Tactics by Gregory Koukl – Chapter 2: Reservations
guest blog by David Stoecker
"There are two things you don’t talk about, religion and politics!" Does that sound familiar? Religion has for some time been considered a taboo subject. So when a book encourages you to have religious discussions you probably get nervous. "How can I possibly discuss my faith, especially with non-believers, without it turning into a heated dispute?" Mr. Koukl addresses just that question in Chapter 2, and he goes further than simply saying we should discuss it. He encourages that we should argue for our faith. Scary, huh?
Let’s start by clarifying what the word ‘argument’ means. Is it two people yelling at each other back and forth, getting angrier and angrier as the discussion continues to escalate? No, an argument is an attempt to persuade others with reason and evidence. An argument sounds like a positive experience. A heated argument, however, is the last thing you want. If you get angry and raise your voice, cut someone off in mid-sentence, or try to bully or intimidate them you lose! You give the appearance of using power instead of persuasion. It is the best way to appear ignorant on the issue. Plus it is a showing of bad manners, which is hardly Christ-like.
On the flip side, what if you stay as cool as a cucumber and the other person gets angry and defensive? Once again, you lose! You should always try to keep the conversation cordial by being kind, patient and gentle. What if you express your ideas in that fashion and it still enrages people? You now know that it is your beliefs and ideas, not your attitude or behavior that bothers them.
In life you must never forget that YOU are a representative of Christ and you need to always display that. You are to love your neighbor as yourself. That means that you are to be compassionate, respectful and caring to those around you. Treat them how you want them to treat you whether they do or not. You also are to love God with your whole heart. If you have that kind of love for him, why would you not share Him? You bore people to death telling them about your children, so why do you fear discussing Christ?
You may not be able to handle someone challenging your beliefs without getting hostile. Maybe you fear enraging others. Remember, that is on them as long as you use patience, care, and respect when dialoguing with others. Finally, you may be afraid that differing opinions may destroy the unity of the church. 2 Timothy chapter 2 tells you to teach others and in 2 Timothy chapter 4:2-5 we are told to:
"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."
Scripture tells you to correct, rebuke and encourage using sound doctrine by doing the work of an evangelist and performing the duties of ministry. This requires you to have conversations and discussions with both believers and non-believers. You cannot share the truth without engaging in legitimate conversation- treating others with civility and not taking it personally when they disagree.
Here is why we should engage others with arguments: Our views must be challenged if we are to develop a strong foundation for our faith- without discussion and debate our faith can stay weak and shallow. Argument is vital to help us distinguish between truth and error, friend from foe, positive from negative, and right from wrong. Koukl states that, "The ability to argue well is vital for clear thinking. That’s why arguments are good things. Arguing is a virtue because it helps us to determine what is true and discard what is false."
How can we love God with all of our mind as Jesus instructed us to in Mark 12:30 if we never engage our mind? Our minds are best exercised when we dispute our claims with those who have opposing beliefs. Our faith grows stronger through arguments and sometimes they can even be effective!
In Acts 17: 2-3, Paul reasoned with non-believers for 3 Sabbaths while he explained and gave evidence for his beliefs. He did not sway them all, but the Bible says that "some of them were persuaded" (Acts 17:4). You should not expect everyone to change. In John 10:27-28 Jesus says that His sheep hear and follow. This means that there will be some who don’t respond to the Truth.
In fact, you may never change anyone’s mind. If they don’t respond, do not take it personally! It is not up to you to change people- that is the work of the Holy Spirit. You can neither love nor argue someone to Christ on your own. Without the work of the Spirit, there can be no conversion. It is only through God’s power that gospel can transform someone.
So if it is not on you to change others, why waste your time? What should your goal be? We are to be faithful to God, and He commands us to minister and evangelize. Your goal may be to introduce a question or two for the other person to think about. As Koukl says, "My aim is never to win someone to Christ. All I want to do is put a stone in some one’s shoe. I want to give them something to think about." Everyone has their calling. You may be the one to harvest or you may be the one planting the seed. It is okay to sow, even if you do not reap. Without the seed sown (stone in their shoe) their would be harvest to reap.
So I would encourage you start sowing seed today. You may not harvest the seed, but it will never grow to fruition if it isn’t planted. See you next week when we will examine Chapter 3 and begin examining methods of sowing the seed!
Written for TPE by David Stoecker and also appears on his website, Spiritual Spackle.
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