Is there a better way to present the truth of God that most will accept? I tried out this theory when I was a much younger man growing up in the faith. Like a young Jeremiah, I was full of faith and fire in my bones when it come to presenting God’s Word. I couldn’t wait to present the truth in a very articulate way and longed to see how many would come to the knowledge of the truth. Yet, no one came. Then I thought to myself, use softer and kinder words in presenting the truth. Yet, no one came. I tried to use antidotes and stories to illustrate the truth. Yet, no one came. Then I came to the conclusion, the truth is the truth no matter how it is presented. True. Therefore, I preach the Word of God to this very day as if my life and your life depended upon it.
Yet, there are lessons to be learned as to when to present the truth and at what level. Not everyone is ready for strong meat and to present it to them forcibly can choke the novice listener. “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able” (1 Cor 3:1-2).
Here are a few ways the Word can be presented in a more appropriate way, depending upon the crowd to which you are teaching.
1. Don’t begin with criticism. If we are not careful, we will become so accustomed to “skinning the sects” that we think the first task in teaching others is in showing our prospect where his religion is all wrong. Christ taught positively at first, then moved on to offer his criticisms at a later time (Luke 4:21 f; Matt. 23:1). In both of Paul’s most critical letters to churches, (Romans and Corinthians), the apostle began with commendation, then worked his way toward condemnation: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is proclaimed throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son, how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers . . .” (Rom. 1:8-9); “I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus; that in everything ye were enriched in him, in all utterance and all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:4-7). The Lord and his apostles seemed always to be able to find some commendable thing to say about people before they began to expose their faults or answer their objections. We ought to do likewise.
2. Don’t act superior. I don’t know a more egotistical group of people in all the earth than some of us members of the church of Christ. We think we know more than other people, and anybody who is not a member of the church of Christ is just plain dumb, ignorant, or dishonest. We think we are right and everybody else wrong. Now this may be true, but we do not have to be so haughty and boastful about it. The Bible says that the Christian ought to “esteem others better than himself” (Phil. 2:3); and, “For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to each man a measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3). We must be humble in our approach!
3. Don’t be dogmatic. If I am right about a thing, yet act so dogmatic and radical about it, I will kill the effectiveness of what I say. If I have come to be considered a person who is dogmatic about everything, who goes to extremes on most every subject, then most every statement I make will be taken with a grain of salt. Scripture says the Christian should be seen in precisely the opposite way: “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how ye ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6). People should hear our words as generally pleasant, and only on those matters which are critical to the cause of Christ ought we to “lay it on the line” and “take no prisoners.” Then, folks will be ready to respect this side of our character as evidence of conviction and profound faith, rather than more of the same dogmatism and radicalism.
4. Don’t be ashamed to admit you do not know the answer. Whether about the Bible or religion in general, there are many things which are surrounded by mystery. So, do not make the mistake of giving people the impression that you are a “know-it-all.” No one likes such a person. And, this will take the pressure off you, as well. You should not be afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer to that question. But I am sure that if I spend a little time studying, that the Bible will provide the answer. Let’s talk about that next time.”
5. Don’t always try to answer everything the other person says. It is not compromising to admit that the other fellow is right when he happens to be correct about something. When someone says something that is true, commend him for it, and if possible, offer the scriptural justification for his point. It shows that you are trying to be objective and honest, and willing to admit it when he is right. Concentrate on just a few important things, not every point which the other person brings up. Many matters are not worth arguing about; some, on the other hand, are basic and fundamental to an understanding of many other things. Learn to draw a distinction between the things that matter and the things that do not. Talk about the important ones, and put off the insignificant ones till another time. If you never get around to them, what have you missed?
6. Don’t do all the talking. The Bible warns against this human trait: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath . . .” (Jam. 1:19). Those who monopolize a conversation lose their audience! Don’t be a “motor-mouth”!
7. Don’t use too many passages of Scripture. It is much better to talk about a few Scriptures than a long list. Why? Because the mind can only retain a few things at once. If you only teach one passage, and get the message of that one across, you may prove very successful indeed. Philip concentrated on just two verses of Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah in his conversion of the Ethiopian treasurer (Acts 8:32-35; Isa. 53:7-8). Yet, he led him to the Lord and baptized him that same day!
8. Don’t get angry. Anger is the surest confession of defeat for a personal worker. Always remain under control, calm and considerate of others. It is a sure sign of Christian character. I have always found that kindness carries as much weight in the heated discussion as logical arguments. The Bible says that “love suffers long and is kind” (1 Cor. 13:4). Don’t be angry, but be gentle in presenting the word of truth.
Therefore, when you have the opportunity to teach someone, try and put some of these suggestions to good use. Always keep in mind that it is your duty to save a soul from death and to hide a multitude of sins (Jam 5:19,20). It is their duty to either accept it or reject it. Don’t go out and try to make your audience agree with you or to make them obey you, but rather attempt to present the Word of God in its best possible light. Remember, we plant and water, but it is God who gives the increase (1 Cor 3:6).