Jim: “I miss the hymns. This new music is too repetitive. I don’t like it and I don’t know these songs!”
Worship Leader: “Jim, I’m sorry you don’t like the newer music. It sounds like you’d prefer the 9:00 service.”
Jim: “9:00 is too early for me. I’ve been coming to the 11:00 service for years. Why do we have to do all this rock and roll music. That isn’t worship. It’s not God honoring.”
Worship Leader: “The reason that we do the music we do for the 11:00 is because this service is primarily geared for people who want contemporary worship music.”
Jim: “Well I don’t like how you’ve ruined the 11:00 service and I pay my tithes! I don’t think God would approve either!”
Worship Leader: “Why do you say that?”
Jim: “Guitar music has no place within the church.”
Worship Leader: “Can you show me scripture to support that?”
Jim: “Romans 12:2 says we should stay away from worldly things…”
Worship Leader: “Rock bands also sometimes use organs. And many of today’s hymns were yesterday’s bar songs.”
Jim: “You’re just being defensive you hippy! And cut your hair, you look like a girl!” (marches off in protest)
Give them questions not answers. Your goal is to inspire them to use the reason they tend to abandon.
Speak in their “language”. Unfortunately that language is a childish language of self. Therefore speak to them on a visceral level. Avoid engaging them with reason because that will likely cause them to simply cast you as being too defensive or even obstinate. Let them know you love them and tell them you are sorry they feel the way they do. Agree to disagree.
Be empathetic. This is probably the most important thing you can do. It is very much related to the previous point. Unreasonable people have abandoned reason because it has been eclipsed by their selfish nature. Such people don’t care about facts, research, reason, logic, anecdotes, Bible verses (unless those things support their position). But authentic empathy can at least defuse their emotions and defang a potentially acrimonious situation. If you struggle to be AUTHENTICALLY empathetic, pray for such an individual. Prayer does a world of good for changing OUR hearts, not just the person to which we are praying.
Say as few of words as possible. I can think of at least two reasons to do this. One is in keeping with the first point of giving your antagonist more questions than answers. Secondly, sometimes an antagonist might have nefarious motives and try to use your words against them. Proverbs 17:27 says “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” (NIV)