Unfortunately, we live in a divisive culture. It seems like everyone has a persuasive argument for everything. Still, the gospel isn’t an argument. Jesus doesn’t want us to debate and argue with people in the kingdom. Instead, He’s the One who gives the invitation, specifically in Revelation 22:17. As believers in Christ who take the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20 seriously, we should consider how to do this carefully without getting pulled into arguments.

The issue with arguing.

When we attempt to argue with people over the gospel or theology, we automatically put people on the defensive. They stand firm in their position, and the debate starts. However, this isn’t an effective evangelism method. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus invites us to not only love God with all our hearts but also to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we don’t love people first, then we can’t effectively share the gospel. Jesus Himself exemplified this by having dinner with tax collectors and other sinners. He attended weddings and spoke with doubters and seekers alike. In fact, the only people we see Him sparring with were the Sadducees and Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of the day.

In our time of increasing polarization, we should follow Jesus’ example. We do so by being the best neighbors possible, loving others, and letting them process their faith journeys without judgment. As we let them ask questions and we answer gently, the Holy Spirit is more than willing to lead them to embrace Jesus. We can’t preach the gospel without loving people well. Even the Apostle Paul wrote that we shouldn’t participate in foolish debates or arguments in 2 Timothy 2:23. His meaning is clear. We should avoid arguing people into the kingdom because it’s ineffective, and we aren’t usually the ones who handle persuading people of the gospel. That’s the Holy Spirit’

Instead, we should share Jesus’ gospel with love and believe the results of the Holy Spirit. He’s the One who draws people to Him. So, how do we win people for Christ without persuasive arguments? Here are some ways.

Invite them to your house.

Sadly, we live in a culture that’s forgotten how to be good neighbors. As followers of Christ, we should be the best neighbors on our block. In Matthew 22:39, Jesus said that after the first commandment to love God, the second is as essential, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Part of loving our neighbors is offering hospitality. When we invite people into our homes, we open the chance to extend Christ’s love tangibly. As people sit around our dinner table, visiting over coffee or sharing a meal, they can see what’s important to us. Author Rosaria Butterfield wrote that the gospel comes with a house key. What if we took the biblical instruction to offer hospitality without grumbling seriously? People might come to Christ more easily.

Listen attentively.

According to theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been entrusted to them by Him, who’s the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with God’s ears so we can speak the Word of God. If we don’t become active listeners, we truly can’t share the gospel. Instead of incessantly talking, make it your goal to listen and take an interest in those around you. Stay curious and ask questions so you can find common ground. Maybe common ground for you is love for animals, or maybe common ground is the sports your kids play.

Start with common ground and make it your mission to listen well to understand the other person. If you follow Jesus’ ministry, He did the same. Jesus used farming illustrations when speaking with the crowd because most were farmers, as detailed in Matthew 13:1-23. He told the disciples after seeing them fish that He would make them fishers of men, as explained in Matthew 4:9. Jesus also asked insightful questions. As we ask questions and listen for common ground, we make people feel heard and seen. If you’re not listening, telling others the gospel won’t win many.

Offer understanding.

When we offer understanding, we build bridges and validate feelings. When people feel understood, they become more open to Christ’s love. You don’t have to validate their truth, but you can try to validate what they’re feeling. If they’ve felt misunderstood or rejected, at least recognize that their feelings make sense to you. When they feel misunderstood or judged, they’ll get defensive and be unwilling to hear that Jesus loves them. If they feel like their feelings make sense, they’ll be more willing to hear how deeply God loves them. The truth is that God loves them and is for them, and will always pursue them even if they disagree with Him. Jesus is the One who leaves the 99 and looks for the one, as detailed in Luke 15:3-6.

Share how you fell in love with Jesus.

The woman at the well is an excellent example of this. We find the story in John 4. Jesus meets her at the well, where she was alone, drawing water. She was surprised that Jesus would speak to her because she was a Samaritan, and yet He opened a discussion with her. He asked her leading questions gently and gave her the space to share her thoughts. At one point, she confessed that she didn’t have a husband, and Jesus told her that she’d had five husbands and the man she was currently living with wasn’t her husband. After the woman concludes that He’s a prophet, she adds that she knows someday, the Messiah will come. That’s when Jesus identified Himself as the Messiah for whom she was waiting.

The woman got so excited that she left her water jar and ran to tell her village to come and meet the man who told her everything she ever did. Later in the chapter, we find out that many in her town believed in Jesus due to her testimony. Within this story is the message that your story matters. One of the most effective evangelism tactics is sharing how you came to Jesus and how He changed your life.

Arguing isn’t going to go away any time soon. People will always argue over parenting, politics, and work solutions. However, debating to lead someone to Jesus isn’t effective. Instead of being brought into an argument, learn to love people well. Prioritize listening hospitality, and offer understanding. As you do so, lean into the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and pray over each encounter.

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