Note: You can also find this post in it’s entirety on Pastor.com here
I used to go to church to make fun of Pastors. No joke. I would take notes as they preached and wait behind to tell them the 15 ways they were wrong. Not only that, but I used to read the Bible only to look for contradictions in order to argue Christians out of their faith. Sometimes it even worked, sadly.
Now most atheists aren’t this way, but some of them have strong opinions about religion, God, and the people who follow Him. Which is why it’s important that we – as Christians – minimize our mistakes when we do get the opportunity to talk with them about Christ.
Before we get into the 5 mistakes, I do want to mention two things:
First, for the material in this post I will be drawing mainly from three different sources: my time as an atheist; my mistakes in talking with atheists after becoming a Christian; and the wisdom of those who graciously gave their opinions and experiences on this topic – thank you!
Second, I want to assert that ‘talking to atheists’ means a respectful and wanted conversation by two or more people that have willfully entered into a conversation about God. If this sounds like ‘legal jargon’, it’s because I have a brother-in-law who’s a lawyer, and I enjoy how he talks. Blame him.
Here are the 5 biggest mistakes I have made or heard others make when talking to atheists about God:
We are quick to judge their lifestyle, and talk about sin.
While it’s no secret that God doesn’t want us to sin, if you look at the life of Jesus and the words on His lips, He is overwhelmingly in favor of talking about how much God loves people, rather than their nightlife. As one of my friends put it, ‘turning from your sin isn’t what saves you. It’s the radical, transforming grace of Jesus that does.’
If we truly believe this, then talking about sin and our disagreement with their life choices shouldn’t even be on the table. After all, how can we hold them accountable to a God they don’t believe in? We can’t and we shouldn’t.
We minimize a hurt in their life that they expected God to fix.
Most atheists have a big wall that’s been built between them and God. It may be a time when they needed God to show up for a loved one and He didn’t; or some Christians that didn’t mirror God very well; or even the frustration that they never seemed to hear anything from God. It’s usually the biggest reason they can’t believe in Him.
These are the issues we need to pay the closest attention to. We don’t’ need to fix the issues, but it’s important we hear them out and don’t minimize them. And the last thing we need to do is to try to explain God’s motives. It isn’t the time to talk about God’s bigger plan; it’s the time to talk about their hurts.
We are unprepared to talk about money and the Church.
Money scandals in the church are well documented in the news. Anytime a pastor is too wealthy, or a church misuses it’s funds, you can bet it’s going to be splashed all over the Internet. It’s not something we can ignore, and most of the time it isn’t even something we can explain.
What we need to be prepared for is to talk about our disgust of those instances as well. We also need to be able to give some basic information on why God asks us to tithe – not because He needs our money, but because He cares about where our heart is in relation to it.
We rush to talk about God, often uninvited.
This is probably one of the biggest mistakes I made early on, and one that I try to heavily guard myself against making today. Even as a Pastor, I get annoyed at aggressive talk about God at inappropriate times. Talk about God, religion, and especially Jesus are very touchy subjects and should be approached with caution and respect.
Our motto should be ‘when they have a question, I’ll be there to listen’. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a chance and capitalize on an opportunity, but at least ask if it’s ok.
We invite them to church, instead of inviting them to our house.
The church invitation has almost reached ‘uncomfortable pickup line’ status. An overly eager person with good intentions casually pressures a reluctant person into going somewhere they probably wouldn’t haven chosen on their own. Instead why not invite them into your home?
If you really want to see and hear a great message about God, show them your family life and your hospitality. If you can’t show them God through either of these, than you have no business inviting them to church in the first place.