10 tips for talking about Jesus

(Photo: Billy Alexander)

1. Be intentional. Learn how to be intentional in your relationships, and think: How can I help this conversation to go deeper to a more spiritual conversation?

2. Ask questions. Here are some suggestions: What gets you through hard times? Do you ever pray? What are your hopes for the future? What's your idea of success?

3. Pray. Not just before, but also ask for God's help while you are with them. But here's a tip – don't say it out loud.

4. Preach the gospel. Hearing the gospel for the first time is the best apologetic. Lots of people reject the gospel, but that's because they've never heard it in the first place. They've never heard a message about God that could be described as good and full of hope; they've just heard about rules, morality, and condemnation. They have never heard that Jesus came to the world to rescue, not to condemn.

5. Know your audience. Many people will have no Christian background at all. This means that the way we answer questions in church or a Bible study may be very different than with people who have never stepped inside a place of worship. Unchurched people don't have the same presuppositions that we have – they don't assume that the Bible has any authority, for example. We can't just quote Bible verses.

6. If you don't know the answer, don't make it up. Why not just tell the gospel, without thinking about apologetics? If only it were that simple. If we were not in a world full of lies and distortions, it might be possible. But when you're asked a question and you don't know answer, it's good to say, "That's a good question, I don't know the answer, I'm going to go and think and read, and chat about it." The more you go away to find the answers, the more you will grow.

7. Keep it relevant. When Paul spoke to the Gentiles in Acts 17, he didn't use scripture. To Athenians, he quoted their own poets. Don't be afraid to use modern films, literature and philosophy in your responses or as illustrations.

8. Think deeply. When we face tough questions, there are two helpful things to ask ourselves. First, why would someone ask this? Second, what question could I ask in response? You might miss the nuanced and personal angle of a question. For a lot of people, even asking a question can be a big emotional step. So we should affirm that question.

9. Ask more questions. It's not just about giving good answers. It's also about asking questions about other people's answers. Here are some examples:

Why do you think all religions are the same?
How do you know science has disproved God?
It sounds like you value inclusiveness, but aren't you excluding my belief?
You say I can't prove God exists. What kind of proof would it take?
Is it possible to remove all evil and suffering, without violating human freedom?
Are you saying it's impossible to be a world class scientist and a Christian at the same time?
It sounds like you think this Christian teaching is immoral, so what do you think makes something moral?
How do we know anything is true?
If I were to answer that question to your satisfaction, would you give your life to Christ right now? If not, what's the real issue?

10. Don't try to argue people into the Kingdom. There is a difference between knowing God and showing God. Other people can't know our own personal experience; we have to be able to appeal to reasons and arguments and evidence that is accessible. The goal is not to win arguments, it is to win people. It is also about persuasion of the gospel's reality – not manipulation, which attempts to violate rational freedom and will.

Simon Edwards is an Apologist for RZIM and Assistant Chaplain of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.