Gregory Koukl, of Stand to Reason, has written an excellent book entitled Tactics: a Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions. It is written in a captivating and compelling fashion, so much so that I read it in just a few hours (real-life stories were great!). The result in my life has been an increased confidence in conversation with unbelievers, even those who are a bit hostile to Christianity. If you are serious about reaching your friends, family, classmates, and co-workers, you’ll want to purchase this little book and digest it for yourself.
He divides the book into parts: (1) The game plan and (2) Finding the flaws. Today, we will look at the Game Plan, then a later blog post will go through some of the flaws.
The Game Plan
Koukl maintains that having the truth is not enough to successfully maneuver your way through difficult conversations. I personally often find myself struggling to find a good balance between what Koukl calls “D-day” and “diplomacy.” So here is the major tactic identified in this section:
- Columbo: Playing off the detective from old-school television, Koukl suggests that we begin by asking questions, instead of making assertions. He gives three main ways to employ the Columbo tactic:
- Gather Information: A simple question like, “What do you mean by that?” will do here. This gives you an opportunity to find out from where the individual is coming. Koukl says, “People don’t know what they mean much of the time. Often they’re merely repeating slogans.”
- Reverse the Burden of Proof: “The burden of proof is the responsibility someone has to defend or give evidence for his view.” Koukl presents another simple question, “Now, how did you come to that conclusion?”
- Lead the Conversation: this is the most aggressive form of Columbo. Ask questions like, “Have you considered…” or “Can you clear this up for me…” where their assertions are clearly contradictory or inaccurate.
I have found one major benefit from using Columbo over the past couple weeks. I am simply not quick on the draw, so asking questions in this manner gives me time to think and formulate. It buys me the time that I need.