Shortly after my return from Guatemala, my life spiraled out of control. In my last blog post, I spoke in depth about a short period of the hell that has been the past few years. Another defining factor in this period of my life was an intense struggle of faith. During this struggle I came to a point of all or nothing and made the decision to forgo my faith that I had one held so dear. I told myself and others I was agnostic and I got a variety of responses from some of the Christians that had been in my life. Many comments were not at all helpful and some even turned me further from the truth.
Looking back now, I can discern why some of those comments that were intended to be helpful, turned into a bitter resentment. I decided to write this post for my Christian friends and followers. I want to open up a discussion of how we can best evangelize to the American atheist. These are the ones who know what Christianity is and who Jesus is and decide it’s not for them.
Before I state my opinions on what I think is the right way to reach the “American Atheist”, I FIRST what to touch on some things that I think are unhelpful in situations in which you are interacting with someone who is an atheist. This list I will keep short because I do think that ever interaction you have with someone is different and their is obviously no formula to the perfect way to evangelize. So with that, I urge discussion and questions! Let’s begin, shall we?
So, it is commenly agreed upon in Christian Circles that the way The Westboro Baptist Church evangelizes is harmful. Many even say their hateful speech could show that they aren’t even Christian. So why do so many then do a smaller scale version of what they do? That means, instead of using love in sharing Jesus with others, one will point out others sins in a way the is demeaning to them. I’ll call this “The Westboro”. Don’t know exactly what I’m talking about. I’d suggest looking at any of the heated political news stories. You are sure to see people hateing other in Jesus name. So in your own personal interactions, do you ever judge someone who shouldn’t be judged? Or judged when judging isn’t helpful? Evangelizing those who are unrepentant and don’t follow Christ don’t follow the same moral set of rules we as Christians have. Our moral code is written for us in the Bible and assuming we believe in Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we should want to follow those rules as a way of loving our Lord! Since atheist don’t even know or love Jesus, they have no reason to follow our set of rules and laws. And we as humans are not their judge. We can hold other Christians accountable, but to our unbelieving friends, holding them accountable to something they don’t even believe is rediculous. So if we have a friend that is watching porn and they are not a Christian, their is really nothing stopping them from indulging in such a thing. Besides maybe some studies that show Porn can be harmful to relationships, they have no reason to stop watching. In this example, if we were to Westboro them, we could say something like, “It’s so disgusting you watch porn. You shouldn’t watch porn because it’s awful and God hates adultry.” In this more extreme example, you can almost see why the unbelieving friend would laugh you off and reasonable say “Well f@#% your God then. I never wanted to follow him anyway. Why would I want to now.” This is a more obvious one but I so often see this logic used for many other things including lying, sleeping together before marriage, drinking, drugs, abortion and gay marriage. So what do you think? Have you ever used or have seen “The Westboro”?
So with that, how should we evangelize? Well I think the best way in my opinion, is to just befriend them; and not for alterier motives either. Befriend them and love them unconditionally and see what you can gain from them in return. Don’t hide your faith from them, but don’t preach to them either. Realize many adult atheists in America probably went to church at some point in their lives and probably were burned by it. Don’t add to their judgement of Christianity. Instead, be like Christ to them. Love them even if they never choose to follow Jesus in your lifetime. Try your best not sin around them, and when you do, admit it to yourself. Say something like, “I know it may be silly to you, but I really don’t like swearing because of my faith. Could you try to catch me if I swear?” This indicates to them that you are truly committed to your faith and they may even be envious of the hope they see you have. When I was agnostic a pastor of mine constantly talked to me and befriended me. He would be honest about him wanting me to come back to the church but he said he would never force me. It was his love that made me search. I don’t think I could have ever just went to a church service believed again. It was rooted deeper than that. It was me that had to want to research not just Christianity, but other world religions and make the decision on my own. It was friend who stayed by me that encouraged me to search for the joy they found in Christ. It wasn’t those who said “you’re smarter than this.” or “Don’t let the enemy get you.” It also wasn’t the Westboroers that said “Sex is a sin that will lead you to hell. Don’t prostitute yourself.” nor was it “Depression and Mental Illness is simply spiritual warfare.”. Those people were not helpful at all. So what do you think about this? Should we pursue the American athiest in a more aggressive light, or do you like the approve of an unconditional and loving friendship?
Let me know your thoughts here in the comments or if you are a personal friend, in my Facebook page.