In a prior post I listed several skills an expert witness must develop in order to be effective while testifying in court. I believe those same skills will serve the Christian apologist well when they are engaged in conversations with people who are asking questions about their faith.
As a witness in court, you are only allowed to answer the question asked of you. You do not have the freedom to change topics or interject information about other matters, even if you think they are of importance. If the witness tells the judge or jury facts that are not directly related to the question asked, the opposing attorney is likely to stand up saying, “Objection!”
When speaking with skeptics of Christianity, I don’t feel as though I need to be in control of the conversation. I often will ask questions of the skeptic, not to control the conversation, but to let them know I am interested in them and what they believe. I want to make sure I understand their position so that I can most effectively address their questions. Then, once they do ask me specific questions about faith, I continue to let them guide where we go in the conversation.
I am careful to stay focused on only the questions being asked of me at that time. In many cases, the answers or perspectives I am giving are new to the person hearing them, or they really haven’t thought through their own position. If I begin to jump from one point to another, I very well could overwhelm them with more words than they want to hear.
I maintain that apologetics is most effective when practiced through established relationships. By having a relationship with someone, I don’t feel as though I need to “win an argument” or lay out every reason to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. People need the opportunity to take in new ideas or perspectives one bite at a time and chew on it for a while. After they have digested each piece, then we can discuss it and move on when they are ready for the next bite.
Apologetics is usually not a one-time event. It is sharing Jesus with people. Remember that as you learn a subject, you start with basic and progress through the material. Allow your apologetics discussions to remain on the basics – the questions you are being asked. And be sure to do this with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15.
How have you seen apologetics work through relationships? I’d love to engage with you on this topic.