caito8o asked a question:
How do you bring people to God without telling them that they are going to hell? Or “shoving my religion down their throat?” And how do you deal with people that tried Jesus and still don’t believe? I have issues with the way my church discuss these topics so I was wondering if you could bring some clarity. Thank you so much for your help!
Hey dear friend, I speak all this with absolute grace and love for you, and I’d like to go one further.
Hell is not a motivation for faith—but neither is heaven. If a punishment or a prize are the motivations for someone’s journey, then my assumption is that person hasn’t thought very far about why they’re on this journey at all. I’m reminded of that quote from True Detective: “If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward, then brother, that person is a piece of s__.”
If my goal is to “bring people to God,” that actually won’t work either, because we shouldn’t be trying to make it work. I don’t mean to assume your motives, but evangelism isn’t a score-card where we win people by attendance. No one is a project or a charity case.
Christians might not think we do this, but it happens in all kinds of unseen ways: we attract people until they’re baptized, and then the pastor stops talking to them. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. God can only naturally flow out of who we are and how we interact with others. God flows from my art, my expression, my patience, my generosity, and what I do with my free time. It’s not primarily a conscious goal to say, “See, this is God!” It was C.S. Lewis who said we can’t try to make good art, but that we make art and it might turn out good. It’s the same way with expressing God to others: it happens or it doesn’t.
I’m not sure there’s a way to “deal with” people who “tried Jesus and still don’t believe.” That was their choice. There’s no magical formula for this. My guess is that they don’t have ears to hear right now, or that they didn’t get the whole picture, and we each can only be faithful to an accurate picture of who God is (again, without forcing it or keeping score). And what if they did hear everything and still don’t believe? Would even more information suddenly wake them up? No. Only God can do that. I believe God can, and does. I must be faithful in how God is working through me, just as I believe God is faithful in how He is working through them.
People have their personal objections to God and Christianity, and they should be taken seriously. No lecture or lesson is going to break through that, and if it did, then it only takes another lecture or lesson to “un-persuade” someone out of their so-called faith.
I don’t mean to sound abrasive and I’m sorry that this comes off rather abrupt. I think it’s been way too indoctrinated in us to make “Christian evangelism” into some kind of program, so that we use really strange language to talk about “dealing with people” or “bringing them to God.” These paradigms are hurtful and presume Western methods of transferring information, rather than a holistic, natural, relational interaction between the uniqueness of real, living people. Yes, I do tell people very plainly about Jesus, and at the same time, there are all the things I’m not saying which are just as important, if not more, and simply being available and asking questions and letting others know that I’m ready to talk, any time, and more crucially, ready to listen.