The only way to develop those skills is by stepping out and doing it. Pray for opportunities and start simply. The most important skill is to know what the Bible teaches as a whole and use Scripture as you explain the gospel to people. If you have verses memorized, you can use them in speaking to others. If you know the word, you will be prepared to answer people’s questions. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it upfront. You could say that you will do some more research on that issue and get back with the person. That gives you an opportunity to get together again and talk some more. Practice hospitality as the context for sharing your faith.
From my own experience with reaching out to Muslims in the USA, the first thing I did was ask others who had already been reaching Muslims, how do you start? He told me to go down to the major University in that city I lived in at the time, and there was a field on a certain day that lots of Muslims were playing soccer (the “true football”), and asked if I can join them. That was great for me because I loved soccer and played 5 years in high school. Sure enough, they accepted me and also later made some interesting comments that I was the first “white guy” that wanted to play soccer with them.
Another method that I did to meet Muslims was to visit the local mosque in my area without announcing, just dropping in. When I made a phone call, they always avoided me and never called me back after I left a message. I remember just walking up to the mosque and meeting several Muslims and then it turned into a two or three-hour discussion. Once I met a few Muslims and got their phone numbers, I was able to get into their lives more and have them over to our house and they invited me for coffee and meals at their homes. It was amazing.
I also learned to ask questions about their language and history and poetry. I studied the issues of the Israel-Palestinian issue, becoming familiar with events. I asked how to say certain polite phrases in Arabic, like “thank you”, “hello”, etc. Later, I learned Farsi (also known as Persian), the language of Iran. I learned some of their poetry and even learned how to cook some of their food (even after my wife was already really good at it.) I loved their food, language, the culture of hospitality, and was not afraid to make mistakes (that is really important – they love it when you try hard and don’t give up and also when you say words funny or even say a bad word – it makes for a great time of laughing and fun. Learn to laugh at yourself and your own mistakes. I learned to appreciate the Muslim’s architecture, their music forms, their contributions to medicine and science, and the over-all culture of hospitality and family values, even if there are some Muslims who are terrorists. We also need to not be afraid of people. They can sense that. All the Muslims I have ever met were amazed that I wanted to “just hang out” with them. That context gave me thousands of opportunities to share the gospel and answer apologetic-type questions with them. These principles are transferable into other cultures also.
In general, not just with Muslims, but with others, ask someone, “What do you think about God and Jesus and the Bible?” Get their opinion and go from there.
The way I got started in my College / University years was with a campus ministry that did outreach. We would set up a table and put up a C. S. Lewis quote or Francis Schaeffer quote to get people to think. It was usually intellectual or philosophical types that wanted to talk – Marxists, atheists, skeptics, liberals, homosexuals, etc. The “party animal” type person did not stop to talk. Anyway, I learned my initial evangelism there and also by door-to-door outreach through my local church.
Read some good books and take a training course in Evangelism. Learning the material is helpful, but don’t be dogmatic about what method to use. But these training courses are good to give us some kind of structure on the main issues in sharing our faith and preaching the gospel to lost people.
Another amazing thing that happened after I first met Muslims through soccer and going to the Mosque was when I went to Dearborn, Michigan in 1985 and New York City in 1986, and we went door to door. The missionaries who already had years of experience had already found all the Muslims’ addresses and so we went straight to them and knocked on their doors. When they opened the door, we said, “Salaam O Alaykum” (Peace be unto you). They loved that! They were amazed. They kept saying “We have lived in your country for 5 or 10 or 15 years and no one ever came to our door to wish us peace”. Usually, about 90 % of the time we would have a 2-hour conversation and they would invite us in for coffee, or hot tea and sweets, fruits, pistachios, and other Middle Eastern snacks. Then, about 50 % of those times, the husband would turn to his wife and command her in Arabic to fix dinner and he would turn to me and say, “You must stay for dinner – we are having the best shish kebab, rice, and hot pita bread with hummus that you have ever tasted!” We visited Muslims all summer and it was a great experience. They love to talk about God and religion (and politics also), and they liked to argue a little when we got into issues like the Deity of Christ, the Trinity, the crucifixion and death and atonement of Jesus, original sin, salvation by grace alone through faith alone – but it was great. You have to not be afraid of tension and some argument. The Muslims would say to me: “Mr. Ken, thank you for being willing to talk. We are not angry we are just passionate about our religion. And you are passionate also. Thank you for being honest about heaven and hell. We have never met any Christian before who was willing to defend their faith. We respect that.” and “Why don’t Christians defend their faith?”
A course in Evangelism: The Way of the Master (Ray Comfort)
- “Out of the Salt Shaker and Into the World” by Becky Pippert
I read that book many years ago, so I cannot vouch for every detail of it anymore. But I remember that it helped me relax with people and be more personable at the beginning. Most people are turned off by a canned speech or a memorized “schpeel” one goes through.
I also read the first 3 books below about 30 years ago – they helped me in Evangelism in being better prepared for questions that would come up. There are some things in them that I don’t agree with today, but overall they are good books. Use discernment.
- How to Give Away Your Faith, by Paul Little
- Know Why You Believe, Paul Little
- Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis
These two I have read more recently – The Case for Faith about 10 years ago. It is from an Evidential perspective and has good information in it.
- The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel
- Josh McDowell’s books, “More Than a Carpenter” and “The Evidence that Demands a Verdict”
- Always Ready, by Greg Bahnsen
This one I read about half the book, a couple of years ago and it basically says don’t be afraid to use the word of God in evangelism. (From a Presuppositional Apologetics point of view.)
There is an ongoing debate among Evangelicals about what is the best method of Apologetics to use with people. The Presuppositional Method says that we don’t let the other person judge God or the Bible, that we don’t give ground to them by trying to be neutral in our argumentation. Personally, I don’t think we can stop people from saying that or arguing that way. It says that God exists pre-suppositionally, and we don’t allow an atheist or agnostic to say, “there is no evidence that God exists”. How can anyone just stop someone from saying or thinking this? This method already presupposes that God, the Trinity exists and He has spoken in His word, and His word is sufficient for evangelism and that unregenerate people are in bondage to sin and they cannot understand unless the Spirit of God opens their heart and mind to understand.
- Covenantal Apologetics by Scott Oliphant – I am reading this now and it is helping me understand the Presuppositional method better. Dr. Oliphant prefers the term, “Covenantal Apologetics”
- 5 Views on Apologetics.
- See also my earlier article here. (about the importance of combining sound apologetics with loving hospitality in our Evangelism.)