Through my mentoring and teaching encounters, I know that many struggle when it comes to having discussions with non-believing family members and friends. Topics like abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, statism, etc. are especially difficult. Christians want to know how they can get others to change their mind on these topics. I encourage them to ask themselves what would cause them to change their minds on these issues. If they say they would never change their minds regarding these issues, I ask them, “Why not?”
Certainty is a prerequisite to being able to give a true reason for the hope that is within you. It must be a genuine hope, rather than a quasi-hope for you to be convincing in any discussion. If you are not certain of your apologetics (reason for believing as you do), you will have difficulty in convincing others of the validity of your beliefs. In fact, it will be obvious to anyone when you are putting forth arguments of which you are you are not sure. So, step one is to know what you believe and why.
Next, I encourage the Christian to find out the basis of the other person’s position. Listening carefully is important so you can assess the foundation upon which his views are based. Before offering a response, ask the person, “What would it take for you to change your mind? Are you certain of your position?” This can reveal whether or not the position is one based on conviction, hearsay, faulty logic, experience, or just bad information. Utilizing this process helps you discern whether or not a fruitful discussion lies ahead, or if you are engaging in pointless argumentation.
Effective evangelism involves a lot of listening. A good example of this is Jesus on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection. He spent time questioning and listening to what the two disciples were saying before He responded to them. This is a good model for us to follow. Too often, because we feel as though we have to address every point another makes immediately, we fail to really listen to what is being said, uncovering what lies beneath the other person’s ideas and worldview.
Our focus must remain on seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (justice). Knowing with certainty the truth of God’s Word ourselves, while patiently learning where our listeners are coming from, allows us to apply the law and the Gospel in the conversations we have with them. Ultimately, only the Holy Spirit can change the minds and hearts of the enemies of God, transforming them into His reborn children – children who embrace their heavenly calling. How privileged we are to be a part of the process!