My Friend Wants To Leave Behind Faith: What Do I Do?

afoolofhope asked:

How would you suggest one to go about discussing faith with someone who said they were raised in a strong Christian home, and growing up wanted to believe in God and all the things that go with that, but they had to “test the waters” for themselves? It seems like the conclusion they came to was along the lines of “this is good for some people, but since I can’t believe it, it’s not for me.” I want to help point them to Christ, but I’m not sure how to do so/talk with them about it.

My dear friend, I first want to applaud you for truly caring about your friend. It’s already a difficult task to talk about faith, and the fact that you want to talk faith with someone who doesn’t is a huge testament to your loving heart.

Here’s the hard part.

If your friend wants to leave behind their faith, there’s not a whole lot you can do.

Of course, you can continue to ask questions. Stay involved. Reach out. Invite them to church activities. Challenge their assumptions. Keep asking, “How’s life?” Be around and be near.

But in the end, each person must choose their own way. If you bring up matters of faith as a way to bring them back to “the fold,” they’ll see right through you, and suddenly they’ll feel like a project or a charity case. No one wants that. It’s hurtful. No one wants to be part of someone’s agenda for a triumphant church-victory.

More than that though, if we coerce someone with the external apparatus of persuasion, then they’re not really going to think for themselves. They might turn back to faith because you won an argument, but not because they were fully convinced in and of themselves that Jesus was the one for them.

I know this whole thing feels very urgent, because sometimes the church will pressure you into clawing back the prodigal. You might have heard, “What if they die tomorrow?” And I suppose that could be true.

Yet it’s even worse to make someone want something if they don’t want it. You can only present Christianity the best you can through the overflow of your life, and perhaps one day, they’ll come back. And if they don’t, keep loving them, and you cannot blame yourself.

Here’s what I’ve seen.

Your friend might eventually exhaust themselves on the world and get to the end of their options. I’ve been there and I’ve seen friends get there. They’ve tried everything: gyrating strangers in the club, every cliched chemical, the vicious cycle of getting back with a bad ex. They will exhaust themselves.

At that point, who will they turn to?

I can tell you who I did not turn to. I didn’t turn to the guilt-tripping, Bible-verse slamming, theologically correct friends who were waiting to use my comeback story. They were cool and all, but I couldn’t trust them to accept me as an individual; I was only a trophy, a sort of prop in their savior narrative.

Instead, I turned to the ones who wouldn’t judge me. Who were always there for me. Who invited me all the time to things, even when they knew I would say no. Who had left me countless voicemails and even mailed me handwritten letters. Who didn’t drop Bible-verse bombs. Who were nice to my mother. They didn’t treat me like I was “behind” and they were “ahead.” They didn’t use Christianese phrases to trap me. They heard my venting about church. And they were there for me after I spent myself dry on the world and when I wanted something more.

They never compromised on theology. Yet I never felt uncomfortable around them. They were Jesus for me. And I hope you can be Jesus for your friend.

— J.S.

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5 thoughts on “My Friend Wants To Leave Behind Faith: What Do I Do?

  1. I love this! It is so tempting to try to push them into just believe, which i find myself wanting to do at times but like you said that does not help! This really put it into perspective and makes me rethink my whole approach!


  2. So right! I keep my own experience fresh in my mind of walking away from church and organized religion for years until a time a crisis and a friend who just invited me, no pressure, just friendship, caring and an invitation to try again. It worked, I decided to see for myself and this wise friend kept the door open with no pressure, letting God do it all. Now, 20+ years later, God continues to lead me daily!


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