Thinking Out Loud

July 21, 2017

Getting to Know People in a Godless Society

Filed under: Christianity, evangelism, Faith, ministry, parenting — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:54 am

I like to talk.

I don’t have a lot of hobbies, so I thrive on faith-focused conversations.  These usually take two forms.

The first is conversations with those outside the faith. I’ve learned a few things over the years about theodicy, that branch of apologetics which attempts to explain the nuances of Christianity to outsiders. I thrive on this. Just hours before writing this, I was talking to a pastor about a church we visited when our kids were small which had a staff member designated as “Minister of Assimilation.” Aside from any weird science-fiction imagery, I liked the idea of integrating new people into the family and explaining how the family operates, our traditions and our key values.

The second is conversations with brothers and sisters. Considering a doctrinal idea. Encouraging one another with a particular verse or Bible passage. Networking to connect someone with a particular individual or resource which can potentially make a difference in their life, or having them do the same for me. Praying together. Singing together. Sharing our faith stories…

…What was unusual about the trip Europe was that I couldn’t get the conversation going. At the end of Day Four, in desperation, I emailed eight friends back home:

I know I live a lot of my life in the Evangelical bubble but it is strange to be in an environment where a faith-focused conversation is elusive.

We met some people from Sydney so I asked them if they had heard of Hillsong. They had but that was the end of it. This has happened many times. I toss out key words. I quote Jesus as casually as if I’m quoting Mark Twain. The conversation shuts down. No one takes the bait.

I did get to talk to one guy & shared the idea that to make the claims he made Jesus had to be deranged, deceptive or divine. On the 3rd possibility he just shut it down with “But there is no God.”

Now I know why Missionaries work so long before they see results.

Otherwise things going well.

So aside from noting my brilliant alliterative update to the “Liar, Lunatic or Lord” apologetic, I think you can see the frustration that I was experiencing. I really, really wanted to find someone to connect with over the thing that most excites me (church, Bible, worship, teaching). Or the One (Jesus).

The conversations never happened. Not in the dining room. Not on the sun deck. Not in the buses. Not on the streets. Perhaps God was telling me, ‘I don’t need you to be working for me all the time; kick back and have a vacation.’

It was bad enough touring through a very post-Christian society without having to face it on the boat. Supposedly about 37% of my fellow travelers were American. So where were the Southern Baptist Republicans I’ve heard so much about?

Not, as it turns out, on an expensive river cruise with an open bar.


Four days later we discovered over lunch that one of the four people from Sydney was a Christian. Same denomination as I am, in fact. I looked forward to continuing the conversation and learning more about her church, but we never actually connected past that point in the trip.  


Sidebar: Be prepared. I packed three (different) Bibles to give away to people I met on the trip… and I brought three Bibles home with me. Just never had that sense to go ahead and give one. That’s a first.

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3 Comments »

  1. I love to talk to people too. I enjoy it very much. But I am finding more and more that people are losing heart or maybe the patience?

    Last week I went to a concert. I love to go and talk to people and listen to the music. As much as I tried to talk to people they shut out. They wanted to be on the phone. Or just stoppped talking. One woman was very rude and told me to stop talking to her. I found it very odd.

    I feel sorry for these people in a way. Because they are missing out.

    Comment by angie — July 21, 2017 @ 8:50 am

  2. I hope that you had a chance to engage in conversation about what was interesting and life fulfilling to the other people on the cruise. Sometimes it’s about listening and building relationship and not about evangelizing. Books read? Places visited? What is your area of Canada like? How is that the same/different from where others are from? There is a lot to talk about in this world (and God is there in all of it) that is not church or religion focussed and that does not require an up to date competency with Christianese.

    Comment by Beth — July 21, 2017 @ 11:26 am

    • Yes we definitely did that. We didn’t retreat into a corner when people were not reacting to certain key words or phrases but we met them where they were and possibly by doing so shared more of our lives than we realize.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — July 21, 2017 @ 12:54 pm


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