General Question

angelsofhope2008's avatar

What's the best way for a Christian to witness to Atheists, or people of any other faith?

Asked by angelsofhope2008 (24points) September 18th, 2010

I’m a Christian minister, and I’m looking for advice on how best to present the Christian faith to people who are opposed to it, or indifferent to it. Obviously, as a Christian, I believe it’s important to share what I believe to be the best thing to happen to me in my life, because I don’t want to withhold something that was so good for me, from other people who might need it. I have noticed, though, that some people tend to shut out anything I have to say, when it relates to certain “buzzwords”. How do I share my faith, in such a manner that the average Atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., will be interested in hearing what I have to say, and give it some serious consideration? I’m open to any and all sincere suggestions.

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158 Answers

Seek's avatar

You say “Hello, would you like to hear about Christianity?”

and then when they say “no”, you say “Thank you for your time” and walk away.

Believe me, that will be the best possible way to handle things.

From an ex-Christian atheist.

Hobbes's avatar

Just remember that there is a difference between sharing and imposing. Even if you are correct in your beliefs, that doesn’t mean that everyone will be ready to hear them at that particular moment in their lives. Some people may be genuinely interested in having a conversation about faith, but if you try to push the issue with someone who clearly doesn’t want to talk about it, you will only push them away.

wenn's avatar

Sorry to say, but people don’t want to hear it. From any religion.

As an Atheist, what bothers me most in day-to-day life is when the religious find they need to share their faith with me and tell me why I need to believe what they do.

If you believe in something, in all honesty that is great, but keep it to yourself, and let others keep their beliefs to themselves. Makes for a happier world.

jaytkay's avatar

Live your life in a way that others can see religion works for you, and that religious people are good neighbors and citizens. For example, volunteer as a group in your community. Not to proselytize, but to show you care, and are willing to contribute time and effort to help others.

Skip the evangelism. If someone is interested they will come to you. If not you’re just pestering.

Gamrz360's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr has a prime example.

TexasDude's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr is right. I understand that your faith is important to you and you feel the need to share it. Other people are not so lenient, though, so simply ask them if they are interested, and if they are interested, they’ll listen, and if not, what good is a seed planted on rocky soil anyway?

I’m agnostic, for the record

Hobbes's avatar

@wenn – As a member of no particular religion, I do enjoy talking about religion on occasion. I think what’s important is the intent and tone of the conversation. Someone telling me about how I’m going to burn in hell if I don’t accept Jesus Christ is definitely a turn off, but if the conversation is respectful on both sides I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t take place.

Frankie's avatar

My advice would be to just not do it at all. If the person is a self-described atheist, chances are they’ve already heard everything you have to say and have decided they simply do not believe it. However, if you truly feel you must, I would follow @Seek_Kolinahr ‘s advice.

As for witnessing to those of other religions, I find that quite disrespectful. You may certainly discuss your own faith, and absolutely answer their questions if they have any, but trying to get them to take on your beliefs belittles their own. How do you think you would react if those Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, etc., were trying to get you to take on their beliefs? You wouldn’t give it any consideration, correct? Because you believe, in your heart, that your beliefs are the true answer, correct? You might even find it offensive, correct? Well, they feel the same way. There really is no point, and it borders very closely on disrespect and condescension.

Sarcasm's avatar

Collect some undeniable facts about your belief system. I don’t mean words from the Bible, or any “I just feel it has to be true in my heart” ideas. Cold, hard, scientifically proven facts.

I don’t speak for all Atheists, but I am an Atheist, so I do speak for one of them at least.

Nullo's avatar

Pastor Charles Smith of CC-Costa Mesa would say that the easiest way is to be an example of the believer.

timtrueman's avatar

As an atheist, every time you use the words “Jesus” or “god” I hear “Santa” (I’m not even kidding). Prove that Santa is real and then we can talk religion.

@Sarcasm +1

Also, religion is like a penis (safe for work)

muppetish's avatar

I’m going to side with @Seek_Kolinahr. It may not be the answer you want to hear, but it’s the only thing that makes sense to me. As a non-religious person, I typically do not want to engage in conversation with a stranger about my belief system or lack thereof. I find it uncomfortable and more often than not, I leave the situation feeling awkward judged, or annoyed. It may not be your intention to make anyone feel that way—and it does sound as though you are trying to approach this with the best of intentions—but it happens.

- Ask politely, leave politely.
– If they do accept your offer, keep the conversation balanced. Allow them the chance to speak and ask questions at their discretion.
– If they decline your offer, don’t insist on leaving literature with them and don’t insist on praying for them.

LuckyGuy's avatar

A PSA blood test (for prostate cancer) saved my life. It can save the lives of many other men over 45. However, I am not going to go up to a total stranger who is, working on his car, or walking on the street, or watching TV at home, or eating .. and say “Hey brother would you like to hear about the PSA test and my prostate? We can discuss the merits of catheters and different sized pee pads used during recovery.”

Anyone who wants to hear about prostate cancer (or religion) can look it up on their own pace at their own time.

TexasDude's avatar

@muppetish is right too. Christian literature will only get you laughed at and wind up on the internet (Like Jack Chick tracts, but you don’t seem like the type to use those).

Politeness is key, and be very ready and willing to address any number of questions that may arise. Let your “witnessing” be more of a dialogue than a preaching. And always be polite and don’t subject anyone to anything they don’t want to be subjected to.

Vortico's avatar

Don’t for any reason pull of the “because the Bible says so” statement. To most non-Christians, this is like opening up any book in the library and living out each word without doubt. This logically does not work.

Seek's avatar

@muppetish Oh, yeah. The “I’ll pray for you” thing… You can’t get any more obtuse and condescending than that.

Points up to @Sarcasm as well.

The biggest problem with prostletyzing is that it is by nature an unbalanced discussion. The Believer enters the conversation knowing that they are inherently better off than the person they are approaching. The approached atheist also knows that the believer is going to be a) annoying and pushy or b) potentially intelligent enough to give up their faith in lieu of atheism. Either way, it doesn’t end well.

mammal's avatar

sure, if you are so sorted and imbued with the holy ghost, you will naturally arouse curiosity, you may then feel the need to express your inspiration to the querent should that situation arise, with utter humility. That’s normally a good start.

Mamradpivo's avatar

If we’re in a public place and I ignore you, don’t take it personally. Also, if I look busy I probably am, leave me alone.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I understand how you feel. And I can guarantee you that everyone has felt the same way about something that they love, value and appreciate. Be it a religion, a person, a web-site, a movie or book, or something as simple as cheese, we just want to share the same incredible experience that we had.

The challenge is that there will always be situations where, no matter how excited or charismatic someone is, it just isn’t going to change the minds of others. In fact, the more one pushes the topic, more resistance is generated.

If you really want to make a difference, may I suggest that you listen to the opinions of non-Christians and really find out why they believe the way that they do? Don’t turn it into a debate; just listen, and keep an open mind. If and when they want your perspective, they will ask for it. What you say and how you say it probably won’t change their mind, but at minimum, you have been granted permission to have them as an audience.

Pandora's avatar

Have to agree with @Nullo. Through example is the best way. Way too often people of the faith are hypocrites to their own beliefs. I think that is what makes it even more difficult for anyone to believe. Accept the fact that there will be many as already mentioned, who will always believe God is nothing more than a fictional character.
The only thing you can do is lead by example. Those who decide they want to learn about God will come your way and does who don’t will stay away.

Corey_D's avatar

Make sure they are interested in hearing what you have to say first. Then if they are an atheist just give them what you consider to be the strongest argument. Give them the reason you believe. And if that doesn’t convince them then you should probably just move on. For people of other religions just think about how you would like them to witness to you and just do that. If you wouldn’t like them doing it, well then you have your answer.

nikipedia's avatar

What would be the best way for an atheist to witness to you?

Oh, you don’t want to be converted to atheism? Okay then.

tinyfaery's avatar

The first answer is undoubtedly the one to follow. And may I just add that just because something greatly affected you and changed your life for the better doesn’t mean others will have the same reaction.

mammal's avatar

leave out anything remotely alluding to homosexuality and Dinosaurs, because that line would likely freeze most reason loving people rigid.

iamthemob's avatar

I think the main theme from above, which I think is spot on, is that witnessing IS the problem. You know that there are buzzwords – avoid them when possible. For the most part, @Nullo states the most important part – if you live as you should, people will look to you as an example, and there’s no reason to speak the word – you are the word. If you want to talk about it, it should come about organically, and be a real discussion. The problem is that if you feel the need to tell others about your belief, even if it’s not to claim that it’s right, you’re doing it wrong. All the condescension problems mentioned above come into play. You need to be open that they have something to teach YOU in order to be able to teach THEM. Neither one of you has the answer…that’s the one thing you can be sure of.

If you do feel the need to witness, I saw a documentary called “Lord, Save Us from Your Followers” (you can find it in this thread) that seemed to have a lot of good answers. Basic tactics were:

(1) start off clearly not taking yourself seriously, but stating what you believe (not why, but what).

(2) figure out what they believe (not why, but what).

(3) clearly demonstrate you recognize the problems with a literal belief in your faith.

(4) vocally apologize for the harm caused by the church (and know what the harms have been, and what the church has done to apologize itself).

(5) be genuinely interested in learning, not teaching.

There’s more – but that’s a good start. After all that, you might actually have someone willing to listen as well as speak.

gorillapaws's avatar

As @nikipedia has said, follow the golden rule. If you don’t want others converting you to Satanism, Buddhism, Atheism, Mormonism etc. then it seems hypocritical to try to convert them, right?

wenn's avatar

@Hobbes I agree with you. I would not mind at all having an intelligent discussion or friendly debate about religion with someone who has different beliefs than myself.

The thing is, i never have been able to, because the religious person involved always ends up telling me i’m wrong and will go to hell and burn for eternity. not even exaggerating. Last person I talked religion with started out open and rational, but very quickly turned into the “you’ll burn in hell” person as soon as I disagreed with him… almost immediately really.

So, while i agree with you, its just not possible to do so from my experiences. Maybe one day.

AmWiser's avatar

I believe it’s important to share what I believe to be the best thing to happen to me in my life, because I don’t want to withhold something that was so good for me, from other people who might need it….. No one else is like you and what you perceive as good for you may not be good for someone else. The best thing you can do is wait for someone to ask for your advice or opinion. Than they might be more intuned to listenening.

Seek's avatar

@wenn You know who’s a really good target for rational religious discussion? Moderate Muslims. Seriously.

SuperMouse's avatar

I believe there are a couple of important things to keep in mind when you are attempting to witness to others.

First be respectful. Be respectful when someone tells you they are not interested in what you have to say. Don’t threaten them with hellfire for their wrong headed beliefs, just thank them for their time and walk away. I would also not suggest a “May the Lord bless you” send off for these folks – that is just going to leave a bitter taste in their mouth. In the area of respect also be sure when you are preaching to theists who might hold beliefs that are different from yours, that you show respect for what they believe. Putting down someone else’s belief system is only going to alienate them which is the exact opposite of your ultimate goal.

Second, live your life as a testament to your faith. This best and worst examples of witnessing for Christianity I have ever seen are people of faith living their lives. I see many, many more people doing the very things they are so willing to judge others for than people who live their lives as a demonstration of their religion. This honestly is the best way to witness what your faith has done in your life. In a perfect world your inner peace and serenity will be reflected in your actions and this will serve as the ultimate representation of your beliefs.

Aster's avatar

People , often people who are searching, need to see in you what they’re looking for. If you are already talking to that sort of person about secular things and they say something religiously oriented to you first , you could very briefly and light heartedly summarize what happened to you then wait and see if they ask questions. If they don’t, go back to the first subjects you were chatting about and drop it.
In other words, wait for them to ask questions or they may start avoiding you. Don’t rush them.

wenn's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I dated a Muslim girl for nearly a year, she was very open minded and understanding to what I believed and I too respected what she believed. We didn’t talk a whole lot about religion, but now and then it came up, for example when she was fasting for Ramadan. Never was it an argument, we just shared our views with each other.

We got along very well, which seems odd to say…Muslim and Atheist…but we had a wonderful and loving relationship :) and are still good friends today.

Honestly, probably the best relationship I’ve had.

fundevogel's avatar

Religious people ususally have the wrong idea about atheists which poisons their interactions. They (religious people) keep telling eachother things like:

“Atheists really do believe in God, they just reject him”

“Something terrible must have happened to make them doubt God’s existence”

“They became atheists because they didn’t approve of how the church behaved”

“Atheists hate god”

“They are sad empty people that need God to save them from their misery”

“If they only heard the gospel they could not deny it”

and the classic

“The fool says in his heart there is no god”

I know this because this is what I learned about atheists in church. I heard it many times for the 15 years I was a Christian. Among the church this was common knowledge about atheists. When I became an atheist I realized every one of those “truths” about atheism is bullshit.

The fact is Christians are mostly ignorant about what atheists actually think, but that doesn’t stop them from perpetuating falsehoods about atheism among themselves that make atheism seem like it can only be the result of accident or malice rather than investigation. Most atheists today were at one time religious. They already know what you’re selling. This makes the playing field pretty uneven when Christians try to convert atheists. The Christians know almost nothing about the atheist’s position and arguments while the atheist has probably heard the Christian’s many times over.

Honestly, the number one thing I hate about proselytizing is how unconcerned with me the would be converter is. You might think it sounds grand and benevolent to be there to save souls but it comes across as superiority. They show up and want you to listen to them but rarely are they interested in an even exchange of ideas. They want you to listen, but they don’t want to listen themselves. And frankly, hyperbolic as it is, I can’t help seeing the drive to collect souls for Jesus as something like collecting scalps. If all you’re concerned about is ticking my soul onto your list and never seeing me again well, you aren’t very concerned are you?

What’s my advice if you really want to try to convert atheists? Throw away your assumptions about them and let a real conversation take place. Don’t enter the situation to proselytize, just see if you can start a conversation. One where you’re not the only one talking. If the atheist senses that your only interest is to convert the jig is up. So best be more interested in the exchange than what it may or may not accomplish.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Really, there’s pretty much nothing you can do. I’m not exactly open to hearing what you have to say when your initial approach is disrespectful, condescending, and coming from a place of assumed superiority. You might as well be asking me “How can I get the broads at bars to understand they need to give me a blow job?”.

sharpstick's avatar

Honestly, be their friend, and I don’t mean just be nice to them because you feel sorry for them. Be their honest friend wether or not they become Christians. You accept them and they will accept you. Over time as they get to know you they will also get to know why you are a Christian. They will know the Gospel message, it is up to the Holy Spirit from there.

Just giving a speech or a quick “witness” will no do it. You need to live your life consistently and lovingly. You have no other power than that as a Christian, they have to come to God on their own.

wundayatta's avatar

If I were selling Christianity, I’d try to make a connection between me and the people I was selling it to. I’d try to engage in conversation and look for common experiences. I don’t know what Christianity does for people in the real world (not the imaginary world), but I’d identify that, and then use that as a focal point to show how it can help people.

Maybe it provides community. Or ritual. Or good music. Or dance. It’s got to do something that makes you feel better. Community is the most likely.

Then I’d let people know they don’t have to believe to participate. They don’t even have to show up, except when they want to be with other people who care. Or who are fun.

I’d leave it at that. If, over time, they become curious about more, I’d tell them more. Otherwise I’d let time work it’s magic. If it doesn’t work, I wouldn’t pressure anyone. Pressuring people is a sure way to get rid of them.

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Rarebear's avatar

I’m not sure of the verb “to witness”. What does that really mean in this context?

Qingu's avatar

I think the biggest problem with witnessing, from an atheist’s perspective, is that we’ve already heard all the arguments and testaments. It’s abundantly clear that religious people (not just Christians) believe their deity of preference has magically changed their life; the fact that you also believe this isn’t exactly new information. Most of us have heard the cosmological argument before, the watchmaker argument, the ontological argument, all of which can also apply to any religion, and all of which are based on fallacies to begin with.

Many atheists are more familiar with the Bible than Christians are, too. Not that you’d want to open such a conversation by quoting from your book, because that would be quite silly (imagine a Muslim opening a conversion attempt with you by quoting from the Quran).

So, that’s my advice for what not to do.

Kraigmo's avatar

Well you have to live your life in a way that truly matches what you are teaching.
A local evangelist here who is both a street evangelist and also has his own church congregation…. soon as I found out he supported George Bush and all his Wars…. well done deal. I could write that minister off immediately. Zero credibility there. It’s not that I’m a Democrat (I’m not), or a political-minded one-issue guy (i’m not that, either). It’s the hypocrisy of it. So #1: don’t be a hypocrite, who mixes up American religion traditionalism with the Word of God into a mishmash of authoritarian theocracy.

And besides, if you have faith in God, and faith in man’s ability to find God… then you should stay away from politics completely, probably. Since you need to keep both your reputation and your spirit clean, because if people do not in you see the light you speak .. they won’t listen to you.

And then as far as the preaching/explaining itself goes… I think the Christian author C.S. Lewis was probably one of the most intelligent and convincing apologists ever. His books, The Screwtape Letters, and Mere Christianity are two of the best Christian nonfiction books ever.

Just keep yourself free of the desire to control others, while at the same time keeping your words in a logical framework. Differentiate between types of “faith”. Athiests are turned off by the pathetic psychological needy “faith” that some have. But perhaps there’s a stronger kind of faith maybe? The kind a child has in a mother? That is a pure faith, a faith that comes from knowing, and not some desperate need?

After that, you have the credibility for someone to learn from you, if you really do have important knowledge or understandings that is helpful or useful to them.

Jeruba's avatar

As a committed atheist who OD’d on Xty by the age of 13, the daughter, granddaughter, and niece of ministers and ministers’ wives, I can tell you with certainty that there is nothing persuasive you can say to me. I want you to respect my belief as much as I respect yours—and I do respect yours—and leave me alone.

(I am one of many atheists who can quote Bible chapter and verse. I was a faithful Sunday-schooler and churchgoer as a young person, and I actually listened to sermons. I still regard the KJV as the pinnacle of literary achievement in the English language. Door-knocking proselytizers don’t like to be told that Jesus didn’t order his disciples to go bother people in their homes but instead went out to the hillside to preach so they could come and hear him if they wanted to—and avoid him if they didn’t..)

@Rarebear, in this context “to witness” means to address a person understood or presumed (often presumed) to be a nonbeliever—meaning a nonbeliever in the faith of the person bearing witness, of course—and testify to personal experience of the truth, power, and efficacy of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, with the aim of effecting conversion to that belief.

Qingu's avatar

@Thammuz, likewise here. I love talking to evangelicals. Seriously, @angelsofhope2008, you should feel free to practice on me.

Trillian's avatar

Your best bet is to allow your life to be an example. You cannot force your views down a person’s throat. You can ask, and if they don’t want to hear it, back off.

Ben_Dover's avatar

What’s the best way for a Christian to witness to Atheists, or people of any other faith?

Quietly. Quit screaming, ranting and raving.

Rarebear's avatar

When my dad was dying, a friend of mine who is an Episcopalian Monk came over unexpectedly as a surprise visit. I was out with my mom and my sister, and my dad was alone in the house. My friend stayed with my dad, made him lunch, and sat with him for several hours until we got home. He didn’t know about my dad’s condition until he saw him, and he just stayed.

To this day, despite being the ardent atheist that I am, I contribute to his monastery every year. That’s how you can “witness” being a good Christian.

Jeruba's avatar

When the Dalai Lama came to my area a few years ago and held an all-day teaching session in a large amphitheatre, a group of placard-bearing “Christians” greeted attendees with messages of hate and fear, screaming epithets and weaving signs with messages like “The Dalai Lama is the Devil!!!” No matter how hard they tried to engage this crowd of presumed heathens (who might have been people of any faith, including their own, come to hear the wisdom of a respected ancient tradition), the crowd streaming past them smiled, greeted them kindly, wished them a nice day, and moved on happily, without a word or sign of animosity.

It only made them more furious. Some of them seemed borderline hysterical with their inability to affect the crowd.

I regarded this response as a fine example of bearing witness of Christlike behavior to so-called Christians of whom true followers of Jesus ought to have been heartily ashamed. But I doubt that the irony made any impression on them.

phaedryx's avatar

Matthew 5:16

Fred Rogers is the an example that comes to mind.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There is no one way because people are different. However, I don’t feel comfortable explaining to you what words you can use (since regular ‘buzzwords’ don’t work) to fool someone into a conversation with you – there is a reason many respond with ‘shutting down’, so to speak, because it’s nothing we want to hear…after all, it’s not like you should assume that atheists haven’t thought about their views any and are simply unaware of some important singular argument that you can make to turn them Christian – it doesn’t exist.

YARNLADY's avatar

My minister friend was able to share with me because she started out by asking me why I was an atheist, and she really was interested to know. She thanked me for letting her know, talked a little bit about her faith, and never brought up the subject again.

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laureth's avatar

Thank you, first of all, for asking. This is the first thing you have done to be able to successfully minister to me. I appreciate that you are interested in hearing how I would wish to be introduced to your religion, instead of being introduced to it on your terms. I cannot understate how important this is, and how much I appreciate that you think this way.

Second, I want to mention that if we live very long in the world, among other people and in hearing range of any media, we are already aware of Christianity. There might be someone somewhere in the deep dark forest who still wears leaves for clothing that somehow hasn’t heard of Christianity, but that is not anyone you are likely to find on a regular basis and consider as a candidate for “sharing the good news.” In fact, you may be talking to someone who has already been made very familiar with Christianity, and found it to be not what they needed, and they have moved on. It is important to know that if you choose to deliver your message. Miracle stories from the Bible, or from your life, may be things that we have heard but do not believe in, and have in fact been told before. I, as a non-believer, would want to know what (if anything) you have to add to this background that is new, different, and potentially true.

People who have already heard and rejected Christianity also probably have a good reason. Maybe it’s a lack of evidence, for example, or the fact that his or her brain just works differently. If you are talking to someone of a scientific bent, you may wish to de-emphasize a Biblical literalist view, because they will not accept it.

You say, “I believe it’s important to share what I believe to be the best thing to happen to me in my life, because I don’t want to withhold something that was so good for me, from other people who might need it.” As you’ve seen above, all of us (pretty much by definition) also have a “best thing” to share. Are you open to hearing about it? It could be a book, a spiritual practice, a story about meeting our sweetie, or anything. Will you listen? Will you find common ground? Nobody likes to be preached down to, and no one likes to be the object of condescention. If you approach on a level that says you are open to really hearing, I might be more willing to listen to you in return.

And this. If you are able-bodied,affluent enough to care for your own needs (and you have the Internet, so I am guessing you also have things like food and clean water), you have been given some very awesome things. I would be interested in knowing if you share your other awesome things with people in need, too. In other words, do you walk your talk? Is Jesus the only thing you share, or do you do also help the people who have less? To people in desperate places, a loaf of bread or gallon of clean water is more wonderful than hearing about Jesus, and as you do for the least of them, you also do for Him. (I have a very good Christian friend, maybe the best Christian I know, who has devoted his life to bringing water purifiers to Africa. If I am going to listen to a Christian, I will listen to one like him.) If all I see you offering to others is the “Good News,” I may possibly judge you as having more of a need for self validation (or will to power) than true selfless intent. Walking the talk will make your message seem far more real than hot air.

And lastly, remember the parable of the sower. Some of your grain will fall on fertile ground, and those people will be really energized by your message in a way that no Christian has ever energized them, and they may take up your words and grow. Some people will be like the rocky soil, and you can scatter as much seed as you want there but it will not take root. if you can ascertain which listeners are like fertile soil and which are like rocky soil, you will be able to spend your resources where they will have the most result for you. Yelling at rocky soil (or someone who is truly uninterested in your good news) will not make the seeds grow – and may even do more harm for your message than good, because the next time a Christian brings up the same message (maybe even the one who would win them over!), they will remember you as one more blowhard that gave Christianity a bad name. On the other hand, if you thank us politely and continue on, we will remember that there are nice Christians, and maybe the next time we hear the word from someone else who wants to share, we will think favorably upon it.

Again, thank you for asking! Would that more of your brethren were listeners than talkers.

zophu's avatar

Don’t do it when they are emotionally vulnerable, don’t imply that their uncertainty is the only problem, and don’t offer them any “obvious” or “glorious” solutions. That would be unhelpful. Instead, approach them with unconditional acceptance, and offer yourself only as a helping hand in their journey to salvation, if they choose to make it.

LostInParadise's avatar

Why do you believe? Explain in plain and simple terms why you are convinced that the words of the Bible are more truthful than any other holy book. Give a clear explanation of why you believe we are all born in sin because Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge and tell why it is that by turning to Jesus we can unload our sins like a sack of potatoes and live in eternal bliss. Good luck.

flutherother's avatar

The best way to present the Christian faith is to live the Christian faith. I think those who strive to convince others of their beliefs have not yet fully convinced themselves.

downtide's avatar

As an atheist I would be more than happy to engage in a rational, calm and respectful discussion about Christianity. However, the minute the conversation becomes a sales presentation, I’m outta there. I don’t want to buy. Been there, tried it, didn’t get along with it. The only thing that could possibly convince me that god exists would be for him to actually appear physically in front of me and so far, no Christian I’ve met has been able to arrange that.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I agree with a lot of what’s been said here. @laureth has a great point, in that pretty much everyone is aware of Christianity and if someone has chosen not to be, there is a chance they have a good reason. Granted, you may stumble across people that aren’t Christian or religious out of mere apathy, but there is really so much less of a need to “spread the Word” these days than there is a need to practice tolerance of other people’s religions and belief systems.

I know Christians who proselytize and go on missions truly believe they are doing what God wants, as well as trying to save other people’s souls. However, there has to be a balance and this is where non-Christians start to get irritated and heated because this is offensive to some. It implies that people cannot have morals, know what’s best for them, or live any kind of meaningful life without believing as you do.

The truth is, I’m neither an atheist nor an agnostic. I have a lot more tolerance for Christianity than I did 10 years ago.. back then, if people were getting in my way on the street in order to press a Christian pamphlet on me, I’d be as likely as not to snap at them that I have my own religion, thanks very much.

The key for me is to not push your beliefs on others. It’s one thing to have a civil discussion where beliefs are discussed and compared, but completely another to push a religion on someone.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Wait for them to ask.

And pah-leeeeze, whatever you do, don’t come knocking on my door

Jeruba's avatar

Thank you, @laureth, for a clear, rational, well-expressed message that is itself worth spreading.

iamthemob's avatar

I agree with @Jeruba about @laureth.

In fact, the way @laureth approaches expressing beliefs and opinions is probably an example of the answer to your question. How should you do it? Just like that.

Jeruba's avatar

@downtide, why would that convince you? I’d be looking for the mechanism: the mirrors, the trap door, the holograph, whatever. I don’t necessarily believe what I see because the eye can be fooled. If you’ve ever seen the 600-pound Bengal tiger disappear on stage in Las Vegas, or even just watched a pigeon appear out of a scarf at a birthday party, you might be inclined to question something that materializes in front of you and claims to be a divinity.

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LostInParadise's avatar

I would give serious consideration to someone being God if he were able to tell me things about myself that I have never told anyone. I suppose I would throw in a few other tricks he would have to perform to be absolutely convinced, like tell in advance the scores of football or baseball games.

jaytkay's avatar

@Jeruba If a tiger disappears on stage, I admire the stagecraft. If I had my hands on the tiger when it vanished and you said God did it, I would be inclined to believe it.

fundevogel's avatar

@jaytkay Well you ought to rule out the possibility of a naturalistic explanation first, perhaps teleportation was used and can be explained by naturalistic forces. Otherwise you might get caught with a god of the gaps not unlike the people that thought rainbows were a miracle from god.

answerjill's avatar

I am interested in learning about other religions, but if someone comes up to me with the sole purpose of proselytizing, I have been known to say, “Thanks, but I already have a religion.”

Jeruba's avatar

@jaytkay, what if you had your hands on the tiger when it vanished and I said I did it? Would you believe me, or would you think I was lying and believe instead that God did it?

jaytkay's avatar

@Jeruba If you set up the demonstration, and told me you were going to make the tiger disappear while I held onto it, and the tiger disappeared, I would be inclined to believe anything you said.

Jeruba's avatar

I consider that a very good answer, @jaytkay, and yet my doing that would be no better a guarantee of my veracity than if I performed an illusion involving water and wine or contrived the appearance of death and resurrection, which certain Indian holy men have also pulled off by various means.

Seek's avatar

I think a little transfiguration might do it.

God can feel free to show up, and say “Hi, I’m god. I’m going to take you and your mother to the moon (creating a temporary nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere for the occasion), and turn your mother into a pillar of salt” and then do it. Then, I would be convinced.

fundevogel's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr So you’d believe in him…but would you worship him after he turned your mother to salt?

Seek's avatar

Clearly you’ve never heard my mother stories. I’d become the friggin’ Pope if he did that.

jerv's avatar

Bringing those who are “on the fence” into the fold isn’t all that hard, but there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach; you have to tailor your technique quite a bit on a case-by-case basis.

As for trying that with those that are actively oppose, DON’T!. At best, it will be considered rude and you will be shut out. You might start a fight; possibly a violent one. I have seen people cry after getting ripped to shreds by a theologically astute assortment of Atheists, Agnostics, and a Satanist. I have read historical examples of wars starting that way; long, bloody conflicts with many casualties n both sides and in the middle (innocent bystanders).

In general, it always ends in tears.

@Seek_Kolinahr You’re right; moderate Muslims tend to be eloquent and courteous when it comes to discussing theology. Oddly, they seem to know more about the Bible than many Christians though….

fundevogel's avatar

@jerv I didn’t think there actually were any Satanists. I’ll be disappointed if they exist but we don’t have any on fluther.

Seek's avatar

Oh, there are people that actually read Anton LaVey’s “Bible” as a holy text, instead of the ramblings of a rich, over-entitled snob that they are.

Jeruba's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr is right: there are.

fundevogel's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Actually I was just checking LaVey out and I’m 99.9% certain he was just kidding around. He doesn’t seem like a snot, he’s seems like a he’s got a good sense of humor about the whole thing.
I dare you to take him seriously.

Though I’m a little afraid at the fact that some people do.

Jeruba's avatar

I believe there are even some extremely intelligent people who do.

fundevogel's avatar

And they aren’t pulling a Stephen Colbert? Crazy.

Seek's avatar

@fundevogel The guy named his daughter Satan Xerxes, and she ran the church for years after he died.

Fairylover78's avatar

Ahhh, so nice to see so many people that share my opinion on this, you all received Lurve!

@angelsofhope2008 I think you should have more respect for others beliefs… Are there Muslims, Atheist (like me) Buddhist ect… stopping you on the street and trying to convert you? No? Didn’t think so. Sure ask if they are interested in hearing about the word of god, but if not, leave it be and leave your preaching at the Pulpit where others that believe what you do can come to you.

@timtrueman -The whole Santa thing… Yeah, me too!! Lots of Lurve!

fundevogel's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I’m not really sure why that would be a bad thing. The church I assume is a business for them (isn’t it always?) and I think the name is kinda cool. Though not as cool as what Cenk named his son :

Prometheus Maximus Uygur

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I can’t really understand why Christians feel the need to offer an unrequested witness anyway.

Christ never did. I can’t recall one story in the bible where Christ stopped someone on the street and started telling them about his beliefs. Even the woman at the well wasn’t witnessed to without first asking a question of Jesus. He asked her for a drink of water, and she wanted to know why a Jew was lowering himself to speak with Samarian.

Nobody was healed without asking first either. And the crowds gathered only because of Jesus reputation for miracles and confronting the Pharisees in the synagogue with his vast knowledge of scripture.

But I can’t think of one instance where Jesus knocked on doors, or stopped people on the street. He didn’t send emails or post banners either.

What he did was visit the sick, comfort the sorrowful, play with children, offer forgiveness when no one else would, intervene in stonings, and rebuke the self righteous, including his own disciples when necessary.

I suggest that if the Christian of modernity wants to get the message of Christ to the world, then they do it just as Christ himself did it. I mean really, look at his legacy from one simple man. Imagine if millions of people (Christians) did the same. The entire planet would convert to Christianity within weeks.

flutherother's avatar

There is no demonstration God could make that would ultimately convince because the demonstration (golden clouds parting/lightning/white bearded figure in the sky) would be a demonstration rather than God himself. God appears and convinces from within or not at all and when he speaks it is with a quiet voice.

Harold's avatar

I may be repeating what others have said here, but good things bear repeating. I think the days of proselytising are long gone (and I am a Christian, by the way). The way to convince people of the reality of your faith is:
1. Be genuinely interested in their point of view, not just politely listening so you can correct them.
2. Be interested in them as a person, what is important to them.
3. Be their friend, first. Not just because you want to convert them, but because you genuinely want them as your friend.
4. Don’t live under a Christian rock. Get out and mix with people from all walks of life.
5. Love and accept people no matter what they are like, or what they believe.

Just my observations and theories, but I believe it is what Jesus would do.

thekoukoureport's avatar

Do unto others what they would have done unto you.
Judge not, lest ye be judged.
When a “Christian” can learn those two tenets, maybe someone would want to listen to them.
How about following JUST the words of Jesus and leave the rest of the bulls$%^ out, that would make you a Christian.

iamthemob's avatar

What I find amazing about this thread is that there seems to be an almost universal consensus, expressed differently and with varying degrees of emotional content.

It seems like pretty much, you need to ask yourself, looking at his EXAMPLE and the basis of his message and not what religious advocates have perverted his message into over the centuries, that most important question – WWJD (make it your mandate, and not just your bracelet/fashion statement).

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Nullo's avatar

As I said above, being an example is an easy way. Not necessarily the best, though.
Pray for words. Avoid pressuring (conversion under duress isn’t conversion, after all). Be polite. Keep your cool when the inevitable acerbic atheist shows up.
Be an example of the believer. At all times. Especially when you’re representing the King. Which is all the time, but most obvious when witnessing.

jerv's avatar

@Nullo Part of the reason most attempts to get me back to church have failed is that the person trying to convert me is a loud-mouthed, egotistical douche. (Some are merely unconvincing, but most (so far) have been dicks.) I can be reasoned with, and I will remain courteous so long as you are polite to me and don’t try the ”“hard sell” approach, but push too hard and I push back hard, and if you get too rude with me, that is like starting a pissing contest with a skunk.

I think I speak for most people when I say that being pushy or rude doesn’t work, whether you are selling religion or home electronics.

Jabe73's avatar

There seems to be some problems with your question here. The thought of an eternal hell if you do not “believe” you are a hell deserving sinner who needed a Savior named Jesus Christ to pay the price for your sins is not a very appealing belief system for obvious reasons. I guess I should ask a question on how I can convert Evangelical Christians to the truth of Spiritualism or Wicca since my beliefs were the best thing to happen to me. See my point?

Getting back to the answering your question you will probally have a very tough sell to most reasonable educated people. Judging by your link it seems you take the bible literally so that’s why I think you will have a hard time here (even if you’re courteous). Your best bet would be to emphasize “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” (there are several religions that already emphasize this statement as it is outside of Christianity) rather than the threat of eternal hell by lack of faith or Jesus being the only way to heaven.

Harold's avatar

@Jabe73 – This is a basic problem. Too many Christians hold on to the anti-Christian belief that there is an eternally burning hell. This is an affront to God, and to Christianity, and is certainly not in the bible. Trying to convert people by scaring them about hell is not just wrong, it is evil.

Nullo's avatar

Ultimately, it’s not you who does the converting. Remember that.

@Harold The Bible most certainly speaks of a Hell, though perhaps it may not look like the pop culture rendition. And after that, we have the Lake of Fire over there in Revelation.
I don’t know that I’d call warning people about Hell any more evil than telling the passengers of the Titanic that the ship struck an iceberg and is going down. “And if you get into a lifeboat, there will be blankets and hot chocolate at the end of all of this!”

Jabe73's avatar

@Nullo It all comes down to how a person interprets the bible. From what I am aware of the Authorized King James Version mentions the word “hell” more than the other bibles. Now we are getting into an entirely different subject here. Now we are asking which bible should we read. I am fully aware of many Christians who believe in “soul sleep” until Judgment Day, where the souls of the wicked/unbelievers will be destroyed in the Lake of Fire rather than eternal suffering. Now we are adding confusion to the mix here in a Christian trying to spread their gospel to a non-believer. See the problem?

Nullo's avatar

The trouble with the my-interpretation-is-different approach is that then there is no support for anything. The at-face-value crowd (not what it’s actually called, but the proper term eludes me at the moment, and “literalist” is misleading since parts of the Bible – like parables – are clearly allegorical) can point to Scripture and say, “This is what it says, that is what I do.” Provided that they have a good translation, of course.
Ultimately, a person’s interpretation doesn’t matter: truth is not determined by popularity.

Thammuz's avatar

@Nullo truth is not determined by popularity.
The first fucking time i’ve ever agreed with you.

Hobbes's avatar

@Nullo – The trouble with the at-face-value crowd is that while some parts of the Bible are clearly speaking literally, much of it is not is not so clear cut. Many sections have many possible meanings, translations and levels of implication, and to take them all at face value is to greatly over-simplify the text.

Even the most hard-line fundamentalist must select parts of the Bible to emphasize and must ignore some completely (the bits about stoning folks, for example).

Harold's avatar

@Nullo – sorry, it does not. When it says burn forever and ever, the original language means until its job is done. The old testament said that Sodom and Gomorrah would burn “forever and ever”, but I don’t see the smoke still rising, do you? The lake of fire in Revelation will go out when its job is done. God would not perform a continual miracle to keep people alive in torture. That is a perversion of clear scripture. I would not worship a God who kept the flames of a hell burning forever.

jerv's avatar

One of my common arguments with many Christians boils down to the vast variety of interpretations and the quality of translations of the Bible. If Christians will start wars amongst themselves over this issue then how can you expect me to agree with you; you can’t even agree with yourselves!

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@jerv Agreed. That’s why it is so important for people to actually read the Bible for themselves numerous times throughout their lives. It speaks strongest to those who study it and the many interpretations can actually serve a good purpose for some by providing multiple insights where one is more applicable to the individual heart than others.

As well, different versions serve the purpose of allowing individual reader to approach the essence of meaning at their own pace, peeling away the essence of meaning as much as the reader is capable of digesting in any given level of their study.

For instance, as a child, I was not concerned nor capable of grasping original Greek translations from the Childrens Picture Bible. And only now as an adult do I fathom the deeper meaning behind oddities of Jesus and the fig tree. It wasn’t until the past few years that I grasped the difference between the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

iamthemob's avatar


I agree with you on the familiarity one should have with the Bible – but I wonder whether it’s important to have aspects of it down for the purposes of the OPs question. Considering that the themes are the most important aspects (he should be trying) to communicate, might it suffice to know those themes, and not get into the bible at all? (I think that the bible – truth – disproven – etc. argument is inevitable once you mention the bible).

Or, do you think it’s necessary to engage in such study before an attempt to “witness” is to begin.


In all honesty (and I apologize if I missed it) what do YOU mean by “witness”?

Seek's avatar


Considering how many atheists are well-versed in Biblical lore, if a “witness” attempts to do so without a thorough knowledge of the text upon which his religion is based, he may find he has come into a battle of wits unarmed.

You cannot escape the fact that the religion is based on the Bible.

iamthemob's avatar


But you can escape the dogmatic adherence to the Bible as doctrine, and talk about the messages that seem universal.

Regardless of the bad, there’s definitely some good in there. Anyone who insists on talking about where the details are clearly wrong…well, whatever the OP thinks “witnessing” is – that’s probably not going to be a successful attempt.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Yes I agree @iamthemob. It is very common for me to answer a question on this forum with a simple story from the Bible, Buddhism, or the Bhagavad Gita. Though sometimes I mention the source text, I’ll often leave that out and simply mention the characters. Indeed, it is the lesson which matters most.

@Seek_Kolinahr “You cannot escape the fact that the religion is based on the Bible”

I’ll disagree with that. Religion (Christianity), IMO, is based upon twisting the Bible to fit a particular agenda. And not only are Christians guilty of this, but Atheists will bend the text to fit their agendas as well. I believe in the bottom of my heart that the entire notion of Christianity is based upon a false reading of the Bible.

Christ never once suggested worshiping him. He was the originator of The Way, and the disciples were followers of The Way. The Synagogue was supposed to be replaced with the Kingdom of Heaven within you. The Law was fulfilled. Christ never intended for a religion of any kind to form out of his teachings. He never intended that Catholics require a medium to attain Gods forgiveness either. The Way gave all people the glory of Heaven directly within them, without a Church or a Law to pass self righteous judgment upon anyone ever again.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Two days ago, a couple of nice ladies stopped by my house and knocked on my door. I opened the door and was confronted by an immediate pitch that had obviously been worked out in advance. Without asking if I had the time or interest, the ladies began telling me how much God loved me and what he had planned for my eternity.

I politely listened for approximately one minute, before I dared interrupt between her breath.

“Hi”, I said. “I’m Clyde. What’s your names?”...

“Oh sorry, I’m Jan and this is Lisa. But what we’re really wanting to share with you is Gods…”

She kept flipping back and forth between her bookmarked bible and reading scriptures aloud to me. I had to stop her and ask…

“Excuse me, but is there something I can do for you ladies today? Where are we going with all of this?”

She said “Well we just wanted to leave this booklet with you telling you about Gods plan for your life and eternity”.

I asked, “Is that a Bible?”

She said “No, but it tells you about Gods plan for…”

“Yes I understand, but isn’t that what the Bible does too?”

“Oh yes of course it does.”

“Well then I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in your booklet if it’s not a Bible. Have you ever actually read the Bible?

She paused, and shyly admitted that she had not.

I kindly recommended that she sit down and take the time to do so. I didn’t think she should be out knocking on doors trying to tell people something about that which she’d never read herself. I find many Christians are eager to share what they do not have. Christ only shared what he did have.

iamthemob's avatar


I actually now am really wondering what would happen if they had come to your door and asked you to tell them about your beliefs.

I feel like that would be a brilliant change.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

PupnTaco's avatar

As above: best way – don’t do it at all.

If others are interested, they’ll ask. It’s not as if Christianity is some hot secret no one’s heard of.

Pushing it on people is just obnoxious, really.

everephebe's avatar

Do not, “present” or share your faith. Just be a really good human being. When people ask you why you are such a wonderful creature, tell them it’s that you’re a Christian. Go from there.

Also, another thought, make the Earth a better place now- and don’t wait for hereafter. That will get people’s attention. And if it doesn’t… well at least you’ll have made a positive difference. Rubbing your god in people’s faces don’t work. Being good, like Daniel, might.

ShanEnri's avatar

As one christian to another, imagine what Jesus would say and/or do when approaching those you wish to speak to! I’m a firm believer in not ‘pushing’ my beliefs on others, so I approach very few people! Live as an example and always remember love is the greatest witness!

Flavio's avatar

My problem with religious folk is that they scare me. Given the power of the radical right-wing in this country and their assault on the institutions that I, as a Jewish-born, atheist, gay psychiatrist, find most sacred: a secular state, free quality public education, science (NIH funding, etc), and higher education. I am also deeply offended about the bigoted anti-gay position of most people of faith. That said, I’ve read the bible and the quran, I have not fully read Talmud, but have some parts. I also am pretty familiar with the histories of the major religions. I like this discussion, but only if I am sure that at the end there won’t be an emotional (or physical) lynching.

iamthemob's avatar

PS – my new favorite quote from the doc “Deliver Us from Evil”: “Remember, the only time Jesus ever got angry was in church,.”

Harold's avatar

@jerv – you see, people misrepresent Christianity because of teachings that are not part of it. I’ll bet not all atheists agree on everything, and I’ll bet they’ve even argued over some things!! I can accept any variations in teachings and interpretations, but not hell, because it misrepresents God.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

This has been an interesting thread. @angelsofhope2008 hasn’t made a public appearance on Fluther since posting the question. I sincerely hope he or she comes back, either with a response or just to be interactive in general.

jerv's avatar

@Harold I hear so many contradictory representations that I can rest assured that none of them are completely accurate.

fundevogel's avatar

@jerv I don’t know the name of it but that’s a fallacy. The fact that there are many contradictory claims does not mean they must all be wrong.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

If you truly love and respect others, don’t preach to them at all! Evangelism is imposing your faith on others fully capable of making their own choices.

I know you will disregard my answer. You were looking for the best way to hook more converts.

Seek's avatar

@Harold Atheists don’t all claim to get their viewpoints from the same source. ^_^

jerv's avatar

@fundevogel Technically correct, but separating the wheat from the chaff is a bitch. Odds are that at least some are mostly correct, but “mostly” isn’t good enough for me, and I don’t feel like dedicating my life to comparing thousands of belief systems to determine which are right about what. And in the event that there is one that is 100% correct, it is so lost in the noise that I don’t think any human could recognize it as such, especially with everyone convinced that they are completely correct.

Janka's avatar

Don’t try and witness.

Live a good life, be a kind person, make yourself and others happy. Atheists are (or are not) as likely as anyone to value the good and the kind, and to seek a happy life. Let the tree be known by its fruit.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Forgive me if I am just repeating what has been said above, but I think the best way is to kindly ask people if they want to hear about your beliefs. Either that, or go to formal debates and events where you already know everyone wants to talk about religion. People will not respond well if your preaching is unsolicited.

As an atheist and an ex-Christian, if you came to my door and wanted to talk to me about Christianity, I would invite you in and talk to you at length about it. I happen to enjoy religious debates, but not many people do, and even less like the confrontational approach.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I know a guy that strapped a ten foot wooden cross on his back and dragged it across Texas.

Boy did he get some attention.

Judi's avatar

The best way to tell people about Jesus is to be like Jesus. “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep.”
You don’t even need to mention his name. If you are truly trying to emulate Jesus, they will see the fruits of your spirit and approach you.
No one wants to be preached at, but if someones car breaks down, they really need help pushing it, and they might even need help paying for the mechanic.
No one likes standing in line in the grocery store behind a stinky homeless person, while he counts out his pennies, but Jesus would pay they guys bill.
Jesus would tend the wounds of the guy dieing of aids, and not lecture him about his lifestyle.
It gives us a great sense of satisfaction to help pretty little orphans in other countries, but Jesus calls us to also help the not so pretty. To love convicts and prostitutes.
Be Jesus, love first, let God do the judging, and His glory will shine. He’ll take a little bit of your faithfulness and multiply it for his good.

I haven’t read any other responses yet, so forgive me if I have repeated any-one’s answers.

Judi's avatar

St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel. And if necessary, use words.”

Judi's avatar

My daughter just had a theological conversation with her 4 year old and posted it on facebook.
Liam: Mom, why did Jesus go on the cross?
Me: So that we could know him and how much he loves us. And so that we could share that love with others and all live together in heaven after we die.
L: (thoughtful) If I go on the cross will I be able to get everyone into heaven?
Me: No, Sweetie, Jesus was perfect, and he already did that for everyone. All he asks us to do is love others as ourselves.
L:Well, I’m not gonna love strangers or bad guys!
Me: That is exactly what Jesus did! And we should try to do the same to honor him.
L: (Skeptical) Yeah Well…. HE was perfect!
Me: (Cracking up)

filmfann's avatar

The best way to witness to others is to be a good example.
Don’t corner them and creep them out. don’t burden them with something they don’t think they want to hear. Be a good person. they will be drawn to you, and when the time is right, you can share why you are this way.

Kardamom's avatar

It is extremely disrespectful to impose your religion on, or in your words, “witness,” to people who are aetheists or people of other faiths. Just like you, atheists and people of other faiths, have come to their beliefs in ways that are deeply personal to them. If somebody specifically asks you about your religion, then by all means tell them what you believe, but it is the height of arrogance and rudeness to attempt to change or explain or “educate” to those who are non believers in your particular religious flavor, denomination or faith, why they should believe like you do. Imagine if things were turned around the other way and people came knocking on your door to tell you that YOUR beliefs were wrong and have been come by in a wrong manner. You would be angry and devastated. One’s belief in a particular faith, or the lack thereof, are personal and should kept personal. If you are a minister, then minister to your flock but leave everyone else to make their own personal decisions for themselves.

Jeruba's avatar

I wonder if any converts are ever actually made this way. Converts are made, but is this the way? I think it must be successful to a degree, or people wouldn’t do it, just like sending spam.

Perhaps some people are only waiting to be invited. Perhaps some people are so lost and needy that any answer is like a life preserver. Perhaps some people have nothing like a belief or answer of their own, and it’s enough for them to know that someone else is satisfied with what they’ve found; they’ll try it too. Are those people better off or worse off if someone comes to their door or addresses them on the street?

A proselytizer who has been directed to go into all the world and preach and bear witness, who has been told to expect to be reviled, and who has been taught that there is more joy in heaven over one lost sheep who is found than over the ninety-nine righteous, won’t be discouraged by a few disgruntled atheists and believers in other teachings.

fundevogel's avatar

@Jeruba Honestly, I always wonder how they find people to preach to. The vast majority of people in the US are already Christian. Unless they’re trying to convert to a specific cadre like Mormons or Witnesses I expect most would be converts already are.

Jeruba's avatar

@fundevogel, there are plenty of Christians who honestly believe that unless you subscribe to their doctrines, you won’t be saved. I can remember many an earnest, troubled debate in Sunday school classes during my teen years over whether the Episcopalians or the Lutherans or the Presbyterians were “real” Christians in the sense that our denomination meant it. (Catholics, of course, were out of the question: the next thing to heathens and idolaters.) On the one hand, were they not true believers in and adherents of a genuine faith? We didn’t know what was in their hearts; only God could judge them. On the other, if they could do things that were forbidden by our prohibitions and still be saved (for instance, go to dances, smoke, play cards, wear makeup), why couldn’t we?

If all so-called Christians but your own sect and its very close cousins are candidates for the message, the field is wide open.

Besides, some born-agains like to get saved every now and then. It’s so cathartic after you’ve backslidden a little. You get to run wild for a while and then go weep at the altar, plead for forgiveness, and get up feeling all clean, with people praising the Lord and hallelujahing around you. It’s a rush.

Is there any chance that everyone will ever come to full agreement with one another? No. There will always be somebody to preach to.

TexasDude's avatar

I kindof wish the guy who asked this question didn’t just disappear off the face of the earth.

Jeruba's avatar

Look at his profile. Assuming it’s true, there’s enough information in it for a positive ID without straining your Google hand.

laureth's avatar

@fundevogel – My mother-in-law is a Christian missionary, who goes to Greece. Now, when I think of Greece, I think “place where a lot of the Gospel was written, and why do they need Missionaries?” But apparently there’s a thriving trade in converting Greek Orthodox to Free Methodist. Who knew?

fundevogel's avatar

@laureth I certainly didn’t.

fundevogel's avatar

@Jeruba ugh, his articles hurt my liberal brain…and he uses worldnetdaily as a source.

cockswain's avatar

Every time someone tries to convert me, I try to convert them. It has never worked in either direction, so maybe there’s a lesson in there.

krose1223's avatar

To answer the question I only have a few things to say to you. Just say no. Be smart, don’t start. Preach free is the way to be. Stay alive, don’t proselytize. God makes your brain rot, so lets not.

All the best question askers disappear.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Your biggest battle is going to be overcoming those ministers who came before you. Don’t threaten to burn Korans, and don’t hold protests at soldiers funerals. I’m a Christian, and that kind of supposed “representation” makes me sick to my stomach. Those things have probably done more to turn away people “on the fence” than anything else could have.

Your way is not the only way.

mattbrowne's avatar

Talk about yourself and don’t use the pronoun you (let alone the words you should). Explain why you see the world the way you see it. Explain what you think Christianity has to offer. Let other people come to their own conclusions and decisions.

My general view is: what works for me might not necessarily work for other people.

I’m a theist, but I do respect and appreciate atheists. Most of my friends here on Fluther are atheists. Sometimes a few of them do generalize about organized religion or even get aggressive. But to me that’s no reason to get aggressive as well. Christian nutcases do get aggressive. Good Christians don’t.

manofgod's avatar

First all you need to do is plant the seed, and let God make sure it grows. You don’t know for sure if the seeds really grew or not.If god is involved then some of them took what you said to heart.don’t let the devil make you believe that your not reaching people

gravity's avatar

To speak your truth or what you believe to be the truth to others would be witnessing what you believe as truth. Witnessing. Maybe Jesus didn’t go around trying to convince others of what he believed to be true but he did speak the truth to them. That seems like witnessing to me, maybe I am wrong. I do remember all the times that my family tried to convince me how wrong my beliefs were for so long because I turned away from christianity and no longer believed. I also felt that I had read so much (in the occult and new age writings) about twisted scripture and the bible’s contradictions that christians were sad, narrow minded people who just didn’t see the big picture. I actually thought I understood the bible better as a non believer than as a church going christian I had been in the past.

I had no real understanding either time though to be perfectly honest…(because there was no real seeking of relationship on my part) but you couldn’t have convinced ME of that! I am even told I would see it as foolishness when I had no faith. I know I can’t convince anyone to see as I have seen and experienced and witnessed with my own eyes. But I can share what He has done for me and how I have been healed. I can relate to a broken person who needs someone to listen to them because they are down and out or addicted and broken. I can encourage them and I can pray for them because it isn’t anything that “I” do or say that changes a man’s heart or mind or spirit. I know that… but I still have to share how I experience life now versus then.

Being genuine and down to earth when you relate to anyone about anything is always going to put someone at ease I would think.

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InHim's avatar

As a former buddhist, I would like to share briefly what eventually lead me to Christ. I was fortunate to be surrounded by kind, caring Christians who were more interested in establishing a relationship with me first before trying to “convert me.” We openly shared our beliefs with each other respectfully, no hint of condemnation or judgement on their part (I had gotten that from family and well-meaning Christians my whole adult life).

Although most people focus on differences, there are similar concepts between many of the major religions of the world to begin a dialogue with non-believers. Paul is the perfect example of reaching out to others with different faiths. When Paul was in Athens, he first recognized the people’s obvious strong faith and their recognition of an unknown God, before he shared his faith. He did not compromise in sharing the gospel, but he was respectful and thoughtful in dialoguing with them for several days. This is how one of the Christians shared the bible with me. Anytime I mentioned a Buddhist concept, she gently showed me a similar concept in the bible. Fortunately, she knew her bible inside out and did not offer pat answers. She was not out to debate me or show me the error of my ways, but to have an open, meaningful dialogue. Believe it or not Christianity and Buddhism share similar concepts and even one story. For example, a rich guy goes to Jesus/Buddha to become his follower. In Christianity, the guy leaves Jesus because he can not give up his great wealth, but in Buddhism the guy forsakes all and follows the Buddha.

Lastly, non-Christians may not know our doctrines, but they know enough about Jesus and Christianity to see a hypocrite a mile away. I watched my new Christian friends like a hawk at first, but realized that they lived what they preached. I worked in trying circumstances with one of them. She didn’t gossip or slander people at work. She was quick to apologize and ask for forgiveness when we had a disagreement (I had never had anyone do that before, especially a Christian). She was kind and respectful to employees and customers alike. She was a ” epistle read by all men.” Unfortunately, I think that today’s Christians forget that they are talking so loud with their actions that no one can hear their words or even want to listen to them.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@InHim Would you expect a non-Christian, as the converse of your last paragraph, to gossip, slander, refuse to apologise, never ask forgiveness, be unkind and disrespectful? How does this behaviour lead you to be convinced of the truth of their beliefs? Surely a believer in any other religion may be just as compassionate and respectful (of course if you select an appropriate candidate). Isn’t it more a character trait than a result of peculiar beliefs?

Thammuz's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh @InHim Indeed. Furthermore how does any of that argue towards their case?

I live by what i “preach”, i say i don’t believe in god and i actually don’t believe in god, does this make atheism look any better to anyone?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Thammuz I don’t think your example is really practising what you preach. Living by what you preach is about living according to a behavioural ideal that you believe would be good for all people to practice. Preaching isn’t just stating what you think, it is telling people who they should be and how they should act.

HannahHunney's avatar

Be willing to give equal and thoughtful and openminded consideration to what the non religious person has to say.

Thammuz's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Living by what you preach is about living according to a behavioural ideal that you believe would be good for all people to practice.

Which, in my case, is that people shouldn’t believe. In god, or anything else, because believing in somehting without actual evidence is arrogant and stupid and denotes either incapability of understanding the limits of your perception (thinking personal experience is evidence) or incapability of rational analisys.

Aside for that, I don’t pretend to know what’s better for humanity, as long as you stay out of my business you can do whatever you want.

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