In Monday’s post, “How To Chase Away an Atheist,” I listed “Ten Ways To Repel Non-Christians.” It was by far the biggest day the blog’s had so far. Which is great; maybe Christians will be less repellent when dealing with unChristians. Apparently some atheist/agnostic folks read it, too. Which is also great, because I hope this blog can be a dialogue involving all sorts of viewpoints.
But The Blog’s Big Day created some pressure – I got asked when (not if) I was going to post a companion list, the yin to the first list’s yang. So here it is . . . but keep in mind that I am speaking from my personal experience when I wasn’t a Christian; your mileage may vary:
10 1 WAY S NOT TO REPEL NON-CHRISTIANS
In the sage words of Tony Kornheiser, “That’s it! That’s the list.”
Christians, we’re not recruiting people up for Amway. I remember when I was growing up my parents had some good friends who joined or pledged or whatever you do to hook up with the multi-level marketing giant that is Amway. Every time they saw my parents, those people were pressuring them to start selling soap and vitamins and whatever else Amway distributes. After a while, we didn’t see too much of that couple. My parents never said anything (they were too politely southern to let anything negative surface overtly), but I’m pretty sure they got tired of the constant arm-twisting.
If non-Christian folks think we only see them as marks for our Jesus Salesmanship Techniques, then they aren’t going to hang with us very long.
Certainly not long enough to find out what this Christianity-thing is all about.
Relax! Get to know folks, regardless of their religion, or lack of it. Everyone has experiences we can learn from, strengths we can emulate, opinions that can add to our understanding of the world whether we come to accept them or reject them (important – the antecedent for “them” is the opinions, not the people).
Relax! We don’t, we won’t, we haven’t, we can’t convert anyone. We don’t “bring people to Christ.” That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. To think if we just press hard enough or say the right thing or push the right buttons then someone will “come to Christ” isn’t just ineffective, it’s bad theology (see I Corinthians 3:6-7).
Relax! Trust the Truth enough to believe that it is powerful enough to “work” without our shoving it down folks’ souls.
Sure, we lay what we believe out there, mostly by the way we live, especially by the way we treat other folks. But we don’t have to sell it. What we’re hopefully about is dialogue. We listen as much as we talk. Not as a technique, but because we’re called to love folks.
There were plenty of Christians who locked me in the vise of the hard-sell during my time away from the church. But there were others who I remember as seed-planters (to use Paul’s analogy in the I Corinthians verses). I knew where they stood spiritually, and they knew – and cared – where I was coming from. My relationships with them opened up dialogue, and even though it was in most cases years later before I realized I was a Christian, I can look back and could see how God used those seed-sowers.
Listen to the wise words of my college friend Michael Rich. Mike was studying to be a pastor, but he wasn’t afraid to have a good time . . . even with an unChristian. Mike and I were part of a group who published an underground newspaper ( I’ll blog about that sometime) and it was also with him I had a disastrous experience trying to do comedy at a bar’s open mike night (I won’t be blogging about that – it’s still too painful). Anyway, this what Mike posted in a discussion on Facebook after Monday’s blog entry:
I have always been one to break stereotypes…I think that many church folks think that faith should come instantly to everybody–say a prayer, get it done. What I’ve discovered is that many folks need someone to walk alongside them for years, offering companionship and an authentic life.*
I ultimately ended up in church through a potential relationship I wanted to have – Karen told me that to date her I had to go to church with her. But she never nagged me about faith; she realized that wasn’t up to her. She trusted the Holy Spirit. The people who really walked with me, planting seeds both before and after I set foot in a church were crucial to my eventual realization of faith.
Now I know there are atheists/agnostics and other unChristians reading this who will say, “It won’t work with me.” But you see, that’s the cool part. It’s not about what “works.” It’s about relationship – about getting to know folks, learning from them, enjoying their company, even loving them. Finding out who they are and sharing who we are. Kind of like what Jesus did.
I’ll have more to say about this on Friday, but that’s enough for now.
* Hopefully it’s okay with Michael that I quoted him. Here’s a link to his excellent blog: In-formatio.