In the New Testament we read of Paul going into the Jewish Synagogue to debate with the Jews and Greeks, trying to persuade them with the Gospel (Acts 18:4). Likewise, we as followers of Christ are instructed to be prepared to give a defense for our faith (1 Pet 3:15), but what are some useful ways that we can prepare to give such defenses?
As someone who has studied apologetics for several years, I still find myself drawing blanks when even simple questions get asked of me, regarding my faith in Christ. Not because I don’t know the answer, but I get stuck asking myself questions like, “How and where should I start?”, “How do I answer this quickly, so as not to lose their attention?”, “What words should I avoid to prevent confusion?”, “Am I confident in my position on this topic?”, “What objections are they likely to present so that I can deal with them up front?”. Then before I know it, my moment has passed, and the topic has moved to something exciting, like government run healthcare.
In thinking through how to help remedy this and similar problems in evangelism and defending the faith, I have assembled a list of some methods and practices that have proved priceless in helping me make sense of Christianity to myself and others.
Choose Your Methods
How would you explain the Gospel to someone? Which fancy acronym would you use in giving a defense for the resurrection? What arguments would you use when arguing for God’s existence? How do you define Swiss Cheese?
There is a million ways to answer pretty much any question, and there is no shortage of authors providing new ones every day. So instead of trying to memorize them all, just pick one, practice it, and revise it as you fit to suit your personality.
Record Your Responses
I have roughly a forty-five minute commute to and from work each day, so something I started doing was using my smart phone a couple days a week to make various voice memos of myself answering certain questions on my drive.
This helps in a number of ways: it puts words to your thoughts, it forces you to answer in one pass instead of playing stop and go, it allows you to see if you are long winded (Try to keep it under thirty seconds per answer… tough!), it helps you know how to approach certain questions, it helps reassure your position, and much more.
Ask Them Questions
Often times, the reason your mind goes blank when a question is asked, is because you’re trying to figure out exactly where the person is coming from. Are they a Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, or none of the above? That question alone determines where you start with many answers.
So instead of playing the guessing game, give yourself some breathing room and assistance by asking questions using what Greg Koukl calls, The Columbo Tactic. Some good ones to ask are, “Where are you coming from on this issue?”, “How did you arrive at that conclusion?”, “What reasons do you have to believe that?”, “What do you think the Christian position is on that?”.
Something I have been forced to learn, is that not every attack demands a war. There are times when it is better to just let a discussion or statement go for the sake of future encounters that would be more fruitful. As Christians, our ears immediately perk up to the slightest mention of God, Jesus, the Bible, or Christianity and we want to run out with guns blazing to demolish the alleged enemy of God thereby becoming nothing more than a jerk for Jesus; but keep in mind that the most important thing for anyone to understand and grasp is the Gospel, which should be taught through love not clenched teeth. Your particular stance on end times theology, evolution, predestination, and speaking in tongues comes in a far second to this.
In short and if at all possible, choose your battles wisely, don’t foolishly attack every man with a butter knife.
So there you have it, a few fancy tips for apologists (Making up a slightly inappropriate acronym) that are there to help grow your faith as you pursue to plant and water the seeds in others.