Siji Loto

Mind & Pen on Fire

Tactics by Greg Koukl: Summary, Notes, And Lessons

One of my university professors gave me this book in relation to a project I’m working on for a class. I watched a video of the author online and I found him to be an interesting apologist. One thing I liked about this book in comparison to other evangelism books is that is it devoid of the usual shaming, judging and condemning of believers who don’t share or find it difficult to share their faith. The author simply encourages you to share your convictions and gives you practical steps on how to go about it.

Greg Koukl presents a graceful and diplomatic way for believers to share their convictions with unbelievers. The author argues that in order to represent Jesus in the modern age believers need to have knowledge (an accurately informed mind), wisdom (an artful approach) and character (an attractive conduct). In this book the author focuses on the aspect of using wisdom in sharing the faith. Applying wisdom in sharing our faith helps us make what we share clear, compelling and persuasive. This type of wisdom focuses on ‘tactics’ rather than of ‘brute force’ or forceful methods of evangelism and apologetics. Using a tactical approach helps believers to maneuver and adapt to different situations while talking with various individuals. The tactics presented by Koukl aren’t intended to be used to manipulate and abuse people.

The author postulates that we have to play our path in sharing the gospel, but all the pressure is on God for it to be effective. Koukl makes a distinction between gardeners and harvesters. The role of the gardener is just to plant seeds and water the soil. Most Christians fall into this category. The author argues that we shouldn’t put ourselves under pressure to get an immediate response of faith. Harvesters are able to harvest because other believers have been planting seeds in a person’s life in the past. Koukl uses the term ‘putting a stone in someone’s shoe’ as the main goal in having conversations with unbelievers rather than forcing a premature response of faith.

The author believes that when an opportunity presents itself to share our faith we usually have about a 10 second window to take advantage of the opportunity. The author uses a tactic called the ‘Columbo’ tactic which involves going on the offensive in an inoffensive way through the use of carefully selected questions to productively move the conversation in the right direction. Using the ‘Columbo’ tactic helps you gather useful information, encourages the other person to give reasons for their worldview and helps you lead the conversation in a specific direction. Asking questions can be flattering to the other party, it helps you make progress without sounding forceful or pushy and it helps put you in the driver seat of the conversation. The author argues that we should let the opposing party defend and give evidence for their beliefs instead of arguing with them about their worldview which is known as ‘reversing the burden of proof. We should then define the purpose of the conversation (i.e. inform, refute, persuade etc.) and lead the conversation to accomplish our purpose. Believers should reflect on the conversations they have with people, take notes on the good and bad areas, and look for how to improve the next time they have a discussion with someone about the topic. People should be able to anticipate common objections people may have to their faith and be prepared to respond to them. Listening to the opposing party is vital in performing the ‘Columbo’ approach. Some people present arguments that self-destruct (because they haven’t critically thought it through) and the believer doesn’t have to do much in showing the person their error.

Koukl also presents a concept called ‘Taking the Roof Off’ (also known as ‘reductio ad absurdum’). This approach is designed to show when a person’s view proves too much and when taken seriously the view will lead to counterintuitive result. The process involves reducing the person’s point of view to its basic argument or premise, giving the view a ‘test drive’ to see if it stands, and inviting the person to consider the negative consequences of their worldview. The author offers a few more tips in having conversation with people about the faith. These tips include always being ready to engage people, keeping the discussion simple, keeping yourself calm, avoiding religious language and pretense, focusing on the core truths of the gospel not merely its advantages, giving the good reasons for your beliefs, and always giving people some tangible that they can reflect on when the conversation is over.

Koukl recommends finding other believers who are interested in sharing or defending their faith and meet up to practice the tactics presented in the book. This book will be useful to anyone who is new to the faith, timid or shy about sharing their convictions. No theological jargon. Just actionable steps. The book encouraged me to want to engage people more with the gospel. I warmly recommend it!!

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