Last night, my favorite atheist, Nick Wood (seriously, apart from the whole Jesus thing and the fact that I can get a suntan–redhead low-blow–we are pretty much the same person separated by ten years and a landmass called “the bulk of North America”) liveblogged his trip to a “Christian MegaChurch” in WA.
Here’s my favorite of his updates (well, it’s a tie between this one and the one where he made the “high five, Jesus!” joke about a lady lifting her hands in worship):
“Quotes from Rocky Balboa: 2-3. Verses from the Bible: 0”
If the atheists in attendance don’t hear scripture at your church, something needs to be shuffled. I’m just saying. God didn’t say that the praise music is God-breathed and profitable. God’s Word is powerful. The electric guitar is emotional at best, and fake at worst. The lights, the sound, the cool graphic behind the words on the screen, the sweat running down the faces of people excited for Jesus–NONE of them have the power of God like the WORD. It’s weird enough that we believe in a living book, there’s no need to add fuel by being fake and electric-lights-showy at the expense of reading from that living book.
I am not attacking this one church. (If I were attacking it I’d have linked to it or called it by name) I wasn’t there, and their webcast didn’t work–when I tried to view it in Safari, it said something about Internet Explorer. (insert appropriate jab about not caring to reach people like me who are allergic to Microsoft) I am confronting the “evangelistic” mindset that we need to get excited for Jesus, then people will see how excited we are and come to Christ.
You didn’t win Nick over. You scared him off. His last tweet from the building:
“OH GOD I’M OUTTA HERE THIS SH** IS SCARY”
People being excited for what appears to be no reason is not winsome. It’s really weird. Give Nick a reason to be excited. Tell him that all of his striving to be known and loved can end with Jesus, who fully knows us (even our really dark, twisted thought lives), but still fully loves us. Read to him from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and then apply that ancient document to his passionate, urban, technologically saturated life. He’s dying to hear just one Christian make sense without being a total fruitcake. But he’s pretty jaded. Your message is going to have to head him off at the pass, a bit. You’ll have to respond to his objections lovingly. You’ll have to actually listen when he makes good points, and respond to them.
But you have to start by not scaring him away by speaking a language that is totally foreign, and giving no indication that his point of view is at all valid, or prevalent. There are a lot of folks like Nick that aren’t going to be ignored away.
I wholeheartedly agree, Nick, we Christians can be some scary, weird folk. But let’s not toss out the Bible. Like you said, they didn’t even preach from it. Might wanna give it a shot. And as I said last night on twitter, if you are game to discuss Jesus with a guarantee that I won’t at any point bust out a streamer or speak in tongues*, holler at me.
*this is not a jab at the practice of speaking in tongues. It’s a jab at using glossolalia as an evangelistic tool. Nick and I both speak English. So I’ll just use English to explain the gospel to him.