the shape of leadership

Discussing Your Convictions

A review of Tactics Study Guide with DVD by Greg Koukl

Paul Franks on June 20, 2017

Most Christians recognize the importance of spreading the good news of the gospel to a lost and hurting world. We know of Jesus’ command to go and make disciples. Yet, in a society that is increasingly hostile to Christianity, we may not always have the confidence to begin talking with nonbelievers about our faith.

The reasons for this are varied, but among them is a fear of being unable to respond adequately to difficult questions — or being unable to hold our own when talking with difficult people. In 2009, Greg Koukl published a book, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, to help Christians overcome these hurdles. He has now condensed that material into a six-part DVD series and accompanying study guide.

I hesitate to call Tactics an apologetics resource since that is not its primary focus. The main purpose is to show Christians how to direct conversations about our faith (and even how to begin them) in a way that will be most helpful for the nonbeliever. When we do begin to talk about our faith, it’s easy to find ourselves on the defensive.

“If God is so good, why is there so much evil?”

“How can a good God allow so many people to spend an eternity in hell?”

“Why would God wait on our prayers before healing someone?”

Providing answers to these kinds of questions isn’t the goal of Tactics. Instead, it demonstrates how to reply in ways that keep you in control of the conversation. For example, the primary tactic Koukl discusses is “Columbo.” Using it, you might respond to the first question above by simply asking, “What do you mean by evil?”

When we talk about our faith, it’s easy to find ourselves on the defensive.

With one question, you’ve shown you genuinely care about their concern, and you’ve also forced them to think carefully about their own beliefs. The Columbo tactic is so powerful and versatile that Koukl spends the first three (of six) sessions discussing it in detail.

In the remainder of the series, Koukl discusses three other tactics: “suicide” (when a person’s own view turns out to refute itself), “taking the roof off” (demonstrating that someone’s own view leads to absurd conclusions), and “steamroller” (how to respond to those who are overly aggressive in their opposition to your beliefs).

Because Koukl bases most of the examples in the series on real conversations he’s had with others, it is quite easy to see how you could make use of these tactics yourself. In the end, that may be what’s most helpful about the series.

As you learn these four tactics, you’ll immediately grow in confidence that you can use them while talking with others about your faith. Each tactic not only helps you be the one to guide the conversation, but it also makes it more likely that the conversation will be helpful to everyone involved.

For many years, I’ve assigned the Tactics book to students in my apologetics course. To this day, I regularly hear from students who tell me that it was the most helpful book they read during their studies.

I am excited to see that this important material is now available in a new format, one that would be perfect for small groups, Sunday School, etc. I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy and begin training yourself to become an even more effective ambassador for Christ.

Book Reviewed:

Gregory Koukl, Tactics Study Guide with DVD: A Guide to Effectively Discussing Your Christian Convictions (Zondervan, 2017).

For more information on effective communication, discussion and debate, check out these features:

How to Debate Hot-Button Issues Well

Influence Podcast: Why Evangelism Needs Apologetics

Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World

Influence Podcast: Winsome Persuasion

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