Tactics by Greg Koukl – A Book Review

Want more friends? Better conversations? Frequent, life-changing spiritual encounters? But wait, there’s more! What if you could also avoid dead-end discussions, pointless arguments, and go-nowhere debates? Then you should be interested in Tactics, a book by Greg Koukl, the president of Stand to Reason Ministries.

The fact is that many Christians feel intimidated by evangelism. Many atheists are frustrated with the same old cliches being read to them from the same pre-packaged scripts.  We all need a new way forward if we’re going to have important but respectful conversations about what really matters.

Tactics is an outstanding book for three main reasons:

  1. Greg Koukl practices what he preaches. Because of his radio show, ministry experience, and general lifestyle, he has an abundance of stories to illustrate each point well. He is a true expert on his topic and he writes with authority, clarity, and rare practicality. The book is genuine and comes from his heart.
  2. Greg Koukl consistently recommends a wise approach to building relationships. I’m starting to believe that the tone of a book is even more important than its content. The information can be useful, but the book’s tone tells me a great deal about the author’s character and integrity. With a how-to book, it is important for me to know that if I take the advice, I will not just become more talented, but that I will also mature as a person. Tactics will encourage you to become a person of integrity, love and respect. This is not the book for the showy, arrogant know-it-all who wants to bully others into agreeing with him.
  3. Tactics provides practical, concrete actions that you can start using immediately. Read a random page of the book and you are likely to learn about a specific action or question that you can implement today. Tactics is immediately useful, recommending wise paths of action.

You’ll have to get to know Greg through his ministry with Stand to Reason to validate my first point. But to demonstrate that Tactics will strengthen your relationships and give you actionable advice, let me provide a few illustrations.

Here are two of the life lessons that Koukl provides in Tactics:

  1.  “Without God’s work, nothing else works; but with God’s work, many things work” (36). Therefore, as long as God is at work in us, engaging with people’s intellectual doubts, discussing their spiritual questions, and responding to their thoughtful challenges to the Christian worldview is an entirely valid means of leading people to faith in Jesus.
  2. “My aim is never to win someone to Christ. I have a more modest goal, one you might consider adopting as your own. All I want to do is put a stone in someone’s shoe. I want to give him something worth thinking about, something he can’t ignore because it continues to poke at him in a good way” (38).

For me, it was an important shift to redefine success in a conversation as “give them something to think about.” This more modest conversational goal took away the anxiety, reduced the pressure, and overall, made me more relaxed, open, curious, and approachable. Because I’ve learned a wiser approach to conversations with my friends, I have more friends, and better friends, because our interactions are healthier and more enjoyable for everyone involved. Instead of raising my voice and insisting on my perspective when others disagree with me, Tactics has encouraged me to humble myself, listen well, ask great questions, and trust God for the results.

One of the most important, actionable ideas in Tactics is “The Columbo Tactic.” As Koukl explains, “The key to the Columbo tactic is to go on the offensive in an inoffensive way by using carefully selected questions to productively advance the conversation. Simply put, never make a statement, at least at first, when a question will do the job” (47).

Koukl is a master at asking questions. Think about it: how many times has a really good question changed your life? For me, well-timed, loving questions have changed my career path, where I’ve lived, even who I married! Questions are potent. And Tactics provides excellent insight on how to ask them.

In the book, Koukl is clear about his promise to you, the reader, “If you learn the tactics in this book, you will be able to comfortably engage in thoughtful conversations with others about your Christian convictions” (p. 30). He delivers on this promise, again and again and again. If you haven’t read Tactics, but you want to have courage, wisdom, and skill when discussing your faith with others, well, what are you waiting for?

Bottom line: I encourage you to pick up a copy of Tactics at Amazon.com. Read it, study it, discuss it with friends, but most importantly: put it into action. You’ll make new friends, strengthen existing relationships, and have life-changing conversations.

Tactics is simply an excellent book!