by Alvin Reid
One of the more basic aspects of sharing Christ involves recognizing and dealing with objections or excuses people raise when you witness. It’s so easy for us to go into apologetics mode, which is often helpful and necessary, but we can in practice elevate this about the gospel itself. Or, we want to answer the first thing the other person brings up (which is virtually never the real reason he or she has not followed Jesus), so we lose track of sharing the gospel, which is kind of the point.
Here is a little process I teach my students from my Evangelism Handbook:
- Recognize the objection, while keeping the conversation focused on the gospel.
- Remember, the Holy Spirit will give you guidance. Trust him.
- The gospel itself will answer many honest questions.
- Many objections will not be raised if you maintain a proper attitude.
Guidelines to help you avoid emotional confrontations without compromising the gospel.
- Negotiate; do not argue (think win/win).
- Avoid emotional confrontations.
- Accept the other person as an equal. Remember that we are not better than unsaved persons; the difference is that we have met Jesus. And so can they. A holier-than-thou attitude is quickly discernible and wretched.
- Exercise gentleness. The goal is to present truth, not win a debate. We shouldn’t have theological B.O., where we believe correctly, but stink about it.
- Check your motivation. Love should be your guide.
The material below was taught to me years ago and has helped many witnesses in dealing with objections. Try this process as you have gospel conversations and the other person raises an excuse:
- Use a transition statement. “You’ve obviously given this some thought.” Most people have given some thought to spiritual matters, so your first statement is affirmative, not confrontational. Then you can address the specific objection.
- Convert the objection to a question. The question should deal with the objection raised. If you are not sure what to ask, two general questions are, When did you begin believing this? and Why?
- Answer the person’s question.
- Continue with the gospel.
Example #1: “The church is full of hypocrites. I don’t need it.”
Transition: “You’ve obviously given this some thought. I would agree that hypocrisy does exist in churches. Jesus warned against hypocrisy.”
Convert to a question: “Let me ask you a question. What is a real Christian like (a hypocrite is a phony, after all)?”
Typical answer: “Lives a good life, not judgmental, etc.”
Answer: “The only way to discover what a real Christian is would be to see what the Bible says.” (Share Christ)
Example #2: “I believe there are many ways to God.”
Transition: “You’ve obviously given this some thought. I would agree that there are many religions with many devout followers.”
Convert to a question: “Let me ask you a question. Have you ever considered the unique claims of Christianity?”
Answer [following their response]: “The Christian faith is unique in that it centers on the remarkable grace of God.” (share Christ)
Learning to continue a conversation without becoming adversarial can help you see whether the other person has a clear understanding of the gospel or not. It can also help to cut through surface reasons to the real reasons the person is hesitant. This is where the real work of apologetics, prayer, and relationships happen.
As we share Christ, we want to remove obstacles to faith in the life of the other person, and to raise legitimate questions about his or her own worldview. We have the greatest news, why not tell others?
Alvin L. Reid (@alvinreid) is professor of evangelism and student ministry and Bailey Smith chair of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is author of As You Go: Creating a Missional Culture of Gospel-Centered Students. He loves encouraging the younger generation to live for Jesus. Learn more: www.alvinreid.com