Written by Mary Greene
Do you jump at the opportunity to engage someone in a conversation about Christianity? Or do you find yourself in the same boat as many people–you’re willing to talk about your faith, but feel nervous and uncertain? Maybe you’re not sure you can counter the other person’s arguments against Christianity. Maybe you’re afraid the reasons you present in defense of your faith will actually cause the other person to become more closed off to God and the Christian faith.
At RE:NEW’s Faith Seminar 2016, we explored the challenges of defending our faith in a uniquely hostile intellectual environment. Our speaker for the evening, Alan Shlemon, knows all about these challenges. Alan is a speaker and apologist with Stand to Reason, an organization dedicated to equipping people to be ambassadors for Christ to share our faith with compelling arguments and Christ-like character. He discusses religious topics and defends his faith for a living. While it’s normal to feel uncertain, he explained, we can’t let our fear keep us from sharing God’s truth with those who need to hear it. As Christ’s ambassadors, we are called to faithfully represent Him and further His kingdom, be it through simple kindness or well-reasoned argument.
Alan shared that one of the best ways to share God’s truth is by using tactics when sharing our faith. It comes down to treating people with dignity. Would you be happy listening to someone who belittled you or made you feel stupid? Even if what we’re hearing is true, it’s sometimes difficult for us–everyone–to evaluate objectively when we have a negative emotional reaction. Similarly, if you are defending Christianity in a way that attacks or puts down the other person or the other’s argument, it makes sense that they may not want to think about what you say. By presenting well-thought-out arguments with a loving and nonjudgmental attitude, we can avoid turning people off to hearing the rest of what we want to say.
The key to persuasive argumentation, Alan concluded, is using the power of questions. By asking simple, yet probing, questions, in response to an opponent’s assertion–What do you mean by that? How did you come to that conclusion?–we can gain a deeper understanding of where the other person is coming from. Instead of immediately countering the other person’s assertion, we can use questions strategically to naturally bring the conversation to a place where the other person begins to examine his or her beliefs.
Alan illustrated this idea by sharing his own experience. As Alan talked with his friend, who was planning to marry his bride in a Hindu wedding, his friend expressed his belief that all religions are equally valid. Through a series of questions, without any assertions of his own, Alan convinced his friend to rethink this belief and ultimately conclude that his original belief that all religions was equally valid was incorrect.
This, Alan explained, should be enough to help even the most terrified evangelist begin to engage others in conversations that could impact their eternities. It’s not our responsibility to convert nonbelievers. We can show people the way to Jesus’ open arms, but who responds is not something we decide. God knows each mind, each heart. He does beyond what we imagine when we open ourselves to His influence. We can get people thinking–God will do the rest.
RE:NEW’s Faith Seminar was held at Alhambra True Light Presbyterian Church on February 26 and was attended by more than 200 people, including many youth groups from local churches. Worship was led by The Praise Band, a group of musicians from the Greater Los Angeles area.
If you like what was shared here, consider attending our Faith Seminar next year. Through these events, RE:NEW hopes to bless and equip attendees to live with purpose empowered by Christ. We hope to see you there next year!