Tag Archives: Defusing Difficult Evangelistic Situations

Hard Case

3 Aug

Over the last few weeks, we’ve taken the time to discuss the difference between “Hard Core and Hard Cases” and examined a few reasons (legitimate and otherwise) that a person might adamantly object to Christ and vehemently oppose those who follow Him.  We’ve taken a deeper look at what constitutes a “Hard Core” personality (those who simply will not under any circumstance consider the Christian viewpoint) and discussed some ways to handle the adversarial situations which may arise when we encounter such a person.  This week, we’ll be breaking down the types of “Hard Cases” (those persons who object to Christianity on intellectual or moral grounds) in order to better understand what drives others to believe that there are rational grounds for rejecting the Gospel message.

All of us, at one time or another, have encountered someone who appeared deeply opposed to our faith and, perhaps, even to us, but who upon further examination was merely an honest skeptic with genuine questions.  While such people may express themselves aggressively, their adamant tones and forthright attacks are usually rooted in deeper objections to a faith which they believe fails to promote rational thinking and tolerance of (or at least civility towards) divergent lifestyles and other systems of belief.  (And, if we’re honest, a quick glance at the evening news would seem to confirm this!)  Most times, such people are reacting to an overall perception of the faith rather than to individual adherents.  Overcoming their objections begins with our own willingness to patiently persevere as we walk in the steps of Christ.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

Don’t Be a Pushy Christian.  If you approach others with the attitude of a gun-slinger hoping to add another notch to the pearl handle of his revolver, it should come as no surprise that others pull their own weapons when they see you coming!  Dealing with “Hard Case” personalities requires a bit of gentleness and finesse and a willingness to put the guns away.  The goal here isn’t to win a debate, but to demonstrate Christianity and the life of Christ in such a way that those who object to the faith begin to ask why you don’t mesh with their perceptions of it.  Begin by living what you believe, not by preaching it.

Learn to Ask Questions.  More than once, I’ve met someone who came to faith in Christ not because someone explicitly shared the Gospel message, but because someone knew the right questions to ask to peak their curiosity about that Gospel.  Genuine skeptics are like hunters: set a meal before them and they feel deprived.  Give them a chance to seek the prey for themselves and they experience an unparalleled fulfillment which climaxes in (you guessed it) the same meal.  For many, the thrill of the investigation and the joy of seeking information for themselves is a driving force.  So encourage it.  Ask the hard questions, the “why” questions, then (unless they specifically ask for your input) leave your friend to their own devices!  Remember that Jesus said:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7,8)

No one who truly seeks God will fail to come to an explicit faith in Jesus Christ.  God might just have placed you in this person’s life to help them turn on the “seek” switch.

Be Patient.  It’s easy to think that when our friend, family member, co-worker, or classmate walks away, the encounter is over… but nothing could be further from the truth!  In fact, in a spiritual sense, the end of the discussion is just the beginning of the battle.  Failing to recognize this can result in our missing some tremendous opportunities to affect lives for Christ!

When it comes to a “Hard Case” personality, patience is often the key.  The truth is, most adults, particularly those already deeply entrenched in a particular system of belief (whether they recognize it as such or not), take time to come to a realization that Jesus is Who He claimed to be.  Many Muslims must hear the simple gospel message more than 100 times before they even understand it, let alone believe it.  I corresponded regularly with a Jewish Rabbi for five years before he was even willing to accept that Christianity wasn’t inherently anti-Semitic… and we hadn’t begun to work on the idea of Salvation by Grace alone through Faith alone!  Those who have genuine objections to Christianity usually have good reasons for those objections and it takes time and commitment to overcome them.

Be Ready.  Don’t run from a situation just because it seems difficult.  The honest truth is the people who fight the hardest are often the ones God is closest to bringing into His Kingdom.  When the enemy gets aggressive, it’s because he’s about to lose possession of a soul and he wants you to quit!  Instead of backing down, put on the full armor of God and stand.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  (Ephesians 6:12)

Skeptics aren’t our enemies and should never be treated as though they are.  Their questions force us to question our own beliefs and consider whether they are, indeed, consistent with Scripture, with logic, and with the manner in which we live our lives.  Our willingness to openly hear their questions and carefully respond to them (even if our best response is, “I don’t know, but I will find out”), makes all the difference in the world!

Hard Core

27 Jul

Last week, we discussed the difference between “Hard Core and Hard Case” objectors to Christianity.  This week, we’ll be taking a look at the first (and rarest) of those and discussing how to handle the sometimes aggressive situations which can develop when others adamantly oppose our Christian faith.  We’ll examine what provokes such people and consider some ways to maintain a Christian witness without escalating the conflict into an all-out war.

In Matthew 7:6, Jesus says: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

I confess that for years I found this passage to be puzzling.  Given the Scripture’s emphasis on the importance of evangelism, it seemed odd that something so apparently anti-evangelism would have come from Christ’s mouth.  It was not until I was sitting in a restaurant, trying to blend into the booth as a very hard core anti-Christian loudly berated my faith that I began to understand.

The friend with whom I was sharing was very quick to explain that she was well-versed in the case against Christ.  She was convinced that anyone with a reasonable amount of intelligence could readily be talked out of Christianity.  Unfortunately, her conversation revealed that she hadn’t actually done her research.  She had spent a great deal of time reading books written in opposition to Jesus, but had never read the Bible or anything else written in favor of the Christian point of view.  Her case was made in complete ignorance of Biblical teaching or traditional Christian theology.  In order to cover for this, she’d change her position a thousand times during a single debate – sometimes being in favor of the very thing which she had adamantly opposed just moments earlier!  It often felt like I was speaking to a moving brick wall with built in cannonade.  Try to expose her error and “Kapow”, you were flat on your back.

It even reached a point where I began to hesitate to pick up her phone calls.  I didn’t want to spend time with her because I knew the only thing that would come of it was further attacks on my faith.  She was not sincerely interested in discussing the case for or against Christianity, but was merely seeking an argument.

It was then that my father sat down with me and had a talk about “casting pearls before swine”.  I had presented the gospel message to my friend and given her a Bible to read as well as access to other information in favor of Christianity.  To continue the pursuit, especially with her expressed disinterest in earnest discussion, was counter-productive and verging on Bible thumping.  It was wasting my time.  And it was wasting hers.

So what was I to do?  In Matthew 17:14-21, a man came to Jesus’ disciples and asked them to cast out the demon which possessed his son.  The disciples were unable to do so and when they asked Jesus why, He replied: “this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

While I don’t believe my friend was demon possessed, I’m not ready to discount the activity of demons when it comes to holding someone in such bondage that they are both unwilling and unable to have a rational, controlled conversation with someone who sees the world from a different angle.  (And yes, there are some Christians who are equally as bound.)  This is what you might call hard-core evangelism and the only way to deal with it is through intense, ongoing prayer.  No fancy arguments or acts of love will win over someone like this;  only the supernatural power of God is capable of doing that.  He must be the One to break down the barriers.

Meanwhile, keeping the conversation from exploding into a profane rant requires a bit of finesse.  Most hard-core anti-Christians have trigger points – those things which bring the Christian faith so much to the forefront that they are incapable of restraining themselves from sharing their thoughts.  In such situations, it pays to learn those trigger points and, when possible, do your best to avoid them.  If that news story about abortion or the Gay Pride parade is going to send your friend, family member, or co-worker into a tirade, have the good sense not to mention it.  If you’ve arranged to get off a bit early to attend a Christian conference, they don’t need to know.  Keep your discussion of religious issues to a minimum.  Live your faith and leave God free to work in their heart.

There will be situations in which a trigger point can’t be avoided without our falling into sin.  In such cases, you will likely have a heads-up about what’s coming.  More often than not, your best bet is to sit and listen.  Hard core anti-Christians are used to those who are Christians attempting to answer each of their questions or rebuff their statements.  These activities only fuel the flames of indignation.  By sitting quietly and hearing what those opposed to our faith have to say, we indicate that their opinion does matter to us.  And by not responding we avoid getting embroiled in a conflict that will yield neither good will nor an honest examination of the case for Christ.  Proverbs 23:9 admonishes, “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.”  Remember that even our Master kept silent at times.  (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 26:59-64)

Next week, we’ll be taking a look at “Hard Cases” – those who object to Christianity for genuine moral, ethical, theological, or intellectual reasons.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your own accounts of “Hard Core” evangelism in the comment box below!

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