I had a fascinating evening on Friday spending time in a totally secular group. Working for the church I find that I very rarely meet with a group that isn't made up of a majority of Christians or at least some Christians. However on Friday it was just me.
One chap, Paul started to tell us all "a funny story" about a girlfriend who had told him, "There are three of us in this relationship; you me and God!" Then realising that he didn't know me (my friend had only introduced me to him some ten minutes before!), he asked (with a nonne) "You're not religious at all are you?"*smirk* "Actually I work for a church." says I *GRIN* **innocent smile**
When he'd picked his chin up from the table he then proceeded to quiz me closely on the existence of God, Life after death, sex before marriage, evolution, the selfishness of humanity, the pointlessness of life and so much more. My friend felt he'd rather dropped me in it but actually I found it really challenging.
I dispelled a few myths that "ALL CHRISTIANS" believe certain things and talked to him a lot about the difference between God and religion (as he'd had a bad experience with a church which he felt had taken advantage of him when he was having a difficult time in life.)
Paul eventually stopped asking questions but only because the rest of the group were getting bored and some even a little freaked that we were even talking about it.
It was later in the evening that Paul returned to the topic. It was my turn to challenge him. I told him I was fascinated that he had so many questions about it
all as this showed that he wanted to know and wanted answers, despite his voluble rejection of it all as pathetic.
I was really pleased to spend time with these people, some of whom were really lovely kind and deep people (it was in the pub so some were, shall we say, less than "deep"!). It reassured me, in fact, that life without faith, without faith-based values can be so lacking in HOPE. Some of them genuinely believed that their lives didn't matter; that what they did didn't matter and this so much determined how they spent their time, not valuing themselves and settled unhappily in damaging relationships. It wasn't the time for preaching, for bible-bashing, for heavy duty moralising. I hope I showed my faith without words with most of them. I don't know. I may never know. What it DID tell me was that we in churches SO need to get outside of them more often.
It is wonderful for Christians to have a supportive community in which they are fed every Sunday (or every day... or perhaps only every month) yet I think we all need to be incredibly conscious of being the Christian in the world the rest of the time, to "shine as points of light in the darkness" through our faith and our actions. I think this may in fact be easier for those who don't work for the church as their full time employment. I remember when I was a university lecturer, most of my students and colleagues were non-Christians and life was therefore very different. It was interesting that Christian students and colleagues just KNEW I was a Christian. So too, some non-Christians just KNEW I was a Christian and even asked me about it all yet I didn't speak of my faith that often.
As we are not so able to do it, those of us working for the church should perhaps be concentrating on empowering those who spend their time outside the church to speak humbly and simply about what they believe and why. For youth workers of course, that means not only adults but young people.
How do we show young people how to share their faith in a humble way that doesn't make people feel "got at" as Paul experienced?