Brett gives some practical advice for evangelism.
Christians talk too much. At least, they feel the pressure to.
In “Why I Am a Christian,” I tell students the first reason I’m a Christian is because it’s true, and that I’ve got good reasons to think so. When they hear this, students sometimes feel pressure to have all the right answers for their friends. I hear the stress in their voices when they ask, “So what should I say to my non-Christian friend?” That’s when I give them two pieces of advice.
First, I tell them to start with questions. Oftentimes, Christians think evangelism means you talk and others listen. Thus, the believer must have a polished presentation and a finely-tuned response to all objections. Not only is this undignifying to the non-Christian, but it completely ignores the unique questions an individual has. And it’s why some Christians are really good at answering questions no one is asking. Francis Schaeffer’s words are instructive here: “If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first 55 minutes asking questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and mind, and then the last 5 minutes I will share something of the truth.”
I encourage students to start with STR’s first two “Columbo” questions: 1) What do you mean by that? and 2) How did you come to that conclusion? The first question gives you more information about what others believe and helps you to truly know them. The second question takes the pressure off you by putting the burden-of-proof on them. Everyone believes something and you’re simply asking why they believe what they believe. Notice, these two questions require no knowledge but can be employed immediately. So I’m able to encourage students to get in the game right now.
Second, I teach them an STR mantra: simply put a stone in their shoe. Christians feel pressure to get to the cross in every conversation. But that’s an unrealistic goal. The cross is utter foolishness to an atheist in your first conversation. Rather, a more realistic goal is to put a stone in their shoe. This is the idea that you give some bit of information that bothers them, causes them to think. And in the next conversation, they may want to know more. If you get to the cross in the first conversation, great. Go there. But usually the soil of the heart needs time to be tilled before it’s ready for the Gospel.