How to talk to people about God
“Never talk politics or religion!” This statement is practically a Golden Rule today. But, what if we want to talk to someone about God in this increasingly fractured and antagonistic culture? To keep it simple, here are ten do’s and don’t’s:
1. DO – Genuinely Invest Your Heart, Regardless of Outcome – nothing turns off people more than feeling you don’t care about them personally, as though you’re just trying to sell them something or “convert” them to your way of thinking. We EARN the right to talk to someone about God by our genuine concern and commitment to them.
2. DO – Show Respect – today, differing opinions and views can be treated with contempt, which in turn shuts people down from even saying what they actually DO think and believe. Make it clear regardless of a person’s background and beliefs, you respect them and what they think.
3. DO – Listen First and Listen More – in today’s world, we can’t assume we know anyone’s background or beliefs. Be the person who WANTS to know what the other thinks, feels and believes and listen patiently while they tell us. Use active listening – ask questions to help you discover this other person. People want to be truly heard, not talked at.
4. DON’T – Judge – no matter what a person’s background, lifestyle, political or even sexual orientation is, always remember God loves them and provided the same sacrifice for them as He did for you.
5. DO – Find Common Language – since many people have never been to church, they’re not familiar with language commonly used there, but nowhere else. Use words which have common understanding, like love, forgiveness, peace, sacrifice and avoid church specific terms like sanctification, omnipotence and the like. Always ask the question – “does this word get used outside of church”? If it does, use it!
6. DON’T – Think You Have to Have ALL the Answers – many people are afraid to talk to others about God for fear they’ll be asked a question they simply can’t answer. It’s OK! In fact, the Bible itself tells us we won’t have all the answers in this lifetime. Provide as much information as you can, but where the answer is not to be found, be honest about it. We can’t know everything!
7. DO – Attempt to Find Answers to Legitimate Questions – Though we can’t have every answer, many people are held back from belief in God due to a legitimate question which hasn’t been satisfactorily answered for them. In these cases, do everything you can to get them an answer. Remember, even if you don’t know the answer, there are people in the church (like the Pastors) who do! Use all the resources available to you to get an answer – you have the power of the entire church behind you!
8. DO – Be Brutally Honest, Even About Your Own Doubt and Suffering – one of the complaints people outside the church have about those inside is “they’re not REAL – they can’t be that happy and upbeat all the time”. People know there is doubt and suffering in the world, and it makes us more human to them to show we’re not immune to it.
9. DO – Realize It’s a Journey, Not a Destination – accept we have no ultimate control over what a person decides regarding God – it’s a decision between them and God. All you can do is walk with them, give your love and support while settling in for the long haul. Whatever they decide (and whenever they decide it) we need to make the journey with them.
10. DON’T – Ever Give Up – we’ll never know at what point a person’s heart opens up to God, or how long it may take. Never be deterred by the severity of someone’s state – with God, all things are possible. Just recognize things happen in God’s time, not ours.