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Winning souls, not arguments

Here’s a tough question: How can you engage in debate on political or social issues with nonbelievers and keep the door open for a discussion of the gospel?

As a pastor, I’ll often find myself in a discussion about some politically charged issue, such as same-sex marriage, and end up caught in a dilemma: How can I argue for what the Bible says and not come across as harsh and judgmental? If I present the Bible’s point of view, those I’m talking to may label me as a narrow-minded bigot. How can I acknowledge Christ rightfully and not eliminate my opportunity to share the wonders and grace of the cross?”

Pastor Voddie Baucham tells a story about when he was a college athlete who had just come to faith in Christ, with an older teammate mentoring him. One day, two well-dressed visitors, testifying about spiritual matters, visited Baucham. After their time together, he felt confused and defeated. The missionaries left a pamphlet behind called “The Watchtower,” and Baucham asked his mentor about it, who explained that the missionaries were Jehovah’s Witnesses and were part of a cult.

Being naturally competitive and gifted in debate, Baucham spent two weeks in the library preparing for the proselytizers’ return. The unsuspecting Jehovah’s Witnesses came back to his door, and he proceeded to tear apart their every argument. Swelling with pride, Baucham reported his conquest to his mentor. With incredible wisdom for a young man, his mentor looked directly at Baucham and asked, “Do you think they will ever return?” Baucham was shamed and humbled by his mentor’s response, but he also learned that the purpose of apologetics is to win souls, not arguments, and to do so with a humble spirit.

A humble spirit comes from inside—a heart affected by grace and led by the Spirit. Colorless meekness applied like cosmetics won’t do. Few human beings, apart from Christ, can project genuine humility. Pride, arrogance, and a desire to win stand in the way of humbleness. We should pray for God to give us a humble heart. But be warned: God’s method for giving us humility may not be ours.

We’re called to plant seeds and pray—only the gospel through the work of the Holy Spirit can change minds. We should pray for God to touch an unbeliever’s heart. We must continually remind ourselves that a non-Christian naturally rejects biblical arguments. The gospel is offensive to a pagan, and the Bible challenges his authority to be in charge of himself.

This is not a complete answer but a start. Ask yourself: Am I humble? Do I understand that winning souls is the big issue? Do I understand that only God can do both? This will give us proper foundation to begin debate.

Bill Newton Bill is a pastor based in Asheville, N.C. He is a member of the board of directors of WORLD News Group.


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Thanks Bill, thats a good point.