Alister McGrath clearly loves apologetics (check out the interview here), and so did I. The cut-and-thrust of defending the faith, the hours spent wrestling with life’s mysteries and condensing them down into easily memorisable sound bites (I found it helped if they could be reduced to no more than three points, which preferably started with the same letter, or rhymed).
I slowly began to realise though, that you can’t argue someone into a relationship with Jesus. Even if you convince them of the plausibility of the resurrection or the reliability of the gospels, their lives rarely seem to be transformed. Strange that.
So over the last few years I thought I’d try a different tack. It occurred to me that Jesus allowed people to experience his love (through healings, deliverance, miraculous feeding, showing them love, acceptance, etc.) and then invited them to join him on the discipleship journey.
So rather than trying to persuade our friends that it made intellectual sense to explore the Christian faith, we began to invite them to join us in experiencing Jesus.
Around this time we were beginning to explore Christian contemplative practices, so we simply began to invite friends to explore this with us. Together we imaginatively entered gospel stories, tried to listen to God through nature, and experimented with creative forms of prayer and meditation. As we grew in confidence we took small groups away on retreat days, and ran sessions in a local community centre and at a local community festival.
The results? Well, we have seen a handful of people come to faith, but just as significantly, almost everyone had a positive experience. Although from our viewpoint these experiences didn’t obviously move many people closer to Jesus, it did give them a rare positive experience of Christianity, and you can’t put a price on that!
I’m not saying there isn’t a place for apologetics. If friends have genuine questions about the faith then of course we need to be willing to share our understanding. But I’ve found that in our spiritually curious culture, a better place to start is by creating informal, creative spaces for people to experience something of Jesus. Experiencing Jesus is, after all, the very essence of our faith, so what better place is there to start?!
What’s been your experience of sharing your faith?