They don’t know and they need to know. That’s a sin! They need to repent. You probably understand what I’m talking about.
This past year I’ve seen 3 different individuals get into Bible reading and desiring to draw closer to Jesus. With each one, there has been an assortment of questions and discussions. I’ve been so grateful to see how each one understood different truths of scripture and what it took for them to realize those truths. I have learned a few things from these experiences and one MAJOR issue I had.
I like to smother with information & I can come off harsh sometimes.
When we have someone desiring to do Bible Study with us, and/or give us questions about God, Christian Apologetics, and possibly questions related to false teaching, it can be both exciting and nerve wrecking. That being said, it is really easy to steer off into the wrong direction.
Today, I want to share a few things to keep in mind that I myself have been working on. These tips will hopefully encourage you to learn more, communicate better, and give glory to God as you reach out to those around you.
1. Try Not To Layer The Truth Like A Lasagna (Be Quick To Listen, Slow To Speak)
Now, it is tempting to immediately lecture. It’s tempting to hog the discussion in hopes that we can make our point and get it across. I have totally stolen the discussion spotlight and added layer upon layer of info, which the individual I was speaking to couldn’t possibly grasp all at once. I, uh, get excited about information. My responses were not as helpful as I wanted them to be, and it still left the individual confused and now overwhelmed.
A book I recommend for learning proper ways to communicate is Tactics by Greg Koukl. I have reached Ch. 3 and I have already learned quite a bit. Greg really emphasizes the importance of listening. By asking thoughtful questions we can learn more about the person we are speaking with, and we also can help provide some responses that help the individual come to conclusions or at least, as Greg says, “leave a stone in their shoe.”
Many Christians might struggle with trying to tie the knot in one conversation with a non-believer, and honestly, I think this happens with other Christians, too. We want our point to be made, understood, and accepted. Sadly, in doing so, we often try to force-feed people scripture, lectures, info, etc. Which I am very guilty of personally. Though our intention is good, it can do more harm than good.
When we overwhelm others with our viewpoint it stops discussions from being productive and instead becomes one sided. It’s about what we want the other person to see and believe. Now the truth of Jesus and the Gospel is no less important, however, taking the time to listen and understand the person we are talking to is important as well. The more we listen to someone the more we may be able to understand their questions, background, or particular perspective on an issue.
The more understanding we have about their position helps us answer better because now we are not focused on various points or topics we might want to make, rather, we can focus on one particular point they made. (Don’t worry about answering everything at once. Focus on one point at a time.)
Which leads us into the next tip.
2. Be Weary Of Tangents
One game I have played with my friends before is to see how one topic makes us jump to 6 various topics and what were we talking about? Haha!
In a situation in which someone is asking a serious question or Bible Study is going on, it’s important to stay to scripture and the current topic. Try not to lose focus. There are discussions for tangents, but there are times when we need to stick to the main topic. It helps us stay focused and it can help a discussion be more productive.
If we are not the one speaking, it is important to help gently guide the conversation when it drifts. Some topics may be uncomfortable and it’s possible the one we are speaking to might dodge some questions, if they do not have answers. We should never try to force a response out of someone, however, we certainly can encourage them to consider a point we make.
Then there are times when we are the ones in control of the conversation and sometimes it’s easy to get carried away. Believe me, I have been there, got the t-shirt, and wore the shirt shamelessly. I understand. 🙂
In making a point, sometimes we make mini points which come from various topics and we can go through a series of tangents before we stop ourselves and realize what happened. There are times in which mini points, especially illustrations are helpful. Just consider how long it might take to get there.
The main point or question we want someone to take out of our conversation is going to be easier if the discussion stays focused.
3. Be Careful About Being Nit-Picky
It would be really easy if everyone just took our advice and thoughts on scripture without any disagreement, concerns, or challenges. However, not everyone will be willing to have their beliefs picked apart as soon as you start to talk to them. Do we like it when people tell us we’re wrong? As the old saying goes, we might need to walk a mile in someone’s shoes. (This especially goes for anyone in a cult. We need to understand their perspective first before deciding what belief to tackle.)
It is much easier to criticize, make judgment calls, and tell someone what they should do versus being the one who is criticized, judged, and being told what to do.
To be clear, in the Bible we are to discern, to judge righteously, and to warn others. The Bereans studied scripture to see if Paul was teaching them right. We do need to be careful. Anyone who is on the receiving end could very well struggle hearing what goes against them and their beliefs. Confronting others for the sake of their eternity is not easy.
Having the truth does not always mean it will be presented in a Christlike manner, and we need to be careful in how we speak the truth.
There is such a desire to help and correct misconception, unfortunately, it is easy for us to do it without grace. We forget our own struggles in learning scripture and questions we used to have about Christianity. Maybe some of us were apart of a cult or other false teaching. At one time, we didn’t know as much as we do now. Use those experiences to connect the truth.
I remember my struggles when a sister in Christ challenged me last year on a number of things. At the time, I thought she was being nit-picky, to which she did admit on some topics she was. This was challenging because it was uncomfortable and I didn’t fully understand the Biblical truth in confrontation. I didn’t realize we can sometimes be nit-picky and it’s Christlike! We may not always have the same views or opinions, and that’s okay. But the core of Jesus Christ is something we cannot compromise on. Lives for eternity are at stake.
Looking back on those conversations, though they were troubling and difficult at times, the goal always was Jesus Christ for both of us. We wanted to love each other as sisters with our focus being on Jesus regardless if our feelings got hurt. It was through Christ alone that despite our difficulty in communicating (Romans 8:28) God used the discussions to refine both of us.
As I grew in truth and learning how certain false teachings were wrong, I now understood the concern my sister in Christ had in those discussions for me. It was not easy and hurtful at times because my own pride, insecurity, and feeling convinced that I was right (at the time) made the discussions and challenges more difficult for me.
There are times to be nit-picky. There are times to challenge people. We can share the truth in the most loving way, and people more than likely are still going to struggle with it. Also, keep in mind, writing is different than speaking. How people interpret our written words might be subjective. It’s important if we are speaking to one individual to consider their sensitivities when writing to them and, if possible, meet in person or chat face to face.
Make no mistake, we are not here to coddle people and their sin. We need the blood of Christ as our atonement sacrifice and we need to repent. We are not here to encourage deception and act like it’s okay. The truth is that truth hurts a lot of the time.
When we and others get convicted by the Holy Spirit it hurts. It’s important to see how at the end of the day, the truth of the Gospel reaching the ears and hearts of others happens through Jesus alone, not us. We may relay the message, but He opens the eyes and ears. For many people, they will not accept the hard truth. Keep praying for them, keep watering, the next point discusses this.
(NIV) 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
(NIV) 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”
(NIV) Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Keep these in mind for discussions, challenges, and judgments we might have:
- Is this the right time to point out the misunderstanding?
- Does this really matter?
- Are there lighter (milk) topics that would benefit this person before moving on to this topic?
- Is it sin related? How do they view this sin (do they think it’s sinful)? How can we point to Christ and the truth of sin in this?
- Remember this person was made in the image of God and we are to treat others better than ourselves.
- Would the individual receive this better face to face?
- Are we speaking from a position of pride or comparing ourselves to them?
- We need to make sure to check our own heart before trying to help someone else. We need to not be guilty of the same thing we are trying to help them with.
- Being loving does not stop the truth from being hurtful because of the war between our sinful nature and being born again in the Spirit.
4. Every Person Is Different / Pick & Choose Battles
A few years ago, I became friends with a cherished sister in Christ. Right from the beginning, my friend shared some views that were different than sound doctrine, and she overall was aware of it. However, she couldn’t fully grasp every piece of sound truth at once (which most people are the same, these things take time.). Yet, she was extremely open to hearing the opposing views. In fact, she desired learning how the teachings she believed in were wrong.
This is a unique and a blessing to be apart of, but please understand, most people we will help are probably not going to be at this stage.
First, it needs to be pointed out, my friend had already been warned for years by others regarding these false teachings. So, the watering the harvest for my friend had already been done by others. Though she didn’t accept the opposing view others shared with her, it did “leave a stone.” Eventually, she became more open to seeing how the false teachings fell apart in light of scripture. Including doing her own research and Bible study.
This is done only through the Holy Spirit. We do not have the power of transformation. Jesus does. We need to be careful that we do not become prideful on how we have helped people understand the truth of the Bible. All credit goes to Jesus Christ.
Most people we will meet will need watering. They may not be ready to accept the truth and Christ. They may not know a lot of scripture, if any. They may want to disagree and challenge us on our own views (Aren’t we doing the same to them? This is an opportunity to give a reason for why we believe). We need to have patience, compassion, and mercy for them. Listen to them and respond accordingly. Show them grace, but do not waver on the truth.
Disagreeing about all the wrong beliefs they have at once is not going to help them see the truth. One at a time is better. Asking thoughtful questions based on responses we receive can be helpful to lead them to the truth. Do not worry about correcting every misconception they have. Listen to them and understand their perspective. Do not worry about converting them, this is something only Jesus does. We are here to water and leave stones in people’s shoes.
Monthly Scripture – (NKJ) Psalm 85:11, “Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.“