Why Non-Believers Don’t Want To Talk With Christians

Guidelines for Living Daily Devotional

June 18, 2020

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  1 Peter 3:15

You’ve heard people say it: “I’m spiritual, but not religious.”  Whether it was a celebrity, your next-door neighbor or even your adult child, this is how one quarter of Americans view themselves, according to the Pew Research Center. [1] But not just Americans--Prince Charles and one-fifth of people in the UK fit into this category, according to Professor Michael King from University College London. The definition of the term is broad; it can include a moment of transcendence while watching a sunset, living in the moment or using meditation in an attempt to stop chattering thoughts.

Research has suggested that "spiritual" people may suffer worse mental health than conventionally religious, agnostic or atheist people.[2]  This is sad.  But the real problem here is even sadder.  And that problem is this:  Non-Christians today say that they probably wouldn’t go to the vast majority of their Christian friends for spiritual conversation.

Disturbing research by the Barna Group shows that “nearly all non-Christians (those who identify with a faith other than Christianity or no faith at all) and lapsed Christians (those who identify as Christian but have not attended church within the past month) have a friend or family member who practices and prioritizes Christianity—but these believers may not be their ideal conversation partners when it comes to faith.  In other words, when it comes to a conversation about faith, those non-Christians say they wouldn’t go to a Christian to talk.

For instance, more than six in 10 non-Christians and lapsed Christians (62%) say they would be open to talking about faith matters with someone who listens without judgment—the top quality they value—but only one-third (34%) sees this trait in the Christians they know personally. [3] Non-Christians say they are looking for someone who is good at asking questions, demonstrates an interest in or knows the story of the person they are sharing their faith with and doesn’t force a conclusion.  Unfortunately, those surveyed said that only one out of every four Christians they knew, fit this description.

Interestingly, these qualities are just what we find demonstrated by Jesus’ in his faith-conversations with people.  People felt free to talk to Jesus about faith.  We see Jesus in conversation with a rich, young ruler (Matthew 19:16-30) and tax collectors and sinners at a dinner party (Matthew 9:9-13).  In the Bible book of John, chapter 4 we read about Jesus’ chat with a woman who was living outside of God’s plan for relationships between men and women (John 4:1-26). She had had four husbands and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband at the time.  Jesus opens with a revolutionary question at a water well,” Will you give me a drink?” (verse 7) It was an amazing question because men didn’t converse with women, or non-Jews and religious people didn’t talk to her type.  He knew her back story when he told her, “Go and call your husband” (verse 16) and his gentle question and answer conversation led her to come to her own life-changing decision of faith.

Fellow followers of Jesus Christ, are we people that our non-believing friends would come to, to talk about faith?  Would our next-door neighbors turn to us in crisis? Have we taken the time to actually know them and their stories?  I’ll never forget my own dismay when, in the midst of a conversation about faith, a non-Christian friend of mine told me that I was the first Christian he’d ever liked.

Those in the “spiritual but not religious” camp are seeking reality.  We can turn those statistics around, by being ready to speak of the reality of the living hope that is within us, asking good questions, knowing our friends’ journeys and letting the Holy Spirit do the heart work.  All, in the language of love (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Resource Reading:  1 Peter 3:13-16

[1] Castella, Tom de. “Spiritual, but Not Religious.” BBC News. BBC, January 3, 2013. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20888141.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Year in Review: Barna's Top 10 Releases of 2019.” Barna Group, December 18, 2019. https://www.barna.com/research/top-10-releases-of-2019/.

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