A lot of people in the Church seem to be asking the same question more and more these days: How do I talk to people about my faith in Christ? This is an excellent question to ask! Particularly considering the current climate of tribalism, whataboutism, and the outrage culture, how are Christians supposed to navigate often difficult conversations in order to get to the Gospel in the 21st century?

I’ve spent the last nine years formulating an effective method of communicating why Christianity is true; and a lot of this has been through trial and error. And I do mean, a lot of error! But now I see that the difficulty in sharing our faith with folks is not rooted in whatever is happening in the news or academia or political correctness or even atheist websites. I am convinced that the difficulty in sharing our faith stems from our having forgotten how to be in relationship with each other.

I was watching Sean McDowell speak at a recent Biola event here in Las Vegas and he said something that we should let sink deep down into the grooves of our thinking. He said:

“We’re not going to win people by being argumentative. It’s the love of God that softens someone’s heart.”

How many times have we communicated to someone on a topic related to our faith through frustration, anger, and/or condescension? How many times have we made speeches or lectured to someone where we began with, “You know what your problem is?” Folks, this is not the way!

We need to stop making speeches and start making friends. Evangelism and apologetics is only as effective as the authentic relationship you have with folks. Let speeches be for political venues or TED Talks or even the pulpit. But for us, when we want to communicate to people about our faith, we need to begin with real relationship. That means asking questions to get to know people. In other words, treat your interactions with folks like you would a first date.

We all know (at least I hope we all do) the dos and don’ts of dating. Don’t dominate the conversation with long-winded speeches about yourself or your views. If you do that there won’t be a second date! Instead ask questions about your date in order to discover who they are and show them that you are genuinely interested in them. And then just listen carefully to what they say. This is no different when it comes to evangelistic or apologetic conversations. Don’t begin with an agenda where three steps later you’re asking someone to say the sinner’s prayer with you. Just start off by getting to know the person you’re talking to. Treat your interactions like a first date with an important person. And, when the person you’re speaking to feels comfortable, ask them about their faith. Let me say that again: When the person you’re speaking to feels comfortable, then ask them about their faith. As a matter of fact, J Warner Wallace has a great question you can ask them: What do you think happens after we die?

Friends, if you try to treat people like a checkmark on your agenda, you will come across as an inauthentic used-car salesman. Instead, if you treat your conversations like a first date with an important person, you will find the path to evangelism and apologetics so much easier!

9 COMMENTS

  1. At what point in the relationship do you bring up sin and hell and a Holy God?
    Too many Churches today stress “relationship” forgetting the fact that a sinner is already in a relationship with God; the relationship of a guilty man and a Just God.
    To try and discuss with a non-believer why they should believe is like a doctor trying to convince you to try chemo because he thinks you would benefit from it yet won’t tell you that you’re dying from cancer.

    • Hi Michael, thanks for the question. I’ll tell you exactly when I bring it up: when I’ve shifted the conversation to sin and hell and a Holy God. In other words, whenever I want. See, I’m not suggesting you ask any old questions (and I’ll flesh this out in future posts). What I’m suggesting is a method of asking specific questions designed to lead our friends to the conclusion we want them to wrestle with. Maybe I want my friend to see that he made an error in his thinking in a previous statement or maybe I just want him to wrestle with the consequences of his worldview.

      Instead of making speeches that will likely cause him to immediately get defensive or shut down, I’m asking specific questions at the appropriate time designed to simultaneously develop a rapport as well as get him to wrestle with the inadequacies of his beliefs. Once he’s done that, once he’s had that moment that Francis Schaeffer described as “standing naked and wounded before the truth of what is” then he’s ready to hear about sin and hell and a Holy God.

      Thanks again for the question! Have a good evening. 🙂

  2. “We need to stop making speeches and start making friends.”

    Wow. Bam. As I’m someone who enjoys making speeches, this hits home in a good way.

    I just finished listening to Nabeel Qureshi’s book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. One of the things he emphasized is that he would not have listened to anyone who tried to argue with him who did not first establish a trusting relationship. His friend, David, spent over FOUR YEARS getting to know him and, as Nabeel wrote, “live life” with him, sharing the truth with him. It was some serious commitment for David and Nabeel both, and their friendship would not have endured if it was just built on evangelism (from either one of them). That kind of friendship can only be explained by sincere “agape” love. Unconditional. Crazy. Faithful. What a challenge to me personally.

  3. […] I believe all the facts point to Jesus; not only that, these minimal facts are hard to reconcile. Dead people don’t just rise from the dead. It’s hard for me to understand why anyone would reject something so substantially proven. However, starting from the facts may actually be counter-productive for the apologist. It seems, in this regard, that facts don’t matter. At least not at first. First, we should start with an inquisitive first date apologetic. […]

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