Not-yet Christian: “Sorry I’m not religious,” or “Um I don’t go to church.”
Born again follower of Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit: “Oh ok, don’t worry, thank you for your time.”
Do we recognise this conversation?
Having been at six Freshers Fairs over the last month I have found myself having this dialogue unnervingly regularly and without much thought at all. And it was only after hundreds of repetitions of this kind of dismissive reply that I stopped and thought: Is this right?
I’m not about to argue that we should be forcing conversations on people who don’t want them, and I’m not advocating the Bible-bashing approach. But if I’m honest, those weren’t the reasons I was letting people walk away so easily either.
Subconsciously, I was treating my message as irrelevant to them, and so was more than happy to see person after person shuffle along to TFL’s adjacent stall and grab their free Oyster card-holder. Without realising it, I have slipped back into the cultural ideology that I grew up in, which declares Christianity to be largely irrelevant to the majority of the population (google ‘irrelevant’ and the first image is church!).
Tragically, despite prizing my personal faith as of upmost importance in my own life, I have ended up treating it as less valuable than an Oyster card holder for anyone else.
How has this happened? Well, here are five suggestions:
– I’m a people-pleaser and don’t want to hassle someone
– Time is a god and I would hate to waste theirs or mine
– I won’t be able to convince them so I won’t even try
– If they came to church I’d be scared of what they’d experience
– I’ve lost the perspective of what I’m here for
What I seem to have forgotten or neglected is exactly the thing that got me interested in Christianity in the first place:
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. (C.S. Lewis)
Whether we like it or not, the claim that Jesus is God affects us all. If it’s false, then for everyone, everywhere, always, it is false (including all church-goers). But if it’s true, then it’s true irrespective of whether you’re religious or not, a churchgoer or not, whether you’re apathetic, agnostic or atheist. Isaiah 45:23 says: “To me EVERY knee shall bow.”
Telling someone about the love of God or inviting them to church is not supposed to be a duty we tick off every so often; it’s an attempt to stop them from entering hell for eternity. I can’t put it any less bluntly than that, and even writing this is bringing on a new sense of repentance. It is so so easy to save face, make life easier and not step on toes. But if stepping on someone’s toes causes them to stop walking in the wrong direction — then so be it! Even if it’s only one in a crowd, that’s worth the effort.
My question: how many people have we let walk past us because of our wrong attitude?
So what attitude do we need? I should make it clear that, more importantly, we need a change of heart rather than a change of phrase. When we hear people say, “This isn’t relevant to me,” we shouldn’t be satisfied simply replying, “That’s okay.” Instead, we need to be living with the response deep in our hearts: “Yes it is, that’s why I’m here”.