The Most Common Mistake when Talking with Skeptics

by Don Johnson

Conversational evangelism and apologetics can be very frustrating. Christians often to get to the end of a discussion with an unbeliever and think, “Well, that was a waste of time! We weren’t connecting on anything. Did we even speak the same language?  All my great points fell completely flat.”
What causes these conversations to go wrong? The most common reason is that believers launch into a defense of the faith before finding out anything at all about the skeptic.

Instead of jumping right in to address some objection or present an argument, Christians would be much better served by asking a few important questions and then listening carefully to the answers.

For example, these queries work wonderfully at the beginning of a conversation:

“Tell me a bit about yourself. Do you have a background in Christianity or some other church or religion? Have you always been a skeptic? If not, how did you arrive at your position?”

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“I understand you don’t believe that Christianity is true, but what worldview do you hold, then? In other words, I realize you think that Christianity offers false answer to life’s biggest questions, but what do you think are the right answers?”

“Speaking of the answers that Christianity offers, could you tell me the Christian message from your perspective? What is the story of the Bible as you understand it?”

There are several reasons this method leads to more fruitful evangelistic and apologetic conversations.

First, it builds relationship and defuses animosity. As Hugh Hewitt writes: “When you ask a question, you are displaying interest in the person asked. Most people are not queried on many, if any, subjects. Their opinions are not solicited. To ask them is to be remembered fondly as a very interesting and gracious person in your own right…

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