I sat with a friend today who is not a Christian. She knows I’m a Christian and generally avoids the subject. Today, out of the blue, she said, “Have you always been a Christian?”
I told her my story of growing up going to boring, dead churches. I told her about rejecting the faith on rational grounds because of the wide variety of religions in the world and the painful exclusivity of Christianity. I told her about my return to the faith.
She grinned and looked away.
“What?” I asked.
“I don’t want to be a Christian,” she declared.
She told me about experiencing pushy Christians who tried to manipulate her to believe and who wouldn’t respect her disinterest when she said “no.” She talked about churches that made her fall asleep.
Listening to her description of what she had experienced from Christians, I couldn’t help but think it:
“I don’t want to be a Christian either.”
And by that I mean, I don’t want to be a Christian like the Christians she’s met.
I don’t want to be a Christian who disregards people’s feelings when they tell me they don’t want to hear or have heard enough. I want to be a Christian who talks about Jesus with people who are open to listening, usually because I’ve taken the time to listen to them first, and then respects them if they say “No thanks.”
And I don’t want to be a Christian who goes to or leads a boring church. Boring churches should almost unilaterally be closed. They should be shut down until the people who are called to lead them can come up with a meaningful vision for what it looks like to reach lost people with the gospel. And I don’t care if your approach is miraculous healings or one-to-one evangelism or an attractive megachurch or artsy alternative community, but if a church doesn’t have a vision, the church needs to close. If a church is boring, it’s already closed in every way except the literal way, and that’s only a matter of time.
I told her that the way Christians behave isn’t a measure of whether or not Jesus is God. And the real question is whether or not Jesus is God, which is irrelevant to how Christians behave. She seemed unconvinced and changed the subject. I let her change the subject.
In that exchange, I have to trust that God did what he wanted to do. God never forces himself on us. Christians need to unilaterally stop forcing themselves on anyone else.
But I do have one thing better than force, manipulation, or nagging. I can ask you to pray for my friend. Please do.