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Win People Rather Than Arguments

“I’m a Christian, but I’m not a fan of the church. It’s a literal cult!”

“I think most Christians would be shocked to find out Jesus was probably bisexual.”

“I have no problem with religion. I have a problem with old white men telling women what to do with their bodies.”

Whenever I heard one of these statements from my university peers, I’d think, Here we go. I better get my boxing gloves on. I was friends with the classmates who raised these sentiments, so our conversations weren’t personal attacks but sincere back-and-forths on topics like abortion, the church, and gay marriage. But I often felt these conversations didn’t lead anywhere. My friends and I would simply walk away more sure of our own views. No hearts were changed.

Oh well, I’d think. I want to be an evangelist, but I can only plant the seed. But as I’ve reflected on these conversations more recently, I’ve stopped and asked a question: Are these friendly conversations about difficult topics truly evangelism?

My generation is marked by social media use and polarized beliefs. YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok are rampant with opinions about controversial topics like abortion, homosexuality, politics, climate change, and religion. It’s what Gen Zers like me routinely consume.

As a result, I’ve fallen headfirst into a trap. I’m zealous to use and share the knowledge I’ve gathered from videos, podcasts, and articles. I want to defend the Bible and its values, and I can spend hours discussing various points with nonbelievers. But arguments alone, whether they’re friendly or “battles,” aren’t evangelism. Instead, we should seek to win people for Christ, not just score points in a debate.

True Heart of Evangelism

It took me a while to learn this, but it seems so obvious now: most nonbelievers won’t agree with the implications of Christianity unless they first accept its basis. All hot topics of debate are insignificant in the face of what’s most important: because of God’s overwhelming love and grace, Christ Jesus came to die and save sinners (John 3:16–17; 1 Tim. 1:15).

As Charles Spurgeon wrote, “We are not called to proclaim philosophy and metaphysics, but the simple gospel. Man’s fall, his need of a new birth, forgiveness through atonement, and salvation as the result of faith, these are our battle-ax and weapons of war.”

I’d been regurgitating all my knowledge of controversial topics to people who first and foremost needed to know Christ and his purpose for coming to earth. I’d put the wisdom of man, which is folly, above the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 3:19; Prov. 2:6). In evangelism, we’re not called to present our wealth of knowledge. Christ is the true heart of evangelism. Yet when we debate trending topics, Christ is often removed from the center of our witness.

Real Battle

Christ is the true heart of evangelism.

Evangelism is a battle. But we shouldn’t wage war as the world does. There’s a place for demolishing arguments, but not while depending on our own human knowledge. Rather, we’re to rely on the powerful weapons and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, looking not primarily to win the argument but to destroy any mental and relational obstacles that may be preventing people from knowing Christ. In this way, we capture others’ thoughts to draw them to him (2 Cor. 10:3–5).

The real battle doesn’t involve the nonbeliever as the enemy, our knowledge as the weapon, or winning the argument as the prize. It’s a battle against the powers of darkness, and our only hope of defeating it is with the light of gospel truth (Eph. 6:12). The salvation of souls, received by grace through faith in Christ alone, is the prize (Luke 15:7).

Walk Alongside

Debates about Christianity aimed at anything other than knowing and showing Christ aren’t evangelism. They’re simply debates. I now see these as far from the same thing. In debate, we face the nonbeliever head-on, whereas in evangelism, we walk alongside them.

I once heard a preacher I admire talking about evangelism. He was asked what he’d do if he had one hour to evangelize a nonbeliever. He said he’d spend the first 50 minutes listening and the last 10 sharing the simple truth of the gospel.

Jesus could look at a person and know everything about him, but we don’t have that ability. To know someone’s heart, we must ask questions and listen to her responses (Prov. 18:13). Listening to know someone as opposed to merely answering her point by point goes against our debate culture. It demonstrates a desire to walk with someone for her sake and gives her a glimpse into Christ’s power in our lives (1 Thess. 1:4–5). Getting to know someone’s heart desires along with her preconceptions and misconceptions of Christ and Christianity can guide a friend to a place where, by God’s grace, she’ll be in a better position to receive the gospel when we share it.

Look to Jesus

Because we have direct access to our peers, God wants to use us to impart the gospel to them. We must be prepared to do so with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15–16). And to impart something, we must have it in the first place. We can’t introduce and intimately explain the Savior if we don’t know him ourselves (John 15:4, 5; Prov. 19:2).

Listening demonstrates a desire to walk with someone for her sake and gives her a glimpse into Christ’s power in our lives.

Yes, there will be times when controversial topics open a door for conversations about Christianity. But we shouldn’t use these opportunities to win arguments or showcase knowledge. We should rather use them to introduce Christ, the friend of sinners, as he’s revealed to us in his Word. Let’s strive to walk prayerfully and to fearlessly plant seeds, understanding that only God can change hearts (John 15:5; Ezek. 36:26).

As you seek to share the gospel with nonbelievers, shift their—and your—eyes away from distracting battles toward the One who faithfully walks alongside you.

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