How to have Helpful Conversations about Religious Liberty that Lead to the Gospel


In this part we are thinking about how we can have helpful conversations about religious liberty that lead to the gospel.

The past few parts of this module should have you well-informed on religious liberty. But our goal isn’t to be well-informed; our goal is to glorify God by obeying the commission of Christ to make disciples. So how can we move from discussions around religious liberty to the gospel? In our podcast, Simon Manchester shares his wisdom on how to do this. We have included Martyn Iles’ talk and Q&A session at St Thomas’ as he is so gifted in talking faithfully and graciously about these topics. And we have blog posts from Akos Balogh, as well as a few we used in our series on evangelism that equip us to turn conversation to the gospel.

Interview with Simon Manchester

Gerard O’Brien sat down with our senior minister, Simon Manchester, to glean his wisdom on how we can helpfully talk about religious liberty and turn these conversations to the gospel.

You can subscribe to the Christians Engaging Culture podcast here.

Podcast duration: 39:01Speakers: Simon Manchester and Gerard O’BrienPublisher: St Thomas’ Anglican Church, North Sydney (used with permission)Originally published: accessed: 21/10/19


(From the interview with Simon Manchester) - When someone says Christian schools shouldn’t be able to discriminate against gay teachers working in Christian schools: If you were organising a team of football players, would you want your players to be working towards the same goal? Or for members of a political party to all be on the same side? If the school is aiming to educate and also tell people about Jesus, it’s reasonable that teachers be willing to educate and talk about Jesus. How difficult would it be for the school and the teacher if the teacher’s views are not in line with the aims of the school.

Surely we need to give each other the freedom to disagree about matters of faith. Shutting each other down won’t change each other’s minds.


(From the interview with Simon Manchester) - Do you think Folau said those things out of love or out of hatred? (And then explain the danger that we are all in and that a warning is loving).

My beliefs about religious liberty are part of the bigger picture of Christianity. Could we grab a coffee together sometime and I can share more about that bigger picture?


Simon Manchester on Sharing the Gospel in Conversations About Religious Liberty

This video is a must. Simon Manchester provides practical, well-reasoned, effective ways to discuss issues relating to religious liberty with non-Christians. His focus is on engaging in respectful conversations where the other person has the opportunity to put their view forward and be heard and where you have the opportunity to do the same. He stresses the need to be kind and gracious as we exercise the religious freedoms that we currently enjoy.

In this video, Simon demonstrates how to use questions that encourage the other person to look at the issues and enable a discussion focusing more deeply on the issue. Often his questions give alternative views and include his view. He advocates using examples to explain a point that are not directly related to the issue to enable this discussion. (To do this well, we need to have thought through the issues - earlier parts of this module will help!) He provides examples of how to turn a conversation to Jesus, while recognising that there are situations where this may be more difficult.

He reminds us of how to engage in a gospel conversation using the acronym ACTION:

A ASK God to give you a good opportunity

C CARRY something – a booklet or card

T TALK naturally about God – showing he is part of your life and your thinking

I INTRODUCE something that will clarify something about the gospel. E.g. DO which describes all other religions and DONE which describes Christianity.


N NEXT STEP – how will you take things further?

Finally he gives us the best advice ever. As the hymn says, we are to trust and obey and be happy in Jesus. Concentrate on where you stand with Jesus and be grateful and joyful and ask the Lord to enable you to be useful.

Duration: 37:23Speakers: Simon Manchester and Gerard O’BrienPublisher: St Thomas’ Anglican Church North SydneyDate accessed: 17/10/19

Martyn Iles on Religious Liberty

Often we are told by society today that our religious views are not welcome in the “secular” public space and particularly in influencing government policy. Sometimes Christians choose to remain quiet rather than speak God’s truth into the public square. During the first 24 minutes of this video Martyn Iles uses scripture to demonstrate that we have a role in the public square, especially as the moral compass is being inverted – what is evil is considered good and what is good is considered evil.

Martyn outlines a number of cases which have been referred to the HRLA (Human Rights Law Alliance – connected to Australian Christian Lobby) where Christians have been “punished” for doing what is right because they have contravened the “new inverted morality”. The case studies cover many different areas and include situations where opponents have engaged in a fishing expedition to expose an individual’s religious beliefs, where they are contrary to current legislation but consistent with scripture. To date, the HRLA has had over 70 cases referred to it.

He also guards against the belief that persecution is good for our faith and outlines the devastating consequences for our neighbours when laws are passed that are contrary to God’s good plan. He uses examples of abortion and transgenderism.

Finally he encourages us to be salt and light – to believe the blessings offered to us in the Bible and to trust God in all that we do as we live moral and righteous lives, irrespective of the consequences. He encourages us to guard against being compromised by our society in our character and in our faith and to let people see the truth of who we are.

Duration: 51:30Speaker: Martyn Iles Publisher: St Thomas’ Anglican Church North SydneyDate accessed: 18/10/19

Martyn Iles - Religious Liberty Q&A with Gerard O’Brien

Martyn’s answers to a range of questions asked by members of St Thomas’ were biblically-based. Here is a list of the questions asked. His answers will inspire, inform, challenge and encourage you.

  1. What are the current RF laws and limits in Australia and how do they differ to other countries?
  2. How do we balance recognizing that unbelievers aren’t expected to obey God’s law with lobbying for Christian laws for example marriage equality and abortion debates?
  3. What does it mean that you don’t believe in human rights law?
  4. How does the high court decision in Comcare versus Banerji, where Banerji was fired by APS for tweets affect your approach to religious freedom and the Folau case?
  5. Are Muslims and Muslim businesses targeted at the moment in the same way as you have outlined for homophobic beliefs? If not, why do you think that is so?
  6. You’re having a conversation at the footy about religious liberty issue. How do you turn the conversation towards Jesus?
  7. Why does God give governing authority to corrupt people?
  8. “Wear it Purple Day” at schools is coming up. What’s your advice where everyone at schools and workplaces are expected to participate?
  9. Phillip Ruddock’s Religious Freedoms report found no real examples of religious disadvantage because of religious beliefs. Did he miss all the cases that you have shared?
  10. People have said they are disappointed that ACL has donated to Israel Folau’s legal defense when he has enough funds of his own. Can you explain?
  11. Thinking about laws and policies why is it ok to impose Christian values on non-Christians?
  12. What political strategies has ACL put into place to reinstate Christian values back into policies and governments at federal and state level?
  13. How would you respond to a wedding invitation from a lesbian friend?
  14. Considering Australia’s political landscape, who has inspired you most and why?

Duration: 51:05Speakers: Martyn Iles and Gerard O’BrienPublisher: St Thomas’ Anglican Church, North SydneyDate accessed: 16/10/19

If you desire to have fruitful conversations about the gospel and lower the emotional temperature, then Akos Balogh provides a practical approach to achieve that. Balogh provides a step-by-step approach, with examples, to help you develop an effective approach for engaging in conversations that will set your heart racing as your friend, on the surface, appears to be diametrically opposed to your view. This is a must-read for every Christian who takes seriously to great commission to speak about the gospel to their friends.

Estimated read time: 8:35Author: Akos BaloghPublisher: akosbalogh.comDate accessed: 16/10/19

The “great untruth” discussed in this article is called “motive attribution asymmetry” whereby some people assume their beliefs are based on love while their opponents beliefs are built on hate. This untruth has significant consequences for western democracies whereby public and political discourse is inhibited and our communities are polarized, potentially eroding the stability of civil society.

Balogh demonstrates how living the Christian life well, recognising that we are all created in the image of God and that we all deserve God’s condemnation, provides us with a value set that will counteract our desire to operate in the same way. As we show compassion and respect toward those opposing us, they’re more likely to be respectful, and open to what we’ve got to say and may influence others for good.

Estimated read time: 8:35Author: Akos BaloghPublisher: akosbalogh.comDate accessed: 16/10/19

The Big Mistake Secular People Make About Religious Discrimination

In this article Balogh identifies the mistaken belief that Christian schools are engaging in discrimination when they employe Christian teachers. He explains the error in secular thinking.

Estimated read time: 7:05Author: Arkos BaloghPublisher: www.akosbalogh.comDate accessed: 17/10/19

We are called as Christians to speak the truth in love. But what does this mean? How do we put it into practice. In this article Michael Jensen explains what gentleness means from a Christian perspective and how using gentleness

He demonstrates how our mighty God is gentle in his dealings with us. He explains that gentleness is when the stronger restrain their strength for the sake of the weaker. We ought to be marked by a courageous humility, grounded in the knowledge that we are deeply loved by our heavenly Father.

Jensen also explains that to be gentle does not hold off on the truth and that gentleness is our communications for sharing Christ.

Estimated read time: 7:55Author: Michael JensenPublisher: EternityDate accessed: 18/10/19


The Evangelistic Conversation

Dave Jensen provides concise, practical steps to effective evangelism. In summary:

  1. Prepare a strategy
  2. Nudge the conversation to spiritual questions / values / faith
  3. Ask a question directly related to the gospel
  4. Listen
  5. Ask permission to share the gospel
  6. Ask a question to engage in discussion about the gospel
  7. Explain sin and repentance
  8. Ask if they would like to pray
  9. Give them something gospel-related to read

Estimated read time: 6:40Author: Dave JensenPublisher: GoThereFor.comAccessed: 18/10/19

Four Steps to Turning Conversations to Christ

Becky Pippert shows how to shift a general conversation to a deeper conversation using a hierarchy of questions. These are:

  1. General interest questions
  2. Specific interest questions
  3. Issue questions
  4. God questions.

Estimated read time: 4:20Author: Becky PippertPublisher: The Good Book CompanyAccessed: 18/10/19

Being a Good Listener

This short video shows how being a good listener builds rapport and pleasure. It identifies four skills:

  1. Encouraging people to elaborate or dig deeper by being curious and asking relevant questions
  2. Urging clarification
  3. Not moralising - showing sympathy and acceptance.
  4. Separating disagreement from criticism

Duration: 4:57Publisher: The School of LifeAccessed: 18/10/19

This article provides some helpful hints and thought-provoking questions to start a conversation. The author includes a description of what you might include about the Gospel.

Estimated read time: 3:40Author: Bob RobinsonPublisher: PatheosAccessed 18/10/19


1 Peter 3:15–17 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Colossians 4:2–6 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

John 15:18–20 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.


Heavenly Father,

We thank you for the wisdom of your word which guides us and leads us on the path of righteousness. May we constantly rely on your word to guide us as we face these uncertain times where many of society’s messages are the opposite of your wise plans for us and lead to hurt and harm, particularly to those who are most vulnerable. Please help us to think through issues clearly and ensure that we are well-informed so that we may engage in conversations with others with gentleness and wisdom. Provide us with the right words to say that enable us to influence our laws and our workplaces so that what is implemented is what is best of our society, and therefore in line with your good plans.

We particularly pray that you start a spiritual awakening throughout Australia. May your Holy Spirit guide us to live godly lives that are salt and light and bring glory to you. Please provide us with opportunities to speak about you to our family and friends. Please help us to explain your gospel of salvation clearly and, most critically, may your Holy Spirit go before us opening their hearts and minds. We pray that in all this we bring glory to your name.

And we pray this is Jesus’ name. Amen


  1. How would you answer the following question asked by a non-Christian friend or colleague? Why do Christians hate gays so much? I thought Christians were supposed to love others, but all I can see is that Christians spreading hate.
  2. What would you say to your lesbian friend or family member if they invited you to their wedding?
  3. Your workplace has decided to hold a Wear It Purple Day. Would you participate? Please explain your reasons. What would you say to your boss, your work colleagues and gay work colleague?
  4. You are concerned that you primary-aged children at school are being taught something contrary to your beliefs in class. What would you do? Should you have a conversation with the school? What would you say?
  5. How would you handle a situation at work where you felt you were being discriminated against because of your beliefs?

This page was posted on: 21/10/2019