Your Friend, the Non-Believer
If you look around, you probably know people who don’t believe in Jesus. Maybe quite a few. Occasionally, you run into someone that sticks with you . . . someone you’re drawn to and who’s drawn to you. What to do?
First, pray. Is this an opportunity God has put in your path? Or is it your idea to do something good for God? Or is it just a chance to someday brag about how you “led them to the Lord?” If God gives you a peace and an unction to engage, you’re being invited into a great work He’s doing. Run with it.
Second, you’ve got to choose to love the person. You may like each other as acquaintances today but conversations about faith can quickly bring division, even enmity. So pray up and get ready to love him no matter what he says or what happens. You can’t minister to someone you don’t love. And he won’t care to know what you believe or what you have to say if he doesn’t know you care.
Third, ask yourself this question. “Is he disrupted?” There are two kinds of disruption: negative (painful) or positive (visionary). Negative disruption is “heat.” People are more apt to openness and change when they’re in trouble than when everything’s going smoothly. Positive disruption is “light” . . . where people see someone, a future, a better version of themselves and they’re disrupted by the desire to have it. It’s pretty hard to motivate anyone to new ideas or beliefs if they’re not disrupted. Sometimes the best you can do is position yourself in their lives so they remember and turn to you for help when they are disrupted.
Fourth, try to hone in on his specific doubts and hang-ups. One of the most effective questions I’ve used in these conversations, not right off the bat but after the person knows you’re trying to help them (and trusts that you’re not just trying to ‘save’ them) is this. “What are the three biggest hang-ups you have about becoming a Jesus-follower?” (Not a Christian . . . that’s a loaded word these days!) Do not try to answer or respond to his questions on the spot. That’ll make him feel that your answers are canned. Write down their questions and then respond by saying, “Let me work on these for you. I’ll reach out when I have something worth sharing.” (This gives you another reason to purposely get back together). Then go pray; ask God to lead you to the Truth He has for your friend. Do some reading and research. Go back to your friend with real, individualized, relevant answers to his questions.
Finally, you might ask him to study the Bible with you for a month or so. Yeah, I know . . . that seems over the top. But you might be surprised by his willingness and by the outcome. Years ago, I put together a study of the book of John that has a short reading assignment and a personalized prayer every day for 30 days. I asked an unbelieving friend to do this with me and he shocked me by saying yes. We met once a week to discuss what “bubbled up” from his reading and prayer. Before we finished the study, he chose to believe in Jesus.
Prayer, obedience and intentionality. That’s our part. God does the rest.
God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)