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Step Three: Using Columbo to Lead the Way.

Columbo questions like “What do you mean by that?” and “How did you come to that conclusion?” are a rather passive way to get into the driver’s seat of a conversation. Greg Koukl argues that there is another, more active way to get into the driver’s seat: Ask leading questions. “[L]eading questions take the other person in the direction we want them to go.”[1] The goal, much like the previous questions, is to guide someone on their journey in a manner that elicits the thought process.

Consider the issue of the Gospel message. On the one hand, the Christian can explain (point by point) the Fall, the notion of sin, and finish with Christ on the cross, all while hoping that the other person is listening and engaged. Or the Christian can ask two leading questions: “Do you think people who commit moral crimes ought to be punished?” and “Have you ever committed any moral crimes?”[2] These questions quickly and easily get to the heart of the issue while enjoining the listener to answer (and, therefore, take a position).

Leading questions can also get the Christian out of a tight situation, says Koukl. For example, if someone lays a personal attack against the Christian, leading questions are helpful in turning the tables. They are also helpful in “subtly exposing a weakness of a flaw, or to uproot difficulties or problems you detect in [the other person’s] view.”[3] As always, remember that an ambassador for Jesus Christ never uses these tactics to maim someone or to “win” the argument. Rather, he speaks the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), grace (Colossians 4:6), and gentleness (1 Peter 3:15) so that he may become a fellow partaker in the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:23).

Check back next week for Chapter 6: Perfecting Columbo.

*Greg Koukl is Founder and President of Stand to Reason. Please do yourself a favor and buy his excellent book here!


[1] Greg Koukl, Tactics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 72.

[2] Ibid, 74-75.

[3] Ibid, 79.