Engaging Culture

Connecting People to Religious Belief

I love theology and doctrine.  I have a Ph.D. because I enjoy studying “why we believe what we believe.”  But the truth is – except for very few cases – we connect with people not on the intelligence of our argument, but because they see the message working in our lives.  C.S. Lewis is said to have come to Christ after intellectually weighing the alternatives and coming to the conclusion that Christianity was the best answer.   Others like my friend Lee Strobel made similar decisions.   But the truth is, most people don’t take the time or effort to connect the factual dots in a similar fashion.  They believe, because they see it working in someone’s life.  As Rick Warren said with respect to evangelism, “It’s about deeds, not creeds.”

How else can you explain people who follow heresy, mistakes, and outright bad belief?

For instance, I have close friends who are Mormons.  I love these guys.  Our kids went to school together.  But I can’t help but think that if they really examined the core positions of the Mormon faith, they would re-think why they believe.  But they don’t, because they didn’t become Mormon because of an intellectual search, but because of emotional, family, or other relationships.  I even had one Mormon friend tell me privately, “I know the Mormon faith doesn’t make a lot of sense from a  historic or intellectual point of view, but I converted because I loved how strong their families were, and I wanted to experience that.”

Some ministries are obsessed with “the defense of the gospel” and apologetics.  (The web is full of these sites.)  And I don’t minimize their importance.  But if we’re going to impact the culture today, we won’t do it by telling people what they’re doing wrong, or by connecting intellectual principles, we’ll do it by showing with our lives that we’re doing it right.

Particularly in a post-modern culture, your life is more influential than the facts.

Live the way you want people to believe.  Tell the story better, and live it out.   As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

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6 Comments

  1. Great thought-provoking post, Phil. A great reminder that it's less about a one-time salvation transaction and more about a life-long transformation.

    By the way, I was in your ECHO Conference breakout session and posted my notes in my blog. Thanks for all your work to help the Church matter.

  2. It's good for 12 per-centers to understand how everyone else thinks.  I say 12, 'cause before reading your poll about how people come to faith, I didn't have an exact number for what percentage of us chose Christ through reason.  All I knew was that we were definitely a minority.  We needed to work to connect with the rest of humanity. 

    It's the rational response to our observations and the data.  

    Beyond that, it's valuable to recognize that rational people have prejudices too.  Why should they take the belief systems of apparently dysfunctional people seriously?  That would be irrational.  For this reason, Christians are most likely to be heard by rational thinkers and emotional/intuitive types alike if there are readily apparent benefits to our belief system. 

  3. We are a three part being….a body, a soul, and a spirit.  And because of this fact, I think for many people, they come to Christ via a combination of the three choices, rather than just one alone.  As a child, I think I believed in Christ more through reason and what I saw lived through my grandparents lives.  What I would call my conversion at age 16, was an emotional experience of "weeping all night" in my bedroom because this is when I experientially received and saw the fullness of God's love and grace to me, a sinner.   We also see this in the NT decisions for Christ…some based on the facts, others on emotion and then others on what they saw lived through a believer's life….and then, a combination of the three.

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