One of the greatest fears believers have regarding telling others about Christ is that they will be asked a question they can’t answer. Some people propagate this fear by using 1 Peter 3:13–17 to suggest that if we cannot defend what we believe, we cannot evangelize. Many Christians feel that they’ll never know enough about the Bible or about Christianity to defend the faith and give up on the idea of evangelism.
This fear is not consistent with the context of the paragraph. Peter explained that suffering for doing what is right offers opportunities to speak on behalf of the Savior. In no way does it mandate we must defend what we believe in order to evangelize.
However, as we tell others about Christ, we should expect questions. Effective evangelism occurs in dialogue. Christ modeled this with Nicodemus in John 3 and the woman at the well in John 4. He patiently answered their questions with love and understanding. While some ask questions to change the subject, most people ask them to clarify and process what they have heard.
Here are some guidelines on how to deal with questions you don’t know how to answer:
1. Take the pressure off yourself— God asks us to tell others about Christ (see Acts 1:8). He does not require us to have a seminary degree to answer every question a person asks. Some of the best evangelists are new believers. They don’t have all the answers and may not know much about the Bible, but they know the gospel and want to tell everyone because of their fresh encounter with Christ.
2. Admit you don’t know the answer—Two qualities most people value more than our knowledge are our honesty and humility. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. If we are not comfortable doing that, the issue may have more to do with our pride than with our lack of knowledge. Commit to researching the question and getting back with that person.
3. Remember how people are brought to Christ—The reason why people are separated from God is not an intellectual issue; it is a spiritual issue (see 2 Cor. 4:3–6). People do not come to Christ because of our articulate answers to their questions. People come to Christ because of the power of the gospel (see 1 Cor. 2:4–5). The best we can do is give a clear presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even if we answered every one of their questions, there is no guarantee at all that they will trust in Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit can take the power of the gospel and break through the heart of the most hardened skeptic.