A couple weeks ago I received an email from a guy identifying himself as a leader in a local atheist’s club. He asked if their group could attend Verve, explaining that it would be “unseemly for a group of heathen to show up unannounced.” I explained to him that heathen would fit in very well at Verve, and that since our church attracts all kinds of people, they would certainly not be alone. I also asked if I could buy them lunch after church. He agreed, and last weekend 28 atheists showed up, experienced our service, and then had lunch with our staff.
At lunch I explained that my goal was to get to know them relationally, not to debate with them. That I follow the teachings of Jesus, who says that all things should be done in love, and that debating with people you’ve never met doesn’t seem very loving to me. So it was mostly a social time.
At the end of our time I told them I admired that they came to our service, and that I’d like to follow their example and come to their next meeting. They said I could, and I am going tonight.
A couple of them warned me, before leaving, that if I attended their meeting I would be attacked. That’s what I hope doesn’t happen. It’s not that I’m afraid of it – I became a Christian by trying to disprove the Bible, I went to Law School, I have shelves full of books on evidence for the existence of God and the veracity of the Bible and Jesus and His resurrection. I teach classes on this stuff!
But I don’t want to go in as an adversary, or be made into one. I don’t want to get into a debate tonight. In fact, I think I’d refuse to. I really want this to be relational, and to build friendships with these people. Then, within the context of that friendship, if they want to pursue truth together, that would be great because we could do it in love.
So if you could pray that that’s what happens, I would appreciate it. Thanks!