Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
- Colossians 4:5-6
Jesus, the master evangelist, used something that many Christians seriously lack today, which is tact. Tact has been defined as diplomacy, sensitivity. One definition of it is skill and grace in dealing with others. Isaac Newton defined tact as "the art of making a point without making an enemy."
There is a built-in offense to the essential message of the gospel, but we don't have to make it worse by being insensitive to people. And far too often this happens. I have watched it. You probably have too. A Christian will walk up to an unbeliever and start the conversation with something like this: "Hey, heathen. Did you know you are going to hell?" That is not the way to build a bridge.
When Jesus approached the woman at the well in Samaria, He asked her a question. He drew her out. He engaged her. Evangelism is a dialogue, not a monologue. And the best way to engage a person in a conversation is to listen. In starting a conversation, the objective is to build a bridge. That is what we want to do. Ask people about themselves. Everyone's favorite subject is themselves. And as they talk, engage them. Ask them questions. You don't have to cut people off. You don't have to contradict them. You don't have to insult them. Just listen.
Sure, there is a place for point and counterpoint. Sure, we need to defend our beliefs. But no one has ever been argued into the kingdom of God. And I have seen Christians win the argument and lose the soul. But I would rather win the soul and listen and engage and give and take. As you do this, you will know from the conversation how to respond with the gospel message. Listen patiently. And then respond appropriately.
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