We all have them. Friends who have had a bad experience at church, people we know who have been hurt or judged by Christians, and acquaintances who have seen the freaky side of religion and don't want to get anywhere near it. I feel for these people, I really do. I have been on both sides of the equation, so I know what it is like. I have freaked people out and judged others who are not like me. I have also been judged and condemned and seen things done in the name of God that made me cringe. These things bother me.
For all those people who have had a bad encounter with the church, I am truly story. I wish you could see that Christians can be really cool people: full of life and love, genuine in their honesty, and relentless in their pursuit of truth and transformation. Above all, I wish that you could see that they love God. They really, really love him and everything that he is about, because they know he can be trusted. They are not perfect, and they need grace for their mistakes just like everyone else does, but they are not afraid to give themselves to something, or rather someone, bigger than themselves.
I have quite a few people in my life that are gun-shy about God-stuff, especially church-related issues. I try to be sensitive to their sensitivity, careful what I say around them, restrained in my questions about their beliefs, and never pushing my ideas and experiences onto them. I really want them to like God, because he will be the best friend they ever had. I don't want to push those buttons that remind them of their bad church experience. I want to make them comfortable around me so that they take who I am and what I say seriously.
But honestly, I cannot protect them from ever being turned off or offended. If they came to one of the gatherings where we worship God together, they might see something that would freak them out. They might hear things that they thought were weird. They would probably meet someone who was a bit strange. If you read the gospels, you see Jesus in the middle of a lot of scenarios that would make us uncomfortable: demons screaming, sick people begging, desperate parents crying, prostitutes uncomfortably close, protests breaking out, and really, really, really long talks. Jesus attracts all kinds of people in all stages of life, and that's a very good thing. It give us all hope. It keeps us all in touch with reality.
Yesterday when I was talking to God about some of these people who have been burned by their church experience, he asked me this: "Do you trust the Holy Spirit?" Hmmm, I guess I wasn't acting like I did. Instead, I was trying to make all the circumstances align in order for these people to encounter God in the prefect scenario; I was walking on eggshells hoping not to crack the fragile souls. Be assured that I don't go out of my way to be strange and religious, and I do try to be wise in my words and my actions, but deep down, I know that I will never be able to do it just right. If people don't want to be near God, there will always be a reason they find to stay away. Heck, even Jesus couldn't accomplish that feat. He did it all right and people still walked away.
It is not my job to woo people to God. That's his job. He is the ultimate lover. Do I believe that God knows how to draw people to himself and that despite the crazy mistakes we make as human beings, he can still reveal himself to someone? Absolutely. What is the best way for me to help people get over their fears and hurts regarding Christians? By being myself, relating to them and to God in a natural and loving way, and showing them the truest picture I can of a real and dynamic relationship with God. What they do with that is up to them. I can stop fretting about all the ways I might turn someone off God and relax. The Holy Spirit is present, moving, and active. I trust Him.
This is Dean at the shooting range. He's not afraid of guns because he knows them well.