Starting Apologetic Conversations Without Sounding Confrontational

By Jason Carlson

Recently a young man asked me, “How do I share my faith with someone who disagrees with me without sounding confrontational?”  This is a great question; and really, this is the attitude all of us as Christians should have when we think about sharing our faith. We need to be bold, but we also need to practice gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

If there’s someone in your life you’d like to share your faith with, but you’re not sure how to start, let me suggest the following strategy:

Begin the conversation with a question such as, “I’m interested in what you believe about (insert topic). Would you mind telling me more about your views on this?”  Here you’ve opened a door to conversation, but in a very non-threatening way. You’re simply showing interest in them as a person and what they believe.

Now, if the person you’re talking with is willing to share with you, listen respectfully and when they’re done acknowledge your appreciation for their openness.

Next you’ll want to begin to move the conversation towards a discussion of your different beliefs. To do so, politely note that you recognized some differences between their beliefs and yours. For example, “I found it interesting that you said you believe (insert topic). That’s a different perspective on this issue from what I hold.”

Now, at this point your conversation partner may ask you to share more about your beliefs with them. If so, go for it. However, it they don’t seem immediately interested, you might follow-up with something like, “Isn’t it interesting how we can both believe something about (insert topic) to be true, yet at the same time have such different perspectives?”

What you’ve just done here with this last question is you’ve introduced some helpful, logical tension into the conversation. You see, when it comes to the nature of truth- what is real or the way things really are- there cannot be two different and contradictory positions for a given issue. For example, if you’re talking to an Atheist, either God exists or He doesn’t. Both of these positions cannot be true.

Hopefully your conversation partner will intuitively recognize the logical tension presented by your competing beliefs, but if not, it can be helpful to follow up with a simple observation such as, “You know, with our respective beliefs on this issue being so different, we can’t both be right.”

Having made this observation you now have a great opportunity to take your conversation to the next level apologetically. Try saying something like, “Personally, when I think about this issue, I don’t want to believe something that isn’t true. Maybe we should explore this topic more together?  Would you be open to discussing our respective beliefs further with me and examining why we each believe what we believe?”

Now, ideally your conversation partner will be open to your proposal, maybe out of curiosity for whether or not their belief is true, maybe to assist you in your intellectual questioning, or maybe just because they like a good debate. Whatever their motive, in using this line of questioning and observation you’ve created an opportunity for ongoing apologetic conversation with them.

Of course, it’s possible your discussion partner might not be interested in examining your respective beliefs any further. If they refuse your offer, you can politely state, “Thanks for taking some time to talk with me about this. If you’d ever be open to discussing this more I’d really enjoy that.”

While it might appear that you haven’t gotten very far with this last outcome, the reality is, you’ve planted a seed and hopefully your discussion partner will begin to think more about what they believe and why. If they do, and if they want to explore this further at some point, now they know someone they can approach for conversation. This alone is a positive result.

Now, notice how this conversation unfolded. Throughout this whole process you’ve been able to direct the conversation respectfully and without sounding confrontational. By simply asking honest questions and making uncritical observations, you’ve highlighted and raised important issues that warrant further consideration.

If you have someone in your life you’ve been hoping to share your faith with I’d encourage you to give this technique a try. I’m confident you’ll find it a helpful tool for opening up fruitful apologetic conversations.