I know a story about a Christian who was being harassed by an atheist for her beliefs. After the atheist gave some compelling reasons for his disbelief in God, the Christian replied, “Good, we’re both believers then.” The atheist, quite shocked by that statement, asked the Christian what she meant by calling him a believer. The Christian went on to explain, “Look, since we both have strong reasons for our beliefs, why don’t we sit down and talk about them.”
Score one for the Christian. She managed to come up with a discussion-starter instead of a discussion-stopper. Most, if not all, typical evangelical strategies end up stopping the show. We are full of answers, and we can’t wait to drop them like bombs on unsuspecting unbelievers. We are proud of answers that leave no room for ambiguity, but these “answers” are more of a hindrance to faith than a help. We are not in a contest; we are on a journey together, pointing towards Christ.
It’s the conversation we want, not the conclusion. There is too much “end of discussion” in evangelical witnessing models. We don’t want the discussion to end; we want the discussion to go on. The discussion is the whole point. It is out of discussion that relationships are born, and it will be you, not the correct answers, that will draw people to the Lord. Who wants to be right and all alone? Better to be not sure, but in good company, loving people and pointing them to Christ.
So therefore we want to become good at open-ended questions along with finding common ground. Questions that spark discussion. The one at the top of this page is a perfect example: “Since we both have strong reasons for our beliefs, why don’t we sit down and talk?” The common ground is that we all believe something; the invitation is to find out what that is, how our beliefs differ, and how they are the same. And the goal is not to end the conversation but to keep it going.
Thanks and Amen
Upon attending a conference in Denver, Colorado about 12 years ago, arranged with a taxi driver to take me from my hotel to a local church where the conference took place. He began on our daily trips to make comments about the church in general. He was not kind. He mentioned how he was involved with making tents that were light weight and could be parachuted in areas of natural disaster. These tents were collapsed into tight packages and could house a family or a number of wounded….very versatile.
Upon complimenting him on this venture. He went on a very controlled and articulate tirade on why this was better than just spreading the gospel. He went on to say how he was disgusted with the church and with God, largely because people in the church had treated him badly. So far I had been listening to him only. Now I made a point of saying that on behalf of those christians who treated him so badly, I was very sorry that happened. That is not how christians should act and could I ask him to forgive them. This totally surprised him. He expected an attack in return.
On my last trip back from the conference, he told me this story. He was an atheist. Often he would go into a wide open park, talk into his cell phone and yell, curse and just express his displeasure with God. He told me he was angry at God. He said that he made it look like he was expressing his displeasure to some other human being. but he was really ‘talking’ to God’. As I stepped out of the taxi to go to the airport, I said, “If there is no God why are you so outraged with him?”.
My prayer for him asked God that he would continue the discussion himself with other atheists in his community. I imagine it is ever on going, of how one can be mad at a God who does not exist.
Brother Peter an good question to ask and I do think/believe you hit the nail on the head when you stated this gentleman need to learn how to forgive those Christians that treated him badly….
PS it so consigns w/ an experience I went throu & still going through in getting a new sponsor for my Amway Biz and I believe the Lord as lead me to an awesome 80 yrs old couple Angie & Bob and Bob mentioned Mark do you want to know why the Amway Biz isn’t perfect is b/c it’s made up and ran by imperfect men & women.
Great message. Sometimes when folks are so pushy about being right it pushes other folks away. I hope more will think about helping folks to find Jesus and not shouting about this that and whatever. Take care, God Bless, and have a great Tuesday.
Seem to remember a song with a line about “a whole lot of life between the answers” Who was the young fella singing those lines? 🙂