We were out to dinner with friends who were visiting us for the first time. As we enjoyed sharing an appetizer and waited for our meals, the conversation turned to our seminary experience. As we discussed what our next year of this journey may look like, questions about our church preferences came up. We always try to answer questions like these as carefully as possible with our non-Christian friends. We don’t want their impressions of the Church to be contingent on what our worship preferences, practices, and experiences are. But this was the “in” our friend was looking for to air his grievances about what he believes is a corrupt institution and unfair god.
How do we respond?
I am asking that genuinely. While I am no stranger to questions from non-Christians, I still find it hard to respond to questions of mercy, theodicy, and the classic “why are you right and all other religions wrong?” I am sure some of you reading this feel that as well. Whenever I leave these conversations, for days I am plagued by the thoughts of what I should have said and how I should have said it. And I am driven to pray for the souls of these people.
What can we do after we have spoken God’s Word to someone?
Speak with Your Pastor
I always crave biblical wisdom after these conversations. I come away with new questions about my faith. And questions aren’t bad. The Church is the place to understand the answers to big questions. The reason I suggest talking to your pastor is not so he can “indoctrinate” you further. It’s not so you don’t think through these questions yourself and in prayer. Your pastor has studied and studied and studied Scripture, philosophy, and language. He may have also struggled through understanding why God would show up in this way or allow this or that. Your pastor is there for you. He will not judge you; he will not interrogate you. He will answer your questions or help you find the answers.
Before I was a Christian, I truly thought that it was an insult to be prayed for. That praying for me meant you couldn’t and wouldn’t answer my theology questions or that you thought you were better than me. I thought it was a power move or a cop-out to tell a person that you were praying for him or her. And let’s be real: sometimes people treat prayer like that. It’s our job not to. Pray earnestly for the person you had this conversation with, and ask God to help you speak His Word in love.
Keep in Contact
If at all possible, keep being a caring friend, loving family member, good co-worker, or faithful member of the person’s community. You don’t have to constantly try to get this person to come to your church or to read the Bible. Just being a part of his or her life is important. The Holy Spirit will work through you and your relationship with the person.
We trust that God works through the ways He said He will work. Our trust in the Lord comes from Him. It is never “on us” to make sure others believe in Christ. He is faithful to His promises.