Let’s admit it. Many of us have friends who share different religious beliefs. Some of these friends may even be a part of the rapidly growing religious “nones” – those who are religiously unaffiliated – and it can be especially difficult reaching them. With atheist, agnostic and no belief as labels, they profess no belief in any organized creed and present a different sort of challenge than do Jews, Muslims and other peoples of faith. It’s particularly difficult to argue your faith based solely on emotional, faith-based appeal. There are some “nones” who are well-versed in the Bible, have heard your claims before and already have their answer related to God, and His existence. There are also “nones” who are not familiarized with the language of faith and find these conversations awkward and uncomfortable. But contrary to what you may think, there is opportunity to reach these friends, even the least receptive of them. Here are some suggestions on how to reach your friends who don’t believe in God:
One of the ways you can guide your friends towards God is through prayer. God is the only one who can change your friend’s heart. Letting your friend know that you are praying for them, particularly during difficult circumstances and stages of their life is another way that you can witness Christ to those who don’t know God. Through the praying of a friend, you have become a vessel of love that they may not have known had you not lifted them up. Then, show your friend the loving God you know through your actions, lifestyle and faithfulness to God. There is a certain energy, or frequency that comes from those who know God and love God that can be so powerful when you’re in the presence of it that it’s contagious. Some of your friends will want to know more about God because they see how deeply moved you are and change by Him.
Intellectualism Is Important
We are called to proclaim our faith in Christ. For many of us, when we enter into a relationship with Christ, we feel like we’ve found the secret to everything being good in life and want to profess it to others, particularly those we hold closest to us. Because of this, many of us make appeals to our atheist or agnostic friends, using emotional, faith-based language like “When I trust in the Lord,” “I can feel God at work in my life when…” or “God turned my life around after.” Though there’s nothing wrong with doing this, it’s important to remember that when talking to non-religious friends that there is common perception that belief in God is simply motivated by irrational faith. When we rely on emotional appeals alone, we are ignoring the history of intellectualism and scholarship that is deeply rooted in the church. One of the greatest examples of this is Jesus’ and His own teaching. Through Jesus we see an amazing balance of faith and rationality. We can also go all the way back to figures like the apostle Paul, Augustine, and Niebuhr who argued faith with logic. There are great biblical scholars today like N.T. Wright who is a great example of this today.
Another reason emotional, faith-based arguments go over the heads of nonbelievers is because the language may not be familiar. If they’ve never set foot in a church, grown up in a household of believers, experienced trauma in their life or had bad experiences with people who professed to be Christian, this message may not resonate. They may even find this language awkward and discomforting.
I’m not saying that truth needs to be proven by rational means, but it is one of the greatest defenses against rational scrutiny. Being well versed in the Bible, Christian intellectualism and scholarship as well as atheist history and thought is a great way to strengthen your own faith and bring us closer to those who don’t know him.
Be Ready for Questions
If your friends don’t believe in God, or are practice another faith, be prepared for questions about your faith. Also, be prepared for tough questions about the faith. You may hear questions like “Why do some of the stories in the Bible not line up with historical evidence,” “How can you prove that God exists without verifiable evidence” or “If Jesus is the way and the truth, what happens to those who were raised as non-Christians?” Though it may be difficult to answer these questions, and some of the answers are not too comforting; however, it’s our responsibility to be well-versed in Christ and to bear credible witness to our friends to those who don’t believe.
Allow Your Friends To See Christ at Work in Your Life
One of the best things you can do to show your friends that way to Christ is by being a living witness, practicing love, joy, grace, discipline and humility in your own life. Many people are drawn to God when they see Christ at work in your life. Your love and spirit as a result of your faith can be a drawing force. Don’t be discouraged if your friends don’t hear the message of Christ. This doesn’t mean you’re a failure, or that you’re not being a good enough witness. Remember, God is the only one that can turn their hearts. Let your life be a witness, and never shy away from your faith.