Solomon once said that of the writing of books, there is no end. The sheer number of books available online today is overwhelming, and there’s nothing worse than wasting time or money on a terrible book. A helpful clue to reveal the quality of a book is whether or not it has stood the test of time. Another indicator, though not nearly as reliable, is how many have sold.
On both of these counts, the book “Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions” by my friend Greg Koukl, passes with flying colors. In fact, since it’s sold so well for so long, “Tactics” is now available in an expanded and updated 10th anniversary edition.
I have long regarded the original edition of “Tactics” as one of the best resources ever produced to equip Christians to engage in tough conversations with skeptics and unbelievers. While plenty of books tell us what to say on tough topics, this book is training on how to have the conversation. The title says it all: “Tactics.”
The expanded tenth anniversary edition, with several new chapters and updated examples that take into account the ways our culture has changed since 2009, means that this edition supplants the old one as one of the best resources ever produced to equip Christian to engage in tough conversations with skeptics and unbelievers—and, by the way, even with fellow believers who might be fuzzy on the key teachings of our faith.
According to Koukl, “representing Christ in any era requires three skills.” First, we need a “basic knowledge necessary for the task.” This means knowing the central message of God’s kingdom and “knowing something about how to respond to the obstacles [believers will] encounter on their mission.”
By itself, however, knowledge isn’t enough. “Our knowledge must be tempered with the wisdom that makes our message clear and persuasive.” As Greg puts it, “we need tools of a diplomat, not the weapons of a warrior.”
Finally, we must not forget that this knowledge and wisdom “are packaged in a Person.” If we don’t embody the virtues of Christ, we will undermine our message and attempts to share it.
Koukl’s book is especially helpful on the second of these necessary skills: tactical wisdom, or the skills necessary in both how to speak about our faith and how to constructively and conversationally listen. This is the tactical game plan to “artfully manage the details of our dialogues with others.”
Let me be clear: This book doesn’t teach conversational manipulation, or how to “own” someone. It’s not even about how to “win” a debate, and it certainly won’t equip you to embarrass or humiliate anyone. None of these things properly represent the goal of Christian conversation and witness.
The goal, Koukl insists, is to find a way to expose “someone’s bad thinking for the purpose of guiding her to truth” in a “gracious and charitable” manner.
To do that, Koukl teaches what he calls “the Columbo tactic,” named after a famous 1970s TV detective. This involves asking a series of questions in order to gather information and define the terms of our discussion. For example, “What do you mean by that?” and, because Christians are not the only ones who need to give reasons for what we believe, “How did you come to that conclusion?” Koukl calls this strategy “reversing the burden of proof.” These kinds of leading questions can help the person we’re conversing with reach the appropriate conclusion on their own.
Perhaps the most helpful aspect of the book are the stories. When Koukl shares the real-life conversations he’s had and how he has employed the tactics, it makes you think, “Oh, I can do that, too.”
The kind of practical wisdom he offers is more vital today, ten years after he first offered the book “Tactics,” than ever before. We will send you a copy for your next gift of any amount to the Colson Center.
And, if you need more convincing, listen to my podcast interview with Greg Koukl. And remember, with any gift you make to BreakPoint and the Colson Center during the month of February, you’ll receive a copy of “Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions.”
John Stonestreet | BreakPoint | February 5, 2020
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