We live in a world today where it seems everyone has something they want everyone else in the world to agree with them about. As a Bible class teacher, you are no different. It should be vitally important to you that your students agree with the importance of following and obeying God. Unfortunately, whether you are a secular advocate for some reform, a politically active voter or a Bible class teacher, the way you try to convince others to agree with you can carry more wait than your actual position on the topic.
Often we lose people – especially young Bible students – not because there is anything wrong with God or the things He wants from us and for us. Rather, the way we present these truths can alienate others to the point where they barely hear what we are even saying.
While I can’t speak for everyone, here are some of the most common mistakes people can make when they are trying to convince me to agree with them. I believe you will find I’m not the only one who feels this way. While some people make these mistakes naively, others can attempt to use them as manipulation tactics. No matter your motivation though, using these tactics is more likely to alienate others than convince them to agree with you.
- Assume you know what I believe…I stop listening because it appears as if you either don’t know me as well as you think you do and/or you would rather make assumptions about me than take the time and energy to actually find out what I believe. Usually, these assumptions are based on the fact that I am part of a certain demographic group and you have assumed everyone in that group believes the same thing. This form of prejudice can be incredibly annoying, no matter what group you have placed me in mentally.
- Assume I disagree with you…I stop listening, because you are already implying you are brilliant and I am stupid because I disagree with you. This is annoying whether or not I actually agree with you, because if I happen to agree with you, you’ve implied I appear stupid enough to believe the “wrong” thing. If I actually do disagree with you, you start the discussion from what appears to be a very condescending place.
- Make fun or demean those who disagree with you (including using ugly words to describe them) and/or appear to be yelling angrily...I stop listening, because it makes me very uncomfortable when people treat others in hateful ways or seem to make their decisions based on their incredible anger. Often so called “humor” aimed at those with whom we disagree is extremely petty and mean- spirited and ultimately not in the least humorous. If you appear overly angry because you are using ugliness or yelling, I’m probably wondering what is really making you so mad about your life that you are projecting it on what you are discussing.
- Act as if you know everything and have nothing left to learn…I stop listening because humility makes me want to listen to someone…arrogance doesn’t. None of us is perfect, which means we all still have things to learn. Sometimes it’s about reflecting God more accurately, sometimes it is scripture, sometimes it is how to communicate more clearly and effectively. Surprisingly, sometimes those with whom we usually disagree have found a nugget of truth we may have missed.
- Refuse to even listen to those who disagree with you…I stop listening because it shows a basic lack of respect. While you may indeed disrespect ungodly ideas, loving others means listening to them. You don’t have to agree with them, but you need to respect the free will God has given each one of us. In some cases, you may spend the rest of your life trying to convince someone to change so they can spend eternity in Heaven, but even then listening from time to time may give you helpful new incites.
- Use bullying tactics…I stop listening because I didn’t give into bullies when I was young and I’m not about to start now. Bullying is one of the lowest forms of public discourse. Threatening others – even if it is with social alienation – or mocking them until they feel forced to agree with you, is bullying.
- Use hyperbole, exaggeration, misrepresentations, etc…because at their root, they are lies. The truth should be the truth. It doesn’t need lies to support it. God’s truths survive, because they are Truth, not because someone propped them up with lies.
- Misuse statistics…I stop listening, because I know you may not have researched the topic from all angles. I may have disliked my statistics class, but I took it. I know you can make statistics appear as if they agree with almost anything. It’s based on the questions that are asked, the sample that is tested and more. While statistics can be illuminating, you need to be aware those who disagree with you probably have their own set of statistics that imply a different conclusion.
- Misuse scripture…This takes two different forms today. The new form is taking a verse when God very clearly states something is sinful or that He doesn’t want His people to do and twist it so that it suddenly means we can do it. Usually, the underlying argument is today’s culture is somehow totally different than any previous culture and God somehow didn’t realize that would happen or He wouldn’t have made that command for us. (Usually “culture” is the stated argument.) The other way is taking one verse out of context of the other verses in the Bible dealing with that same topic. So yes, there is a verse that says we are saved by faith, but there are many verses and examples that also point out the need for baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Saying baptism is optional is ignoring a ton of other scripture.
- Use logical fallacies…I stop listening because you are using poor logic. Even if I agree with you, I’m thinking about how those who disagree with you could easily counter your weak arguments. There are a lot of logical fallacies. It’s hard to remember them all, but if the discussion you are about to have is crucial- like a spiritual conversation – look up logical fallacies and make sure you aren’t using any. (You can find a helpful list in our free ebooks Effective Ministry to Teens and Effective Ministry to Children.)
The next time you want your Bible students to accept one of God’s truths or commands you are teaching them, choose how you present it carefully. Be especially careful if your students disagree with you. It is natural to want to defend God, but defend His words in ways that students will hear. If they tune out because of your tactics, they may never really hear the truth God wants them to accept.