I was a professional tennis coach for fourteen years prior to entering full-time vocational ministry in 2003. And I can assure you no beginner ever took a lesson or series of lessons with the expectation of becoming an accomplished player in a day, a week, or even a month. To play well requires some basic instruction and lots of time and practice.
Spiritual conversations are very similar to playing tennis – in that it takes time and practice to grow in competence and confidence.
In the specific arena of answering objections, we learn from others and we learn through practice. It should be noted that answering objections in real time is an inexact science, because spiritual conversations are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. For you and me, none of us ever arrives, so growing is the goal no matter how competent or incompetent we may feel.
With that said, as we anticipate basic objections and questions about the Christian faith, it will help to have what we might call a ‘coffee shop’ response. A ‘coffee shop’ answer is a simple answer that can keep the conversation centered on the topic at hand and move the dialogue along.
Here are five common objections to Christianity and Coffee Shop answers I’ve put together for each one.
In addition, here’s an excellent link to brief answers for many other standard objections.
There are abundant resources that can also provide in-depth responses to honest inquirers who want and need a more thorough response than we can initially provide. For there are great Christian apologists and thinkers who deal with these and many other objections with skill and depth. For example, Norm Geisler and Jason Jimenez authored a book entitled The Bible’s Answers to 100 of Life’s Biggest Questions. As you ponder the a question, be prayerful, asking the Lord to lead you to the appropriate follow-up resource – article, dvd, book, or youtube/Godtube link.
When pondering answers to objections, keep in mind people are in process and grappling with answers to questions is also a process for the inquirerer. Jesus’ parable of the soils in the Gospels sheds light on the reality that evangelism is a process:
On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
“Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” – Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 [see also Luke 8:4-15, Mark 4:1-20]
As we answer objections within spiritual conversations, we are simply planting seed or watering soil that already has gospel seed planted within it.
Think about sowing and watering in the physical.
In sowing seed, there must be enough space for that seed to grow. Sowing to much seed at one time may actually be counterproductive. A reasonable amount of water is necessary for growth of seeds in a garden, as in a light summer shower or controlled watering. But a deluge from a big storm or a fire hydrant will wash the seed away. Water is good. Too much water – not so much.
In a spiritual sense, when answering objections, we’re providing bread and water. Don’t overdo the process – give a hungry person a piece of bread and a thirsty person a glass of water. This takes practice and discernment. Learning and growing also involve trial and error…and more trial and error. And God is faithful. For He will grow this area of our witness as we commit our way to Him.
As you listen, study, learn, and practice, you can and will grow in your ability to give a word aptly spoken.
So don’t run from questions and objections – prepare for and anticipate them. And in providing answers, do so with a spirit of love characterized by gentleness and respect…for the glory of God and for the building of His Kingdom.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” -1 Peter 3:15