All Posts /

Getting Ready for the Street

Getting Ready for the Street

Editor’s note: Sharing your faith can be challenging and intimidating. Gregory Koukl shares in Street Smarts teaching to give you strategies for having productive conversations with others evangelistically. Enjoy session one.


Watch the video

I. A Confession

A. To be perfectly candid, evangelism is hard for me.

1.That probably surprises you, given my background. I’ve spent nearly half a century defending Christianity.

a. Frequently one on one and many times before university audiences

b.Sometimes on television and radio, often opposed by hostile witnesses

2.Even so, evangelism is a challenge. And I bet I’m not alone. Maybe you’re like me.

B. Few things cause more guilt for believers than sharing their faith.

1.They feel guilty because they don’t do it enough.

2.They don’t do it because they’re scared. And they’re scared for good reason.

a.Sharing the gospel and defending it — apologetics — often feels like navigating a minefield these days.

b.For most of us, talking with others about Christianity doesn’t come easily, especially when people are hostile.

3.It’s one of the reasons we often stay off the “street,” so to speak, when it comes to spiritual issues.

a.We stay away from environments where we don’t feel safe.

b.Most of us wouldn’t wander into the local atheist club meeting or mingle with the marchers in a gay pride parade. It’s too scary. We don’t know how to handle ourselves.

4.Guess what. The apostle Paul felt it, too. Listen to this:

And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.”Acts 18:9–10

5.Jesus understood the risks, too.

a.When He sent His disciples out on their first short-term mission trip, He told them, “Do not fear” three times in seven sentences (Matthew 10:26–31).

b.Why? Because there were reasons to be fearful.

6.Jesus said not to worry, though. They had an ally they could count on — the Holy Spirit.

a.That’s good advice, but it’s often misunderstood because there’s another detail a lot of people miss about the disciples’ situation.

b.Jesus didn’t give this assurance at the beginning of His ministry, but in the middle of it.

7.Here’s what Jesus said at the beginning:

Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. — Matthew 4:19

a.Jesus was going to instruct His disciples and equip them.

b.He was going to prepare them before they hit the street.

II.Prepping for “the Street”

A.That’s the rationale behind Street Smarts.

1.Following Jesus’ example, I want to teach you how to be more effective “fishers of men.”

2.I want to equip you to address the challenges to your Christian convictions you’re going to face.

B.Where is the “street”?

1.The “street” is anywhere you feel vulnerable, out of your element, or exposed to danger.

a. We keep our distance from threats we don’t think we can handle.

b. Like the Hebrew spies encountering giants in the promised land, we feel like grasshoppers in our own sight. The challenges seem bigger than they are, and we seem smaller. The giants are real, but they’re not as big as you think.

C.I want you to consider something that intimidates lots of Christians, yet actually works in our favor.

1.There are many ways to show that Christianity is false. I’m sure that’s something you didn’t expect me to say, but it’s true.

a.Our story starts, “In the beginning God...” If there is no God, though, then there is no story. End of issue.

b.Christians are disciples of Jesus. If Jesus never existed, then our project never gets off the ground.

c.If there is no soul that survives the death of our bodies, then when we die we stay in the ground. No one goes to Heaven or hell, so what’s the point of the good news?

d.If moral relativism is true, and right and wrong are just a matter of personal opinion, there’s no real sin — so judgment in a place like hell makes no sense anyway.

e.Paul said that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, people should feel sorry for us (1 Corinthians 15:19).

D.These challenges represent what might be called the “soft underbelly” of Christianity.

1.They are beliefs we hold that make us vulnerable because in principle they could be mistaken. Christianity, then, is falsifiable.

2.The possibility that Christianity can be disproved, though, is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing.

a.If a view is falsifiable (able to be shown to be false), then it is verifiable (able to be shown to be true).

b.And that’s exactly what Christians can do.

E.Those challenges don’t destroy Christianity because they don’t succeed.

1.We have the evidence, and we have the answers — answers you will find in this course.

2.In Street Smarts I will give you the tools you need to face and destroy the speculations raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). You don’t need to be overwhelmed by the daunting challenges.

Reflect a Moment

It’s natural for us to feel vulnerable when we are vulnerable. Jesus anticipated this and warned us in advance. Paul experienced it and overcame it. You can overcome it, too, with a helping hand. Do you like taking tests? Most people don’t. Do you mind taking tests when you know the answers? That’s different. Here’s the simple truth: the giants shrink when you learn how to deal with them. That takes information. It’s part of the training Jesus gave His own team, and it’s the kind of training you’ll find here.

III. A Better Way: Get Street Smart

A.Here’s a quick summary of how Street Smarts works.

1.Street Smarts trades on a basic approach I explain in detail in Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions.

2.That plan is a powerful technique to keep you in the driver’s seat of difficult conversations with skeptics and challengers — yet in a safe, genial, and amazingly effective way.

Reflect a Moment

The tactical approach has completely transformed my ability to make a difference for Christ. If you haven’t done so already, reading Tactics will be a big help, although Street Smarts will still serve you well as a stand-alone guide to answering common challenges effectively, even if you’re a newcomer to the tactical approach.

3.Street Smarts moves you beyond the basic game plan by expanding on the third part of that plan: using questions to expose a weakness or a flaw in another’s mistaken views about God or God’s world.

a.In Street Smarts I focus on the larger issues themselves.

(1) Atheism

(2) The problem of evil

(3) Abortion

(4) Science and Christianity

(5) Problems with the Bible

(6) Marriage, sex, gender

b.I’ll give you the insight you need on how those challenges fail.

c.I’ll also give you the specific questions you need to point out those problems in a gracious way.

Reflect a Moment

The Street Smarts approach has proven itself over the decades I’ve been using it myself in countless hostile encounters. It has also been indispensable to thousands of others I’ve taught over the years, allowing them to maneuver almost effortlessly — and with complete safety — even in the most challenging conversations.

B.The training consists of two parts.

1.First, the content

a.To use questions to answer challenges, you have to know the answers to the challenges.

b.You have to see where the weaknesses are.

2.Second, the dialogues

a.You need to know how to tactfully expose those weaknesses.

b.You’ll do that by using specific questions in a precise manner in conversation to be, as Jesus put it, shrewd but gentle.

3.So, for each challenge:

a.I’ll supply questions to help you smoothly enter the conversation.

b.I’ll then expand those initial questions into sample dialogues that will guide you forward according to the game plan, allowing you to bring those weaknesses to light in a gracious, disarming way.

4.These mini-dialogues will not be complete, of course.

a.It’s hard to know how any conversation will play out in the long run.

b.The mini-dialogues will be enough, though, to get you going and move you in the right direction.

c.Once you’re in the driver’s seat of the conversation — and that is a key advantage of the game plan — you’ll gain momentum, making the rest of the dialogue much easier and more productive.

Ambassador Skills

Remember these sample conversations are model exchanges. They’re not precise scripts you have to memorize. Instead, you’ll want to internalize the key questions and have a clear grasp of the basic direction you want to go. Take the core ideas I offer, then weave them into your conversations in a friendly way that fits your own personality.

5.I want to make a hard job easier for you.

a.I’ll give you both the content and the plan you need to move forward.

b.By confronting the giants one by one, I’ll shrink them down to size for you.

C.A quick word of warning

1.The answers I’ll give to the objections you’ll face are good ones.

2.The tactical game plan is solid, honed over thousands of hours of conversation with challengers and critics.

3.Even so, there are no “silver bullets” — no guarantees.

a.No good answer or clever technique will ensure anyone will turn to Christ. A host of factors shape a person’s beliefs. Many have nothing to do with sound thinking.

b.Emotions and prejudices, not just rational factors, play a huge part in forming a person’s moral and spiritual opinion.

c.Real conversions — as opposed to “decisions” — generally take honest soul searching, lots of time, and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.

Ambassador Skills

Remember, evangelism is rarely tidy because life is not tidy. Do not despair if your conversations are messy and herky-jerky and initially seem to bear no fruit. The long-term impact of your faithful witness can be profound.

  • Your task is to present the truth as clearly, as graciously, as persuasively, and as faithfully as you can. That’s 100 percent your responsibility. All the rest is up to God — 100 percent. You do the talking; God does the persuading.

Being effective on the street these days, however, means revising our thinking about evangelism.


You can continue reading this week’s session in the Street Smarts study guide.

* * *

Your Turn

Are you street smart? Are you ready to share the gospel (evangelize) with grace and truth? Come share your thoughts on Street Smarts with us. We want to hear from you!