Faith in Work
Faith in Work
Sharing your faith in the workplace
Tim Keller recently said: ‘Bad evangelism says: I'm right, you're wrong, and I would love to tell you about it.’ In an age of scepticism, cynicism and post-modernism I think this is a very important statement for us to hear.
I was recently at a dinner hosted by my medical school when I was approached by one of the other final year students. He introduced himself as Adam and as talked he brought up the subject of my faith, which he had heard about through mutual friends. Adam told me that he didn’t believe in God but he had been around the church for most of his life and had tried out the Christianity Explored course. He went on to tell me that he was gay, which he implied was a barrier between him and the church and though he was happy to discuss my faith with me, he didn’t give me the impression he was looking to find faith for himself.
So what could I say? The temptation was to jump on this opportunity and start debating; after all he had brought up the subject so surely I was entitled to tell him what I thought? On current evidence 24 year old men are the hardest group to reach within our culture. It is also in the 18-25 year old group that we are haemorrhaging Christians. A whopping 75% of people who attend church before university will not find and settle into a regular church at university. The battle for 18-25 year olds is one of the hardest fights that we face today and right now we seem to be losing – and yet every day, this is the fight that many of us find ourselves plunged into. So how can we tell our generation about a God that they do not want to know? How should I have responded to Adam?
I fought the temptation to preach to him, instead asking him about his beliefs and how he had come to them. He told me that he didn’t see why the Christian God was any more likely to exist than the Hindu gods or the Allah of Islam and explained that, as a scientist, he thought that belief in God was probably nothing more than peculiar electrical activity in the brain. Some of these statements practically begged me to argue! I’d love to tell him why Jesus is unique, why my faith is more than just weird electrical activity and I have tons of articles and books that I wanted him to read which argue my case with supportive evidence. But I resisted this urge. Because telling Adam that he is wrong in that context was only going to provoke an argument and drive him further from a faith in Jesus. In the way of our post-modern culture he understands (to some degree) what I believe but he rejects that belief for himself, even though he sees the effect my faith has on my life. Many have that knowledge and understanding of the gospel message, what they don’t have is that experience. So when we argue with people are we actually revealing to them deep truths that they’ve never heard? In most cases, probably not. So what are we actually achieving?
People today are not just cynical because they disbelieve the teachings of the church; more than that they are cynical because of their experience of the church itself. Most people’s experience of church is, at best, of a well-meaning but boring and out of touch organisation, and at worst of an institution that is fundamentally judgemental and hypocritical. Many people today have a fairly negative experience of church and when we argue with someone and tell them that they’re wrong we add personal rejection and humiliation to their experience.
How often do we read of Jesus telling people they were wrong in the gospel? Yes he argued with the religious authorities of his time, but they were learned men, knowledgeable of the scriptures, who should have known better and recognised Jesus for who he was. We very rarely read of Jesus arguing or condemning those who were not devoutly religious Jews. Instead we usually read of Jesus eating meals with them which was a sign of friendship in Middle Eastern culture.
Galileo once said ‘You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself’. It is very hard for me to change someone’s understanding of God if they do not want to change it. What I can do is change their experience of God so that they may find the will to change their understanding within themselves. This is what I am endeavouring to do with Adam; loving him for who he is, listening to him and his issues with faith and the church whilst building a relationship with him. Rather than argue him down I’m trying to present the gospel truth in a humble way when asked, but more than that I’m trying to keep the focus on him and his journey. Through our relationship I hope he will feel loved and at peace, I hope his experience of church, embodied in me, will start to be a positive one and, with time, I hope this experience will lead him to explore my faith for himself with an open mind. If that happens, then that is when I’ll start addressing the issues he raises with the Christian faith, hopefully in a humble and compassionate way.
Freddie is a final year medical student at Imperial College in London. At Momentum in the summer he did seminars on how radical living changes people’s misconceptions of Christianity, how passionate discipleship can help us fulfil our potential, and on contemporary evangelism. You can download them from our shop for £1 each.
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