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The Nature of Dialogue

Being open about your faith in God can be scaring!

The common fears are:

  • losing friends
  • appearing judgmental
  • not knowing how to answer their questions
On the first issue, all one can say is, 'Yes, that's a risk! Being a disciple is a costly business.' However, in our culture if we treat others with gentleness and respect (1 Pet 3:15,16) they seldom turn their backs on us.

On the second issue, criticism often arises from a common misunderstanding about Christianity. Most people believe this equation:

Being Good = Being a Christian

Therefore, if you are hinting that you are a Christian and they are not, they understand you to imply that you are better than they are. Clearly this stands the Gospel on its head and the sooner you correct their misunderstandings the better!

On the third issue, there is really no excuse. 'Common things occur commonly!' The following seven questions were spelled out by Paul Little in his best selling book 'How to give away your faith' (IVP) as the most common asked. If you haven't thought through them then you deserve to break into a cold sweat each time you share your faith. (More than that, it might be the reason why you get so few opportunites..... After all, if you were God, would you give good opportunities to people who would botch it?!)

Seven Deadly Questions

  1. Is Christ the only way to God?
  2. Isn't the Bible full of errors?
  3. Isn't Christian experience only psychological?
  4. How can miracles be possible?
  5. What about those who have never heard the Gospel?
  6. Why do the innocent suffer?
  7. Won't a good moral life get me to heaven?
Although these questions come from an American context, you don't need much experience in dialogue evangelism to realise that they are equally common in Britain. Paul Western interviewed 600 people in Britain, asking them the question 'Why don't you believe in Christianity? Six answers outnumbered all others and he devoted the six chapters in his book 'Why we can't believe' (IVP Frameworks) to answering them.

They were:

  1. There's no proof.
  2. Christianity is irrelevant.
  3. I've never really thought about it.
  4. The biggest obstacle is the church.
  5. There's so much suffering in the world.
  6. Christianity can't be the only way to God.
There is considerable overlap. We are not often told the questions before we go into an exam! It would be very careless of us to allow ourselves to be examined about our beliefs without having carefully considered how we might answer these questions and comments.

The Real Question

Of course the real reason people do not follow Christ is not an intellectual one but a moral one. They are not prepared to repent! But before they can see this clearly, the intellectual debris must be cleared away effectively.

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