I can already see the Christian mobs rising up with anger and preachers making me into their next sermon illustration, and all without reading more than just the title of this post. But hear me out. If you really want to make an impact for Christ on an unbelieving world, there are a lot of things you should NOT be saying, because, frankly, you’re just ticking atheists and agnostics off and killing any chance you might have had to positively influence them for Christ.
For years now, I’ve seen it time and time again. The preacher tells a congregation how to deal effectively with atheists. They go into the arguments we should give so that they will just HAVE to believe. Probably the most notable of such arguments is the watch-watchmaker argument. Looking at a watch tells you the watch has a creator so looking at creation must say there is a creator. No, that will never win over a single person. In fact, all you’ve done is just reduce your credibility because you’re being seen as a person who can only regurgitate what some preacher has fed you. The “Christians” in the congregation fall in love with these cliches and immediately start implementing. Before long, the cliches have spread from church to church, and now, atheists think of most Christians as nothing more than a joke. So what cliches should you stay away from? Without further ado, here they are:
1. If you don’t believe the Bible, you can’t have morality – Let’s stop right there and say, if the only reason you aren’t slaughtering people is a religious book, you have problems. The fact is, most atheists do have some sort of code of morality. While it may not be what the Bible’s standards are, they still have some. This moral standard can come from a variety of places. For example, most, if not all atheists have people they care deeply for. And a code of ethics that would protect their loved ones and promote happiness rather than hurt is a favorable standard. Just don’t say this. It’s simply not true.
2. You must be miserable without God – Ok, we are forgetting that the Bible even teaches that sin brings pleasure for a season. With that in mind, we need to realize that there are many very happy atheists. In fact, I might even go as far as to say that a higher percentage of atheists are happier than their Christian counterparts. We should just chalk this cliche up to another myth. It’s just not true either.
3. Your life must have no meaning without God – The truth is, there are a lot of things that bring meaning to an atheists life. By human nature, many, if not most people desire to be a part of something bigger than they are. Many atheists are very actively involved in community services and other humanitarian endeavors. In fact, that is actually one of the biggest gripes atheists have about Christians: “Christians just don’t care about helping people physically.” And, in my experience, that has been pretty true. Without a doubt, for a Christian, no issue could be more important than a person’s eternal destination. But, if you look at the pattern of the life of Christ and His disciples, you will find that they not only met spiritual needs, but often simultaneously met physical needs.
4. Why are you mad at God? – The truth is, while some atheists might be mad at God, not all of them are. In fact, they don’t care either way about Him. What if someone confronted you (being a Christain) and asked you why you were mad at Odin? You would look at that person like he or she was stupid. Why? You don’t believe Odin exists, so why should you care enough to have any emotion for or against him?
5. You need to open your heart to God/You just need to have faith – You really have to think about this from their perspective. If you tell them they need to just open their heart to a God they don’t think exists, they’re probably thinking, “Would you open your heart to Allah if a Muslim told you to?” The truth is, they see this as nothing short of hypocritical. Christians have no problem discrediting gods of other religions. To them, yours is no different. And telling them they need to believe in Him without giving them any real reason to won’t do any good.
So what should you do? Reach out and genuinely try to help them and show them the love of Jesus Christ. Not as a gimmick to get them into the church, but because you really do love them like God does. Befriend them. Help them. Care for them. Let the love of God flow through you. Ultimately, they’ve got to see that a real God has made a real difference in your life.