Columbo Tactics

September 30, 2013
by Lori Ciccanti

John 14:6 – Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (NIV)

Acts 18:4 – Every Sabbath [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. (NIV)

Recently, while dining out with my daughter, we overheard the people seated at the table across from us discussing the topic of religion. All seemed to agree that one religion is as good as the other and that certain behaviours that are contrary to biblical teaching are acceptable. Regrettably, I listened to their conversation and wondered how I might have reacted in their company.

This experience brought to mind one of the principles of Christian apologetics referred to as the "Columbo Tactic" by apologist Greg Koukl. This technique is named after the television personality, Columbo, who is famously known for saying, "Do you mind if I ask you a question?" Columbo's style demonstrates that the key to success is in choosing the right questions. Pertaining to Christianity, these questions are meant to break down any intellectual barriers standing in the way of biblical truth, since they require the unbeliever to back up their claims with sound reasoning.

Therefore, applying the Columbo principle to my imaginary involvement with the individuals sitting near my table, I might have asked something like this: "What do you mean by that? Have you studied comparative religions? How did you come to that conclusion?" Based on their answers, I then must be prepared to share God's truth. Yet, it is never the goal of the apologist to force the Lord on anyone, but rather to encourage them to consider Jesus, offering the Christian faith as a belief backed up by strong evidence.

In agreement with the beliefs of the people I overheard in the restaurant, the popular teaching among many religions is that there are different ways to reach God — but biblical Christianity is not one of them. So, how can we be prepared to defend the gospel? I think that it is best to start by observing Paul's interaction with unbelievers throughout the book of Acts. I doubt that the arguments he heard were any different from the ones we hear today. Then, like Lieutenant Columbo, we can take control of the discussion by respectfully asking a few important questions. Are you up for that challenge?

Let us become better ambassadors for Christ, ready in advance to effectively communicate God's Word to an unbelieving world.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, in obedience to Your Word, enable us to be wise in the way we act toward those of different beliefs. Teach us to make the most of every opportunity. May our conversations be full of grace, seasoned with salt, and may we always be ready to give a reason for the blessed hope that is in us. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the way, the truth, and the life, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Lori Ciccanti <dlalsina@mchsi.com>
Ocean View, Delaware, USA

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Wonderful challenge Lori.


    Excellent word today Lori, well written and thought out! Blessings.


    Very good Lori! Thank you for showing us this great witnessing tactic. We need all the help we can get, to share our great faith in Jesus Christ.


    AMEN!
    Lori, thanks for writing to us.
    Well said.


    Yes yes yes, I have been in the same situation and I was happy to hear about the questions to ask. Now to do it!! Hope to do it next time.
    God Bless.


    I heartily agree with you, Lori. I always look forward to your sage & insightful commentaries & devotionals.
    Blessings.


    Hi Lori,
    I found this devotional the answer to many questions that have bothered me for a long time.
    God bless.


    Dear Lori:
    Thank you for the thoughts in today’s devotional.
    Asking respectful questions is an excellent idea as an opener to witness.
    Blessings today.


    Lori,
    What a pleasant surprise to wake up this morning to your devotional. Thanks for your reminder to use the “Columbo” approach in these situations.
    Give our best to Lou.


    Brilliant approach, Lori!! We spend too much time preaching to the converted or insulting those who are convicted they have all the right answers. We need to challenge and leave space for God to work with the questions of faith. Thanks, and blessings.


    Dear Lori –
    Thank you for this important challenge. Turning to Acts 18:5, I found the answer.
    “…Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying… that Jesus was the Christ.” This spoke volumes to me: devote completely to the word, then the right answers will come. Praise Him! Keep writing!


    Thank you, a wonderful article. This is a subject that I often struggle with. In our family we have an Episcopalian, an Baptist, two do not attend church but I expect one goes to the Catholic Church with her friend, a Lutheran, a Presbyterian, and a Mormon. To keep peace, we do not discuss religions rather being a Christian.


    Sweet sister Lori,
    How I enjoy your devotionals.
    I send a thank you for sharing with your readers including myself.
    Great points made.
    I always enjoy a challenge speaking on behalf of my SAVIOR, JESUS.
    The most rewarding was when I was dared by some fellow Christians to witness to a know satan worshiper. Went well, and when I returned to them they had this look of awe, asked what had I said to him and exclaimed they were surprised he had not knocked me out as he hated Christians. Earlier FATHER had allowed me and guided me through repairing the satan worshipers m/cycle while others said it could not be done. That was setting the stage. As I approached him I prayer ‘FATHER, put the right words in my mouth’, my prayer was answered.
    I started by saying I understand your worship satan. His body language was that of a closed mind. His only holding back was that I had repaired his non repairable m/cycle earlier & took the time of pointing out features that the ‘Christian’ seller did not. Poor witness and the one who egged the others on to dare me to witness to him.
    As they were leaving he gave me a gift.
    Life is good, one just has to look through the garbage sometimes to see where the good has been mislaid.
    May HE continue to rain down blessings of abundance in all things good upon you and yours.
    (Texas, USA)


    Good Morning my dear Friend:
    What a powerful message, a message making us aware of the fact that we sometimes need to listen closely and prepare our hearts and minds before asking questions of those we know are not in tune with the word of God and His requirement from us in order to receive eternal life. Often if we approach the situation with the right attitude and move in our subject quietly and carefully, we are more apt to open doors and begin a meaningful conversation with the person we are wanting to share the Good News with. The Columbo Tactic works magic and I am sure was used with great results over and over again by those who had the patience and commitment to reach and be patient with the unsaved.
    I had a dear friend who spent years, on her knees, praying and choosing to ask the right questions from her son, before he finally realized his mother’s commitment and trust in her Lord, providing him with the true answers from the word of God, was indeed the only way to salvation. Very often we must be slow to challenge and sincere in action and word when we deliver the message to those who do not know the Lord or understand His way to a glorious eternal life. It truly must seem strange to those who are not touched by the power of the Holy Spirit.
    Again, thank you for another message of challenge.


    Yes, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Thanks for writing. Blessings.


    Good Morning Lynne:
    I also love that picture. I have it hanging in my bedroom too. How blessed we are that Jesus is always standing at the door of our lives inviting us to open the door and our hearts to His marvelous gift of eternal life and know that we will be with Him forever. A challenging and beautiful message.
    Bless your dear grand-mother, she was a true example to you.

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