Last week, I went out to eat with two good friends at Wingstop--which, for my money, is about as good as it gets. (Their Cajun wings are particularly fantastic.) Anyway, as we were talking the discussion turned to apologetics.
One of the things we discussed is how to deal with it when people have a particular hang-up about church. For example, for some people evolution is simply a deal breaker: they will not even consider Christianity because evolution's randomness is in their way. For others, it is gay marraige. For others, it is the hypocrisy of Christians. For others, it is the age of the universe.
Whatever the particular issue, these roadblocks often stand in the path of the apologist. And far too often, the way that apologists approach it is to engage these issues on their respective battlefields.
Of course, this is an impossible mission: you might as well save your breath. The odds of talking an evolutionist into being a creationist are nil; the odds of convincing a homosexual that gay marriage is bad is equally impossible.
No, the evangelist must be careful to avoid these issues--not because Christianity is wrong on these topics, but because these topics are not the focus of Christianity.
What is the focus? Jesus. All that really matters to the Christian is, as Paul said, "Christ and Him crucified." Did Jesus really live? Did He really do the things the Bible says He did? Did He really die? Did He really rise from the dead? Is He really returning to judge all humanity? These are the only things that are important.
Let me be completely clear. What matters to our faith is--does the person believe the essentials, that is, the Apostles Creed. I used to work with a woman who believes in Jesus and the Apostles' Creed, but is gay. I also work with a ton of people who are non-believers but live a more "Christian-friendly" lifestyle. And you know what? My gay, believing former co-worker will be in heaven with us, while the straight non-believers won't.
My point in this is not to defend homosexuality--I happen to believe the Bible is rather clear on it. But the Bible is far more clear on this: it is not our actions, but our faith, that makes us born-again. It is our relationship with Jesus, not our avoidance of sin, that gets us to Him.
So my point is: when you are sharing the Gospel with someone and they raise one of these roadblocks, be careful how you respond. Do not engage on this issue. Instead, if they say something like, "I could never be a Christian because I ____ (am gay/am an evolutionist/believe in an old earth/believe in science/have been hurt by Christians)", your answer should be: "Okay. That's no problem. It is a controversial issue, but it's not really the core of Christianity. You can believe whatever you want about that and still be a real Christian. That issue is not important. What is important is this: who was Jesus, really?"
That is all that really matters. Christianity is not an emotional crutch or a political issue. It is a matter of fact, either true or false: either Jesus rose from the dead, or He didn't. Period. And as CS Lewis once said, "Christianity if false is of no importance, and if true is of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."
Successful evangelism starts with a trusting, honest, open relationship having been built. And then within that relationship, when discussions about Christianity arise, we must be ruthlessly consistent in turning the conversation not into one of the many tangential discussions that spin off of our faith. Instead, our conversation must always be about whether the stroy of Jesus and His resurrection is true.
That is the core of the faith. Everything else is secondary.