I am reading a great book by Gregory Koukl entitled “Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing your Christian Convictions.” Have you ever felt the guilt or pressure of trying to the share the Gospel immediately with a co-worker, friend, or acquaintance? I know I have. I think our motives are right because we truly want people to come to know Christ. After all there is no other solution to the problem of sin that plagues all of us is there? Apart from salvation in Christ alone there is no answer. Hundreds of books have been written to help us apologetically defend or advance the claims of the one true Gospel. And yet it seems like we are missing something. Maybe where we drop the ball is in simply learning how to use what we know so that we might share the Gospel more effectively.
Gregory Koukl in his book made this insightful statement that has been extremely helpful to me in sharing the Gospel with others. He said “I try to put a pebble in someone’s shoe.” Now that very idea really grabbed me. He went on to demonstrate how to put a pebble in someone’s shoe by using the “Columbo Method” in gaining an audience. In our conversations with unbelievers we can introduce “the pebble” without introducing tension early on in the dialogue.
Some of you will remember the TV series about the bumbling-appearing detective named Columbo. With his rumpled coat and stubby cigar he would enter the crime scene looking for all the world like a fish out of water. He would appear hesitant, dumb, confused, inept, and just plain at a loss as to how to proceed. He gave the appearance of not being able to think his way out of a wet paper bag. He would poke around the crime scene, scratch his head, hesitate, and then he would make his move with these words: “I’ve got a problem. There’s something about this thing that bothers me. Maybe you could clear it up for me. DO YOU MIND IF I ASK YOU A QUESTION?” And there it is. “The pebble in someone’s shoe.” The question that lingers in the mind and disturbs the thought process. You know how aggravating, how insistent a pebble in your shoe can be? That first question is often innocent enough, but then it leads to another question and then another. And who can forget when Columbo is about to exit the scene he would turn and say something like this: ” I’m sorry, I know I am making a pest of myself. It’s because I keep asking these questions. I can’t help myself. It’s a habit.” And then he would ask just one more question. Author Koukl concludes this little tactic with these instructive words for us: “The key to the Columbo tactic is to go on the offensive in an inoffensive way by using carefully selected questions to productively advance the conversation. Simply put, never make a statement, at least at first, when a question will do the job.”
As I thought about this little principle I could not help but notice that Jesus did the same thing. Remember these questions Jesus asked?
He asked the lame man the question:“Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6). He asked a certain crowd curious about John the Baptist: “What did you go out into the desert to see?” (Matthew 11:7). He asked a critical group of leaders who were bothered by his healing on the Sabbath day: “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?” (Matthew 12:11). When some confused Jesus with Satan and Satanic powers, Jesus asked: “How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man?” (Matthew 12:29). When Jesus wanted people to think about eternal matters he asked: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). After Jesus told the story of the Samartian man who helped the wounded man on the Jericho road, he turned to the lawyer & the crowd and asked this question: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Luke 10:36)(for further reading on this topic check out Randy Newman’s book: Questioning Evangelism).
These are but the tip of the iceberg of all the questions Jesus asked. I wonder if we should not ask the Spirit of God to help us use more questions as pebbles in a person’s shoe. Sooner or later the person we speak to is going to have to stop and try to get that pebble out of his shoe. Then is our chance to share lovingly the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Load up on pebbles! Think it thru