Harking back to my earlier days as a church planter – more accurately, the planter of a church, not a slue of them – I glommed onto every book on the subject I could lay my pinkish fingers on. Obscure, popular, it didn’t matter. My shelves (what few of them I had then) were laden with every church growth, church health manual out there. Today, I consider those shelves and I retch. Those tomes are mostly peppered with man’s principles of success and smell distinctly of Adam. Not all, but most.
One such volume encouraged me to go up and down the streets of my ‘target’ area with poll in hand. The author advised me to seek out unbelievers, ideally – the unchurched, specifically – and ask, “if you were to consider attending a church, what are some of the things that might attract you?“
I must say, I found this strategy to be flawed at its core. Why In heaven’s name would you seek out the preferences of a lost person when building your house of worship? Needless to say, we never implemented that little nugget.
Having said that, I did come across this1 helpful advice column from an atheist I felt would be very useful and stimulating to the conversation about Christian influence – or its woeful lack – in today’s world.
Yes, I did say an atheist.
Daniel Fincke wrote a piece2 that was brutally honest while managing some semblance of sensitivity to the topic. He titled it “Top 10 Tips For Christian Evangelism (From An Atheist)” and does his darnedest to call us followers of the Way out.
Here are Mr. Fincke’s, shall we say, Ten Suggestions. I’ll leave you with the main points but invite you to read his extrapolations at this link. Much of them are über helpful, if only you remember he is not offering from a place of light but the natural mind. At the end, I’ll contribute a thought – more specifically, C.S. Lewis will – to Daniel.
1. Be Like Jesus: Hang With The Sinners and Judge The Judgers.
2. Form Genuine Relationships With People, Don’t Treat Them As Projects.
3. Actions Speak Louder Than Words.
4. When Taking About Religious And Philosophical Matters, Ask More Questions And Do Less Preaching.
5. Don’t Give Unsolicited Advice Or Judgments. Support People And Wait For Them To Ask For Your Input If They Want It.
6. Appreciate That Nominal Christians Are Still Christians.
7. Don’t Try To Force Others Into Christian Participation.
8. Understand Atheists And Embrace The Opportunity Confrontational Atheists Afford You.
9. Respect Other Religions Even As You Evangelize Their Members.
10. Love Your Enemies, Not Just Your Tribe.
Obvi, a truly dedicated follower Of Christ cannot treat every single point as law, no questions asked. Sometimes we’re called on to share Messiah’s love unsolicitedly, like warning ‘bridge out!’ to a careless traveler.
Hey Christian, which of these hit home? Which arched your brows? Any run red flags up your pole?
Finally, I thought it fitting to supply a quote from C.S. Lewis. You recall he began his journey as an avowed atheist but God turned the light switch on for him and the rest is history. Here’s his advice and/or warning to those who, like Daniel, are staunchly closed off to the possibilities of man’s weakness to understand the Infinite.
Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side. You must not do, you must not even try to do, the will of the Father unless you are prepared to “know of the doctrine.” All my acts, desires, and thoughts were to be brought into harmony with universal Spirit. For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.
― C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
All to prove we’re – each of us, whether we acquiesce or not – dead lost without Jesus.
Selah, beloved –
1 Hat tip to Scott Sauls in the epilogue to his book, “Jesus Outside The Lines”
2 Daniel Fincke, Camels With Hammers, April 10, 2014, www.patheos.com