How to talk about Jesus without having people hate you.
Proverbs 31:9 “Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and oppressed.”
How do we evangelize in a society where people appear to have already made up their minds about what they are going to believe and are no longer interested in hearing the opinions of others.
It often feels like it is pointless to talk about Jesus or salvation if you’re not going to be able to change someone’s mind.
In fact, as Christians it’s easy to feel guilty for even bringing up the subject. There’s an unspoken rule that you’re allowed to believe whatever you want but don’t try to talk about it, especially with someone who doesn’t already share that belief.
So instead of sharing the gospel, we talk about the news, the weather, sports team and whatever is trending on twitter. We maintain these superficial conversations to blanket over anything with deeper meaning or value.
James 5:20 “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
Since we don’t talk about anything deep or meaningful we fail to connect with those around us, out of fear of having to disagree with someone
Our methods of evangelism have become internet memes and sharing devotionals on WhatsApp with other Christians. Safe little gestures to let others know, hey I’m a Christian but I’m not pushy about it.
I want each and every follower of Jesus to know that they can and should be able to express an opinion or belief without the fear of driving people away from God. We can have deep meaningful conversations about our faith even if the other person doesn’t agree with us.
1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”
Winning people over to Jesus
The point of talking about Jesus is to try and win souls for the kingdom of God.
But, there is more going to a conversation about faith than just trying to get people to admit that they’re wrong, say they’ve repented and accept salvation on the spot. If that is your only objective, you’re going to struggle.
Here are two bonus outcomes of a good argument.
- Expressing disagreement.
- Better understanding your own beliefs.
First of all, let me start by saying that it’s okay to disagree with someone. As Christians we should be opposed and appalled by a lot of what is happening in the world around us. To stay silent on important issues is to accept defeat. Change is only possible if those who oppose the status quo are willing to speak up and say so. Disagreements are simply expressions and everyone is entitled to express themselves, both yourself and the person who holds an opposing view. If we are ever going to win souls for Christ it’s must start with a conversation. If we are not willing to talk about our faith, there’s no way anyone will ever be able to understand our love for God.
Ezekiel 3:18-19 “If I say to the wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ but you do not warn him—you don’t speak out to warn him about his wicked way in order to save his life—that wicked person will die for his iniquity. Yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. But if you warn a wicked person and he does not turn from his wickedness or his wicked way, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have saved your life.”
Secondly, expressing a belief helps you to understand it better for yourself. As the saying goes; “the best way to learn is to teach.”
“Students enlisted to tutor others, have found been found by researchers to work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately and apply it more effectively.”
-Anne Murphy Paul Brilliant: Brilliant: The Science of Smart.
There is so much to gain from expressing your faith out loud, especially with someone who is going to challenge you. This is a wonderful opportunity to better understand the scripture and your reasons for embracing it. You should talk about Jesus as often as possible because it challenges and strengthens your faith even if it doesn’t change someone else. This is the joy that comes from declaring the good news.
How you say it matters
Colossians 4:5-6 “Behave wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of your time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”
1. Active Listening
If you want someone to listen to you and have any respect for what you’re going to say to them, you need to begin by actually listening to them. One reason why tempers tend to flair when the subject of faith is brought up, is because one or both parties isn’t actually listening to the other.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19
You do not have to agree with someone in order to have a civil conversation. Demonstrating a calm demeanor while disagreeing shows respect. You don’t have to like what they say, but if you want to have any influence for change in their life, you’re going to need them to actually engage in the conversation and that starts by letting them talk and hearing them out.
2. Don’t interrupt.
People long to be heard and understood and they will reciprocate if given an opportunity. By listening attentively and waiting patiently for your turn to speak you are saying “I respect you and care about your thoughts and opinions”.
The golden rule continues to remain effective and true.
Luke 6:31 “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
Being respectful of the person you’re speaking to does not mean that you agree with them. In fact, their argument might stir up strong feelings of anger or disgust; but, you will lose the high ground in the conversation if you cut them off.
Proverbs 10:19 “Transgression is at work where people talk too much, but anyone who holds his tongue is prudent.”
Once one person interrupts the other, the door has been opened and neither party will listen. Instead you’re just fighting to be heard.
If however, you can maintain your composure and resist the temptation to interrupt, than if the person you’re talking to interrupts, you can calmly but assertively say to them “Excuse me, but I didn’t interrupt while you were speaking, please show me the same respect and allow me to finish what I was saying.”
This is a smooth way to diffuse negative escalating emotions and will allow the conversation to go on.
3. Stay Cool
Emotions tend to escalate during an argument or debate. Be the one to set the tone, volume and posture of the conversation. When you are intentional about how you conduct yourself during a debate you will be able to influence the person you’re arguing with to maintain the same level of composure. It’s hard to yell at someone who won’t yell back.
The other person might start getting louder anyways. You will likely experience a natural automatic reaction to respond in kind. You must resist this temptation.
Romans 12:2 “Don’t change yourselves to be like the people of this world, but let God change you inside with a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to understand and accept what God wants for you. You will be able to know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.”
If you fall into the trap of letting the conversation decline into a fight, you’ve lost the opportunity to have a healthy debate and build a successful relationship. Let the other person rant a little bit. They will quickly tire themselves out when they realize that they’re not getting a reaction from you, and then you can resume.
Proverbs 29:11 “A fool lets fly with all his temper, but a wise person keeps it back.”
4. Be humble. Don’t attack.
This is crucial!
To win a soul for Christ, you have to behave in a Christ-like way. When you’re attacking an argument you can never attack the person. That means no name calling, insults or offensive language.
Proverbs 12:18 “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
If you start to get nasty, you lose. You can not expect anyone to be persuaded by your truth if you’re not a living example of it.
Ephesians 4:29 “No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.”
As Christians we are commissioned to share the good news. We must be tactful, thoughtful and kind in all that we say and do. We are after all, representing the Lord as His ambassadors. Be careful not to indirectly attack someone either, for example, saying something like “Anyone who believes something like that is insane”. You haven’t actually called them insane, but you’ve implied it. This will erode the whole conversation.
If you do make a blunder, you should immediately correct yourself. You should say “I’m sorry, it wasn’t fair of me to say that and I didn’t mean it. I really want to have this conversation with you, can you accept my apology?”
Do not make an excuse for you’re behaviour or ill thought out comment. Don’t say “I’m sorry but…” this undermines your apology and fails to move the conversation forward.
“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” – Benjamin Franklin
Knowing the truth about the Gospel doesn’t make you right about everything. Human error is a big component of why our efforts to evangelize fail.
Hebrews 12:14 “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”
What can you do if the other person starts throwing around cuss words and insults?
Again, remain calm but assertive. Say “I’m really enjoying talking to you about this, but I would like to keep it civil. I promise to speak respectfully to you and I would appreciate it if you would do the same.” If after saying this they continue to escalate or attack you verbally, end the conversation.
If things have gone off course and can not be peacefully resolved then there is no point in continuing. Say “listen, I’ve enjoyed talking with you about this and I’ve learned a lot from what you had to say. But, I really feel like this conversation has become too charged and I feel like I’m being attacked. So let’s pause here and maybe we can pick it up another day.”
This is a great exit strategy because you are being honest and you’re showing respect for the other person as well as yourself.
5. Stick to the Point
This is hard, especially because when you talk about faith or Jesus or share your testimony people will inevitably try to take you off into the weeds. Conversations naturally digress down all sorts of unexpected paths, but if your debating a subject you should really try to focus on one point. Otherwise you’re going to lose sight of your clear argument because you’re trying to defend a bunch of extra points.
This comes up a lot when people start asking questions like “But doesn’t the bible say this… or doesn’t the bible contradict its self”
You can keep the conversation on track by saying “you know, that’s a really good question and I’d love to talk about that too. But for now, lets focus on what we were originally talking about, because I’d love to hear more about your perspective on that.”
This way your taking control of the conversation, but you’re also giving them more room to talk.
6. Acknowledge and Appreciate
We have to appreciate that we have been given an opportunity to speak to someone about the Lord and engage in a conversation that could change their life. By acknowledging and appreciating someone else’s point of view and their comments you’re demonstrating that you are confident in your own perspective and you will increase your power to influence and persuade them to your own.
While actively listening you can lean in with comments such as “I hear what you’re saying.” or “that’s really interesting”. You’re not saying that you agree with them but you are openly listening to their point of view.
People will often start to repeat themselves in an argument and this is a sign you can watch for that lets you know that they are not feeling heard. If this starts to happen, you can respond by repeating their argument back to them in your own words. “So I think what you’re saying is this…” This is a quick and easy way to end the loop.
Listen for opportunities to appreciate what they have to say. Most people are living out their lives with the best intentions based on what they believe. If you believed what they do you might come to similar conclusions. So whenever you can agree upon a point, do so. Just because you’re debating doesn’t mean you can’t agree with anything.
For example, the other person allows their children to do something because they believe it is in their child’s best interest. You don’t allow that, but you can agree on making parental decisions based on what you believe is in the best interest of the child. Coming into agreement on common ground builds up the relationship, increasing the chances of being able to win them over to your side of the argument.
7. Ask Questions
Get someone really engaged in the conversation by asking a series of questions instead of just trying to get out as many good points as possible. Asking questions changes the mood of the debate from a punch and jab scenario to one where you’re tossing around ideas and watching to see which stick. When something resonates with the other person you can tease that thought out and help them to draw their own conclusions about your position.
Questions are also less threatening. Instead of going into a conversation with a conviction to teach and preach, you can guided them along the path of tearing down their own argument. Instead of getting through a list of points, you might be able to get them to see a gap in their own argument. If they begin to question their own beliefs they will be far more likely to try and understand yours.
If you can do this, then you’ve opened the door to more questions and they will begin actively seeking to understand your beliefs and will be prepared to accept the gift of salvation.
If this happens,
You’ve just won a soul for the kingdom of God.
Master these skills and keep talking.
Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”
Don’t be afraid to speak up and be heard. Salvation comes to the world through those who are willing to share it. Be courageous and know that God will help you to speak to those around you. The devil’s strategy is too keep us silent and intimidate us so that we will be afraid to share the love of God with people who are different from us. We can not allow ourselves to cower for fear of being rejected.
I started this piece by stating that you can tell people about Jesus without them hating you. Which is true, but it’s not a guarantee. The truth is that the world hated Jesus and everything he stood for, and that some people are going to hate you no matter what you say or how you say it. Not all of them, but enough that it becomes hard to put yourself and your beliefs out there.
If in fact they do hate you, its okay.
John 15:18-19 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”
You are of the Lord. Not of the world.
So go, speak up and be counted among the children of God.
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If you’ve successfully used any of these strategies to share the love of God, why not talk about it in the comments below. Got a suggestion on something else that works? Share it with the rest of us. Let’s encourage each other to bring the light of God to the world.
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