Keith Thomas, Quest Ministries
The #1 reason why people do not engage in spiritual conversation is fear. Just reading this might cause a cold chill to run down your spine. Fear can paralyze us when we are emotionally overcome for any number of reasons; fear of not being prepared, fear of what others will think, fear of being stigmatized, and perhaps a fear of offending the other party. Frequently, our fears can project imagined outcomes that are not based on experience or reality, but simply potential outcomes we would rather avoid. Naturally, people most often deal with fear by resorting to avoidance. For many, the risk is just too great because of haunting fears. As a result, people remain in the ruts of safety and inertia never venturing beyond “safe” (but silent) Christianity. All too often, well-intended Christians become paralyzed due to fear. Consequently, they become hostages of their own life of Christian case-making paralysis. Here are three reasons why your fears should be dispelled.
First, Christianity stands on very solid evidential ground. If people have not attended an apologetics conference or small group training where they are equipped with critical information on Christian case making, it is probable that they will be paralyzed by fear. When people come to grips with the evidences for the claims of Christ, the historical reliability of scripture, and basic strategies on engaging with unbelievers, fear is significantly minimized. Remember, we believe the tenants of Christianity not because we hope it is true but because the evidence is so overwhelming and compelling. Further, the circumstantial evidence is simply overwhelming. It is true! Confidence can soar when people are actually able to articulate what they believe and then give a reason why the evidence is so compelling. Proactively seek out an apologetics conference or a small group where you can become equipped with solid apologetics training - not just a study! A good small group leader will seek to equip you with training, not simply data or information! Good training will require you to deal with questions from a skeptics point of view as opposed to a solely Christian perspective. When you possess a working knowledge of evidential apologetics material, you will feel a sense of confidence that enables you to to engage as a prepared special agent.
*Suggested small group apologetics training materials:
- Cold Case-Christianity, J. Warner Wallace
- I Don't have enough Faith to be an Atheist, Geisler & Turek
- God's Crime Scene, J. Warner Wallace
- On Guard, William Lane Craig
Second, Understand your role and responsibility as it relates to engaging with unbelieving people. God does not call his followers to make converts, but only to be engaging communicators of the message. Only God can enact conversion – we are simply the communicators of truth.
1 Peter 3: 15-16 But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you.
Good Apologetics training will emphasize the believers role and responsibility in spiritual engagement. Peter says nothing about going out on evangelism ambushes attempting to gain converts! The passage does indicate that as you live out your life in the normal context of life activities, your beliefs, conduct, convictions and character will automatically get noticed because they are so glaringly different from those around you. Clearly, our lives should draw attention – not because of peculiarities, but because of our hope that wildly surpasses the average person. The passage indicates that the believer is passive, but he is able to give a proactive response when he engages with others who do not believe. When a person has a proactive response, it is a prime indicator that the person is ready and anticipating an opportunity to communicate the reason for his hope. Some people thrive in going out on cold-call evangelism engagements, but the vast majority of people are not comfortable with these practices. Fear not! You can be a solid Christian case-maker in the ordinary context of life when you simply look for strategic engagement opportunities! Understanding your role and responsibility in the process liberates you from manipulation, forced conversations and case-making paralysis.
Third, Fear is overcome by being a good listener who earns the right to be heard. Learning how to become a properly equipped Christian case-maker means you listen attentively first. People are far more open to a spiritual conversation when you are asking them about what they believe. Discover what the other person thinks and believes by asking strategic questions. Then artfully ask why they hold those views and how they came to hold those convictions. An excellent book that helps you discover this art is Tactics by Greg Koukl. A Christian case-maker who is calm, reasoned and tactful, anticipates engagement by preparing emotionally, intellectually and strategically.
Paralysis due to fear is significantly reduced when we remember these three basic realities. God has called each of us to be a Christian case-maker who is motivated by love and compassion for those who are spiritually lost.