As a convert, there are many things Christians have taught me. Oftentimes, whether or not the message was received effectively or the attempt to teach was ineffective comes down to 2 factors: treatment and communication. The way someone treats me is strongly influential in deciding if I will sincerely listen to anything they say. The way people communicate their message makes the difference between connection or closed doors. Remember, communication is not only what is said; it is also what is heard and seen.
Do you want to be a witness? A disciple? A soul winner? Do you want to reach unbelievers? Do you want to do the work of adding to the kingdom?
Be mindful about what you represent.
Be intentional about reaching and teaching.
Here are a few basic tips from a former atheist.
Laying an approachable and friendly foundation
Be kind. I know you hear that a lot. You see it on tee shirts. Maybe a bumper sticker here and there offers the reminder. Think about what if you’re not though. If you’re unkind, if you’re mean, if you’re condescending, if you’re making fun of people, if you’re hurting people….. and people see you as a representative of the Christian faith, how does that affect their interest in Christ based on what they see in you? So, be kind.
Respect others. You’ll hear me say this a thousand times. They deserve respect. And if you don’t give them basic respect, you’ll build walls where you want to be building bridges. You can’t argue people into heaven. You can’t condemn them and make them feel inferior until they agree with you. Don’t treat people bad for having different beliefs.
Bite your tongue when you need to. We all have negative thoughts towards things we disagree with, but be cautious about voicing those negative opinions around people that you’re trying to win. If you’re criticizing the church, do you think you can convince them to come? If you’re bashing the beliefs of other Christians you disagree with, do you think that non-believer is comfortable asking you questions?
Serve people in Jesus’ name. You can do this through churches or on your own. Serving people that need help is a big way to share God’s love.
Love people. The bible says people will know we are his disciples because we love one another. Nonbelievers and other Christians should be able to see a godly love in us through our actions.
Fellowship with people even if they believe differently than you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being friends with people of different denominations and different religions.
We are called to be set apart. The way you live should be different than the world. Nonbelievers should be able to see something in you that is different than secular society because you live out your faith.
When the conversation comes around
Get in the habit of talking about Jesus. Bring the subject up.
Talk about why you love God and why you choose to follow Him.
Share any testimony you have of healings, provision, and prayers being answered. You can also share testimonies of people you know.
Offer to take prayer requests. People know who to go to when they are in need of prayer. Be that person they think of.
Pray with people.
Invite people to church services, revivals, and events.
Teach bible studies. Or you can attend a bible study and invite your friends to join you.
Navigating communication on religion
Be able to summarize the gospel message and give an answer for the faith that you have. That applies to every matter of faith, every doctrine, every church teaching, every practice. If you can’t give an answer, tell them you need some time to gather scriptures or resources. It’s okay to say you can’t remember the exact verse or you need to look into something. Get back with them. Actually respond. Never ignore a religious question. All seasoned Christians should know the faith well enough to teach it. If you don’t know something well enough to explain it, then you don’t know the topic well enough. Grow yourself spiritually so you can nurture the growth of others.
You shouldn’t preach sin without first preaching who the Savior is. You may understand who God is and your sinful condition, but a nonbeliever may not even know who God is. Focus on explaining who Jesus is and that he loves them. If they decide they want to follow Jesus, then teach the elementary things and so on.
Genuinely and respectfully ask other people what they think about religious topics. Get to know their perspectives.
When communicating with other people on any topic, it is better to explain your views than it is to correct theirs. That tip can make or break whether you shut down communication or cast a light that shows truth. Imagine talking to someone about your beliefs and they put their finger up and tell you “No” like you’re a child. Do you want to keep talking to them? Imagine if that person corrects you…. about your own beliefs and experiences. How much do you want to talk to them about this topic anymore? You don’t. So, don’t be that person that says no and speaks to people like they are correcting a child. Listen to what other people believe. If the timing is appropriate, share what you believe and why (with scripture references).
Unity over division is a motto of mine. I always look for common ground. Use that to build with.
Be honest and transparent. Do not theologically catfish people by misleading what your church teaches so they’ll like it more. Do not hide your beliefs in hopes people will want what you have. It feels like being baited for someone to manipulate you like that. People appreciate honesty. Anything that feels like deception will push somebody out of church quicker than an honest disagreement.
Stand firm in your faith. No wish-wash unsteady. No excuses. No watering down. No lying or denying or cutting things out. You can be rock solid and unwavering without being defensive. Be gentle in your responses.
If you are a convert, what advice would you give?