I worked for several years as an armed security guard. One of the things that I learned about in training for that job was what is commonly referred to as the “use of force” doctrine. It attempts to chart out the exact level of force appropriate to use in most situations. When you’re openly carrying a gun and wearing a uniform, according to this doctrine, you are already using a significant amount of force as soon as you show up on the scene. It is much the same when you engage a in a reasoned conversation about your faith. The truth of God and the Gospel may feel like an assault to them, because it is!
Many Authors have written well on how to approach these encounters with as little impact as possible. I highly suggest you read their books, I know I do. But I would have you understand and grow comfortable with the fact that the Gospel is offensive to those who have not given over their lives to it. Hell, it’s offensive to my Spirit sometimes and I have been a blood-bought believer for over 20 years. Sometimes the person you’re engaging with is offended by what you’re saying to them and sometimes they’re put off by other factors. Factors like the way they’ve been treated by believers in the past or maybe they have false ideas of what Christianity is. The most important thing I want to convey to you in this sense is this: Just because someone gets offended and reacts strongly toward you does not mean that you have to bring yourself to that same level of discourse. Always remember that you cannot accomplish your primary goal of convincing and converting the unbeliever without first accomplishing the secondary goal of establishing a rapport through genuine, heartfelt dialog. Certain types of non-believers will respond to The Gospel by becoming insulting in a variety of ways.
Before offense turns to outrage let’s make up our minds to ask ourselves whether we’re offended because of their actions or our sensitivities. Being offended is not an argument for or against anything. It may alert you that an argument needs to be had, but that argument may be with yourself. To this end I highly encourage you, in your private time, to seek out and take in materials produced by people and groups that are diametrically opposed to what you believe. There are several of these that I subscribe to myself. When someone on an Atheist podcast I listen to makes the case for abortion as a moral good for society and that in the end it doesn’t really matter if the baby is a life that gets by temper up. There are some things I want to say to that person and not all of them are very “Christian” things to say. This tells me a couple of things. First, that this is a cause I absolutely need to be active on, and second, that when I am active I need to go into it having thought well and deeply about how I’ll handle myself before hand.
Another thing it may tell me is that I suspect or am afraid that they’ve made a compelling argument. One of the things I desire most to do as a form of Apologetics Ministry is to teach people how to “doubt well”. I have been convinced for a long time that it is impossible to remove all doubts from anyone’s mind including my own. I want to be totally transparent in saying that I spend a large percentage of my time actively doubting some of my most closely held beliefs. I have found over time that doubt can be my ally if I doubt well. The key is to not reject what you currently hold to be true without cause. Doubt itself is not cause. Doubting well keeps you open, it prevents dogmatic belief and behavior, it keeps you asking of yourself and your community of believers questions like, “why do we do this this way?” and “If the Bible says ______ why are we saying ______?” These are the kind of questions that can spark revolutionary movements of God within churches and cities. This is exactly what we want to bring about.
In the new year we’ll begin to unpack this idea of doubting well. I believe it is a set of ideas that can be the catalyst for nothing less than a new Great Awakening of the Church in America and beyond.