind. Be Wise.
Share your faith. Tell people about your Jesus in the hope that their ears will be open and they will hear about the Blessed Hope you have and how they can know Him.
Christian apologists Alex McFarland and Shari Abbott answer some of life's many questions concerning the gospel, faith, and the Bible by sharing Truth for a New Generation and Reasons for Hope found only in Jesus. For more information about apologist, evangelist, author, and religion and culture analyst, Alex McFarland, visit www.alexmcfarland.com. For more information about Shari Abbott, executive director of Reasons for Hope* Jesus, click here.
Truth for a New Generation (TNG) serves nationwide, featuring a multi-year conference tour and student-led club program to equip teenagers, parents, grandparents, and others who lead them to live for God. TNG's mission is to creatively communicate a compelling Christian worldview to the next generation by giving answers to tough questions, based on the truths of Scripture, and to build up the Body of Christ to stand strong and boldly proclaim the gospel in the world. For more information and resources visit www.truthforanewgeneration.com.
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