It’s the very thing that most Christians are least confident about. Yet it’s the number one way we get into sharing our faith. “Hey, you’re a Christian what do you think about..?” “How can you believe when..?” I’m sure you’ve been there! So how do we respond in those situations?
Here are a few practical things that we need to employ which I have developed over the time that I have spent defending the Christian faith, from discussion with 1 person, to debating in universities.
1) Defence not an attack
It’s very easy when somebody asks you a question, or even challenges what you believe, to go on the attack. It’s my observation that many Christians don’t share their faith for fear they may be unable to answer difficult questions. Sometimes the opposite is true, we can end up attacking what others believe. However, in my experience this doesn’t prove very constructive. I believe it’s more important to defend what we believe. Confidence leads to gentleness! We need to be confident about what we believe but not arrogant about it.
2) Reasonable rather than circular
“Because it says so in the Bible.” You won’t hear me disagreeing with you there as what the Bible says is good enough for me. Unfortunately, people who aren’t Christians don’t think quite like that. Don’t misunderstand me, I use the Bible a lot in my evangelism but when trying to reason with people who don’t value the Bible, let alone believe it, simply saying “because it says so” is more circular than it is reasonable. I believe we need to reason with people in a way that is thought-provoking and not just preaching.
3) Most people’s thinking is untested (including Christians)
Many people believe what they believe without really knowing why they believe it. Their thinking is untested. Let me give you an example: “The Bible is full of contradictions”. This is often said by someone who has never read it. Here’s another I’ve had: “The problem with you Christians is you only believe what people tell you or what you read in a book”. Most people formulate what they believe by listening to other people and what they read in a book or see on TV so what’s the problem? I can hear you saying: “What about the inner witness of the Holy Spirit?” That’s kind of what I was talking about in the previous section.
When I was at school my maths teacher gave me points for showing my working out – even if my answer was wrong. Even if people disagree with our conclusion they will respect us for our working out.
4) Do give GOOD answers
One of the first things I say when anybody asks me a question is: “That’s interesting, why do you ask that?” It’s very easy to launch into well-rehearsed answers (not that this is wrong per se). It’s no good giving a polished general answer about why there is so much suffering if personal suffering caused the question. Talking about Adam’s sin bringing suffering into the world is Biblically true but not emotionally or philosophically helpful. It’s always good to discover the real issue and then connect with people on that rather than not answering properly because we haven’t dug deeper,
All that said, I do believe we need to give good and thought-provoking answers to the questions that people have. It’s not good enough when someone asks you to prove God to simply say “you disprove God”. That’s avoiding the issue and doesn’t help them. Christianity is reasonable, let’s try and show it.
5) Trust the Spirit
Isn’t it great that Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit to help us in sharing our faith with others? We shouldn’t try and do it in our own strength but how do we get to this place of confidence? It comes out of relationship. Clearly, we need to know the Spirit more and this comes through spending time with God. Let’s also remember that He’s the “Holy” Spirit. He will be happier if we seek holiness.
This is crucial but our confidence in the Spirit when engaging in evangelism will also increase the more we do it and understand how He works. Let’s remember the words of John 16:8, “And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment”. We can have confidence in the Holy Spirit to prepare people’s hearts. Let’s work on the basis that the Holy Spirit is convicting and doing what He was sent to do.
Could it be that more people are coming to faith and we get disappointed that they haven’t come to faith? He’s at work more than we know. There are countless stories of people that started thinking about God decades before they actually came to faith. Maybe they were stubborn or maybe the Holy Spirit was more patient than we are. Timing is vital so we need to learn not to force the issue but wait for God’s timing. The Holy Spirit is just as much at work when a person is on the journey to discovering God as He is at the point when someone finally says The BIG yes to God. A little yes is just as much a part of the Holy Spirit!
Let me finish with the words of 1 Peter 3:15,‘But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect’.
The challenge of this verse is to…
Live well – “in your hearts honour Christ as Lord”
Prepare well – “always be prepared”
Act well – “do it with gentleness and respect”
In other words, be as dedicated in how you live for God and treat others as you are in answering questions. This will bring a good balance to your evangelism.
Mark Greenwood is the National Evangelist for Elim Pentecostal churches.