by Adam Bohlmeyer
Earlier this year, I had the privilege to play a small role in the DVD release of the eye-opening documentary When God Left the Building.
In preparation for the release, I had the opportunity to view the film several times. Even after watching the film over and over, I find myself making new ah-ha’s every screening. But there’s consistently one statistic revealed in the film that always sticks with me like a thorn in my side. It’s a stat that comes from a study Gabe Lyons, an author and researcher, conducted by surveying 18- to 29- year-olds asking what their perceptions of Christians are. The results showed that 87% of those surveyed view Christians as judgmental—87%. Alarming and disconcerting, to say the least.
No one likes to be judged, yet that is quickly becoming a perceived trademark of Christianity. Instead of being known for loving those around us, investing in them and serving them, we are seen as finding fault first. Ouch.
A possible antidote for the apparent epidemic of judgmentalism impacting Christians? Fearless conversation. That’s taking time to discuss differences with people, listen to what they say, ask wondering questions, and most importantly offer non-judgmental responses. Showing you genuinely care about a person, even if they don’t share your exact view, will show God’s love far better than casting judgement.
Here’s what I mean.
Last week, Lifetree Cafés around the country hosted a program called “Giving Up On God: The Rise of Atheism.” What better venue for a fearless conversation to happen, even in the midst of a potentially heated topic?
And wouldn’t you know it, a few did.
In a post titled “An Atheist Walks Into a Christian Meeting About Atheism…” that appeared on SecularVoices.org, Kevin Davis wrote about his experience visiting a Lifetree Café for the first time.
“I left my first Lifetree meeting feeling encouraged that common ground could be found between believers and nonbelievers if we take the time to listen to each other and make an effort to understand each other.”
Even more interesting were some of the comments left on the article from the blog’s readers, including:
“Good that it went over so well. My last conversation with a Christian didn’t, so now I have hope again of finding common ground and getting along.”
Which approach do you think better demonstrates God’s love to people holding differing viewpoints?
- Immediately telling them what they are doing wrong and how they could fix it without even knowing a thing about them;
2. Listening to the person. Investing time to learn who they are, what they think, and why they think that way. Then earning the right and invitation to share the truth you know.
“As Christians, we often forget that God is on our side. He’s with us. He’ll never forsake us. We simply need to be faithful and trust him. He’ll give us the words to say—or not say. Fearless conversation means engaging without fear. Engaging with love.” – Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore
I’d invite you to read all about Kevin Daniels’ full experience at Lifetree Café at SecularVoices.org.
You can learn more about Lifetree Café and how it’s helping churches engage in fearless conversations on a weekly basis at LifetreeCafe.com.