What do you say to them?

What do you say to someone who tells you that they don’t believe in God?

They tell you that they want to believe in God, but it’s just not the re. They tell you that they have gone to church, several different types of churches, but nothing happened.

They look at you, and obviously see something of faith in you, by what you’ve told them or by the different way that you comport yourself, and they would like to have it (faith) themselves.

But they have given up on the idea that faith can come to them.

What do you say to someone like that?

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28 Responses

  1. I think the strategy of the man healed of life-long blindness by Jesus works the best. The Pharisees asked him to give his testimony, and he answered with the familiar words, “I was blind, but now I see”. Today, we would say, “I am happy beyond words because I know the God that created me. I want you to have that same assurance, that same happiness, that I have!”

    Ultimately, though, I don’t think we should fret about it. The ruler of all the world will always do right, and, frankly, when I have experienced the presence of God, I was too preoccupied to think of anyone else. Is that selfishness or a side effect of the glory of God. I think it’s the latter. Good thought-provoking post. Regards.

  2. Jim,

    I like your answer.

    Speak of what He has done for you, invite them to come to church, remind them of the promises that God has made to them in their baptism (if they have been) and then let God do the rest.

    Thanks very much, Jim!

    – Steve

  3. “Popular” atheism seems to be the de-fault position of many who are ‘in’ the popular (secular) today, but I’ve found it’s usually nothing to worry about when you get the opportunity to have a real discussion with such people – behind the veneer, they are often just as hungry and needy for something more substantial, like the woman at the well.
    Opening the reality of Jesus to them, breaking the living bread, causes them to encounter something unexpected, and even though they may not be ‘converted’ on the spot (not our work anyway), they will go away with a seed planted that will mean things will be very different in the future.
    Aside from die-hard secularists (those who essentially believe there is no meaning beyond the immediate), and the woefully religious (bound to legalism) I’ve found most people will wise up and take note of Jesus Christ.

  4. Might ask them what they expected to have happen. then possibly explain to them that faith is not a feeling, nor based on experiences but the word of God. That if they truly would like to believe, maybe they would like to come to church and bible study with you, to learn more about what the Christian faith is.

  5. Howard,

    I like reference to the woman at the well. True indeed, we know how hungry and needy they are, for they are no different from us on that score.

    I ought know better than to expect results from a five minute conversation. While 5 minutes may be more than enough for the Lord, I seem to be a bit more impatient with the germination process.

    Good thoughts, Howard!

    – Steve

  6. Bror,

    Of course faith is not feelings or experiential based, but one person in particular knows me from a time before Christ grabbed a hold of me and my light switch was turned on.He’s knows that I am not the same guy. There was a point when the faith given to me in my baptism finally popped throught the ground and started to sprout.

    Not sure, but I think this is what he(and I) are looking for in him.

    He lives quite a distance from me so it’s tough to invite him to church (although I have). I’ve given him cds of sermons and bible studies and asked him what he thought of them weeks later, only for him to say that he never got around to listen to them.

    I guess it’s just not the time.

    Thanks Bror, for chiming in!

    – Steve

  7. Yes sometimes it is hard to invite someone to church or even recomend a church. I hate that. I have been there before. I wish I could say well there is the LCMS congregation over here they will serve you well. But i don’t know that that is true. I have been burned to many times myself visiting congregations.

  8. I usually begin with something like this; “Tell me about the god you don’t believe in. I probably don’t believe in that god either.”

  9. Bror,

    I often worry (bad thing to do) about how ‘Lutheran’ the church is, or if the theology is just so. It would be great to have it exactly like we know it ought to be.

    But I need to remember even poor theology can’t stop the Lord from geting a hold of His own, called and chosen.

    If the gospel is there even in a little flicker, it is enough for Him. We can work on the details later.

    Right now, I wouldn’t even mind if my friend happened to wander into a non-denominational church.

    (did I say that?)

  10. Pastor Mark,

    “Tell me about the god you don’t believe in. I probably don’t believe in that god either.”

    I like that one very much. I will use that the next time I encounter an unbeliever.

    Thanks Pastor!

  11. “Tell me about the god you don’t believe in. I probably don’t believe in that god either.”

    Yes!
    It’s often amazing how much common ground there is about that!

  12. Howard,

    Glad to see we are on the same page. We have much more common than ‘uncommon’ ground with unbelievers. After all, are we not beggars among beggars? We simply know where the bread line is!

    I have greatly appreciated your many fine posts on this blog. Be sure to look me up if you are ever in California.

  13. I like the Keller 3 pronged approach of presenting the Gospel. You guys are going to have to look it up … but basically, Keller talks about how religion and irreligion are both problems …. but the Gospel… the message of Christ is completely different. Modelled after the parable of the prodigal son.

    Quite often people hate religion because it is presented to them as law only… they are interpretting your message as your good, I am bad and to change me I need to go to Church… but Christ came to ALL of us.. religious and irreligious.

    Even if someone says he believes nothing he is saying he really believe in himself. He believes in his own independence. Indepence is what he believes in. Independence is his God.

  14. Given your context I would suggest they continue going to church and reading the Bible until God gives them faith. Persistence pays!

  15. Jon,

    I think you are right. Everyone has their gods.

    A rugged individualism that defines much of American thinking often works against the gospel.

    “What!? Me need God!? I don’t need anybody or anything!”

    Thanks Jon.

    – Steve

  16. James,

    My friend (the one that I was thinking of when I wrote the post) is a fisherman.

    I did once mention to him, that he doesn’t just up and leave a fishing spot after 5 minutes because nothing is happening. It does take patience and persistence!

    Thank you, James.

    – Steve

  17. I have greatly appreciated your many fine posts on this blog. Be sure to look me up if you are ever in California.

    I certainly will – I know California is a pretty ‘mixed bag’, culturally and spiritually, but a great deal that has personally been life-changing for me was linked to folk from there. I made it out to Pasadena in ’94 (and I’ve been back to the States since then), so it may be – I must say, I’m looking forward to fellowshipping with the likes of yourself and Steve, here (if possible) and in the new creation.

  18. Steve,
    I have a similar situation with a friend of mine to the one you described. He and I went to HS together and graduated together and shortly after we graduated, my head knowledge and talk about Christ changed into obedience and surrender to Christ. I have shared with him every way I can think of and given him books or tapes or whatever I can find. I have invited him to church as well. I have finally come to the conclusion that it is out of my hands. I have done what God has asked me to do and can do no more except pray and share when given the chance, and pray that the Holy Spirit give me the words to say when I am given those chances.
    Jeff

  19. Jeff,

    I think I have come to the same conclusion that you have.

    It is frustrating, especially with someone you know so well and want nothing more than for them to have a realtionship with Jesus Christ.

    In the end, all we can do is pray for them and like you said, ask the Spirit to give you the words and to be in them and use them for His purposes.

    Thanks Jeff! I appreciate your thoughts on the subject!

    – Steve

  20. Steve,

    Perhaps you can start small and work your way up. All atheists take for granted the order of the universe and that’s easy to do when we look at things on a macro level. We see grass, trees, clouds, rain, sun, etc…What we don’t see are the ordered processes by which these things are created and maintained. I’m not saying a person needs to get a degree in biology to evangelize, but maybe seeing how God works in the everyday things will open a door for your friend to explore how God works in spiritual things.

    Adam

  21. Adam,

    That is an excellent suggestion!

    I used to not believe in such apologetic work, but I have since been convinced otherwise.

    I do believe that God will make use of these small efforts to help others see Him.

    Thanks very much, Adam!

    – Steve

  22. i tell them my story.

  23. Graceshaker,

    I like it. Simple, but in the hands of God, very effective.

    Now why didn’t I think of that!?

    Thanks so very much, Graceshaker!

    – Steve

  24. I talk to them about the Christian faith. I answer their objections in a loving and thoughtful way. I provide positive and careful arguments to affirm the faith I hold.

    I am courteous, but there does come a time with a certain type of skeptic to be direct and forceful. I speak in such a way as to be heard.

    I show concern and love toward the person.
    I try to understand the underlying reasons why they reject the Christian faith. It’s rarely about an argument or a lack thereof. It’s usually personal.

    When it’s not, it ofteny comes from a false impression of how one becomes a Christian.

    The misunderstanding could be they enter heaven by doing good works to earn one’s way into heaven (I preach grace and gospel.). It could also be by thinking that they are good enough on their own. This usually comes with a kind of reverse Pascal’s Wager saying that they are a better person than most Christians (I preach the law in all its unbending fury, then follow with the gospel of God’s free grace.).

    Above all I pray. That’s much more powerful than words.

    Pastor Mark,
    I like your response to the question very much.

    “Tell me about the god you don’t believe in. I probably don’t believe in that god either.”

    That one is unforgettable.

  25. for me faith is a very personal and difficult journey. i would find myself agreeing with many of the disbeliever’s doubts, concerns and critiques of the present form and practice of christian faith.

    however if the person actually wants to engage on a serious level i would share my experiences of god’s grace helping me through many dark days and turning on a light in my mind and heart.

  26. Ropata,

    I like the way you listen to them and gain their confidence by agreeing with what they are saying.

    I think that is terrifc!

    And then to tell them how Christ has been a Light for you in your life.

    That is exactly how I try and do it.

    Thanks very much, Ropata!

    And thanks for stopping by ‘the old Adam’.

    I look forward to perusing your blog, as well!

    Yours in Christ,

    Steve Martin

  27. hi adam, my response is not about not so much “gaining confidence” in order to evangelize someone. it is about making a connection on a human level.. no agenda other than being myself and showing friendship to another. i guess my general goal isn’t evangelism or apologetics as such, but making my own corner of the world a wee bit better.

    arohanui :)

  28. [...] What do you say to them? « The Old Adam Lives! for me faith is a very personal and difficult journey. i would find myself agreeing with many of the disbeliever’s doubts, concerns and critiques of the present form and practice of christian faith. however if the person actually wants to engage on a serious level i would share my experiences of god’s grace helping me through many dark days and turning on a light in my mind and heart. (tags: faith mind hope) [...]

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