Some people are so in-your-face they don’t seem to know what the word tact actually means. Alternatively, others are so tactful that they never confront a person with the urgency of trusting Christ before time runs out. Where is the balance between these approaches? Let me offer some advice.
First, the value of experience cannot be overstated. As you evangelize, you will learn from your experiences. Reflect on those times you felt you were too confrontational and then on those times you felt you were not confrontational enough. Those experiences are a great teacher of balance.
Second, watch what the other person says and how he says it. This will often tell you how deeply he feels what he is expressing. As you begin to discuss spiritual things, the other person may say, “I don’t have any time for religion.”
His passive tone, though, reveals that he may be more open compared to if he had an angry tone. A person displaying anger might need to know you are on his team before you can explain what is on your heart. Watching facial expressions and listening to the tone of a voice is a big help in knowing when to back off and when to advance.
Next, don’t just look at the other person; look at yourself. When you tend to be extreme one way or another, ask yourself, “Why?” If you are hesitant to be direct because you might lose a friendship, that motive requires a heart check.
What is more important: your relationship with him or his relationship with Christ? If you are too direct, do you see it as your job to bring the person to Christ? An emphasis on fruitfulness instead of faithfulness may be the reason you push too hard at times. It is not always enjoyable to do a heart check, but it is always rewarding.
Lastly, and perhaps the most important, study the Gospel of John. Of all four gospels, you’ll find John the most helpful in finding the balance between being too confrontational and not confrontational enough.
Christ’s interaction with the unbelievers is a great example of grace and truth (John 1:14). When He spoke to an adulterous woman in John 8, He gave no condemnation, but urged her to “go and sin no more” (8:11).
Yet, when He spoke to some Pharisees filled with religious arrogance, He immediately declared, “You are of your father, the devil” (John 8:44). Very straightforward! You can never go wrong in following Christ.
These four suggestions will put you well on the way of knowing what to do, how far to go, and how best to proceed in your conversations with non-Christians. Whatever you do, don’t criticize yourself when you feel you have gone to one extreme or another. Instead, let every encounter in evangelism teach you!