Tactics Chapter 5 – Step Three: Using Columbo to Lead the Way

by guest blogger David Stoecker

TacticsYou are beginning to use the Columbo tactic in a different way in this chapter. In the past chapters you have not had to have knowledge, but instead have asked for the knowledge of the person you are talking to. You have also not been on the offensive, but have played the conversation defensively by insuring they were responsible for the burden of proof and your views might not even have been known yet. That all changes today!

Today you begin to ask a different type of question, a "leading question." You want to have the other person begin to talk in the direction that you want them to go. This can be done by asking questions. These questions will get the person you are in discussion with to take steps forward towards your way of thinking. You are not forcing your opinions, but are attempting to persuade them.

As you begin to let others know that you are Ambassadors for Christ you will get asked "the question." One where a simple yes will cause you to appear conceited, prejudice and fundamental in the worst sense of the word. That question is, "So you are saying that people who don’t believe what you believe are going to Hell?"

That question is not meant to do anything other than discredit you. It is asked to paint you as the worst type of person who is right and every one else is wrong. There is a way to answer this question, but it takes having knowledge. Unless you know why Jesus matters, you will fail. Simply knowing that they need to believe isn’t enough. Here is how Greg used his knowledge in a conversation with Guy X:

"Let me ask you a question,"he said. "Do you think that people who commit moral crimes ought to be punished?"

"I guess I do," Guy X replied.

"Good. So do I." Greg said, to agree with Guy X. "Now, a second question: Have you ever committed any moral crimes?"

"Yes, I guess I have."

"So have I," Greg said. "That puts us in a pretty tight spot, doesn’t it? We both believe people who do bad things should be punished, and we both believe that we’re guilty on that score. Do you know what I call that? I call that bad news. This is were Jesus comes in. WE both know we are guilty. That’s the problem. So God offers a solution: a pardon, free of charge. That clemency is on His terms, not ours. Jesus is God’s means of pardon. He personally paid the penalty in our place. He took the wrap for our crimes. No one else did that. Only Jesus. Now we have a choice to make. Either we take the pardon and go free, or we turn it down and pay for our crimes ourselves."

In this conversation Greg used the Columbo tactic coupled with his knowledge of what Christ did on the cross and why it was significant for all people. Using the same two things, knowledge and the Columbo tactic will allow you to answer a lot of hard questions, once you learn how to effectively use them.

On occasion you may need to use questions to make conversations that you are in more favorable for you. When it is a controversial issue, begin by saying, "You know, this is actually a very personal question that you’re asking. I don’t mind answering, but before I do, I want to know if it’s safe to offer my views. So let me ask you a question: Do you consider yourself a tolerant or intolerant person on issues like this? Is it safe to give my opinion, or are you going to judge me for my point of view? Do you respect diverse points of view, or do you condemn others for convictions that differ from your own?"

This covers you from being seen as the intolerant one. If they judge you, then by their own admission they are intolerant. Someone who calls you intolerant generally does so because you do not believe as they do. Them disagreeing with you based on their own beliefs makes them intolerant towards you. If this happens to you, there is a simple solution. You can ask them to explain to you why when you think you’re right it is intolerance, but when they think they are right it just means that they are right.

In this method, you are using questions to expose flaws/weaknesses and to expose difficulties and problems you see in their views. Unless you know the shortcomings in their arguments, you will not see them. This is why knowledge is the number one requirement for ambassadors of Christ. That said, remember that you are not trying to knock one out of the park every time you have a conversation. Sometimes, simply asking "What do you mean by that?" and "How did you come to that conclusion?" is enough. Just getting off the bench and into the game is often a great start.

There is one flaw that can occur when you begin this step. You run the chance when you go on the offensive as coming across as offensive. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:16, "Be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves." This means that you must have the ability to look at someone’s view and point out the weaknesses without begin smug or pushy. This can be a difficult task, especially at first.

In order to achieve the inoffensive offensive, you can use the following 3 questions:

  1. Have you considered?
  2. Can you clear this up for me?
  3. Can you help me understand this?

These questions allow you to show respect for the person that you disagree with. You already showed effort with the first two questions. Then you asked for further clarification with, "Do you mind if I ask you a few questions about what you told me?" Finally, you can use a statement such as "It’s my understanding that…."
and then explain your position and ask them to share a response. That let’s them know that you have a belief, but it is open to discussion.

So know not only can you gather information, but you can also lead people in the direction you want them to go in, all by asking questions. You do need to be informed about the direction you want them to go in, or when they get there you will not be able to find the errors in their way of thinking. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!! See you next week when you will learn how to begin perfecting the Columbo techniques.

*Written for TPE by David Stoecker of Spiritual Spackle.


Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

The Poached Egg Apologetics


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