Practicing social skills, building rapport, and then discerning when and how to reveal my identity as a follower of Christ is often a challenge for me. Prevalent stereotypes and preconceptions about Christians, especially Evangelicals, can make this moment of self-revelation difficult. I understand why Christians feel tempted to avoid it in nearly all circumstances. The range of responses is wide and unpredictable, from instant detachment to awkward silence to verbal assault. Having experienced all these and more, including a range of positive responses, I thought you might like to consider how Kathy and I prepare for these encounters.
First, we ask God to lead us to the people He has prepared for us to meet, people who need a nudge toward faith in Him, whether it be a new or renewed faith, and toward trust in the reliability of His word.
Second, we remind each other that our role is to “infuse nutrients” and watch for the response. By this I’m referring to what an ER surgeon once told us about determining whether injured tissues are alive and treatable or dead. He said, “if the tissue responds to infused nutrients, it’s alive and treatable.” This seems to be a wonderful analogy for interacting with people whose spiritual condition is unknown to us. If we infuse spiritual truth into the conversation and the individual responds, we can gently offer more, as much as the person is ready to receive.
Third, we mention some recent or intriguing discoveries we think people might be eager to hear about. We also practice describing our interests in ways that spark curiosity and invite questions.
I’m glad to report that these simple preparations paid off once again during our late summer travels, including the Burgess Shale Adventure you’ve read about in our various publications and e-communications. One encounter in particular stands out, in part because it came unexpectedly and involved many people through various circumstances.
The encounter began with a friend and RTB chapter leader who could not come with our group but was able to visit the Cambrian fossils on his own a few weeks before we arrived. His gracious demeanor and familiarity with life’s history made a favorable impression on the young geologists who guide visitors along the trails of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our friend paved the way for their interactions with Fuz and me.
When we arrived, these guides were ready for us—ready to raise questions about how we, as scientists and science enthusiasts, view the data and connect it with our biblically based beliefs. I only wish you could have heard the conversations along the trail between each of them—self-described atheistic naturalists—and various members of our group, not just Fuz and me.
I cannot relay them all in this brief letter, but I’d like to share with you a few of the guides’ comments at day’s end. “We’ve never met people like you,” they said, “except for that friend of yours who came a few weeks ago.” They observed not only our group’s eagerness to learn but also our “enthusiastic and confident faith.” They said Fuz and I gave them perspectives they had never heard, and they were amazed to see how well our biblical model for life’s history, based largely on Genesis 1 and Psalm 104, fits the known data. Their encounter with RTB made them excited to hear more.
You and I have all the more reason to prepare ourselves to share about the joy and hope that is ours, as 1 Peter 3:15–16 tells us. Every day I see the value of each word in these verses, which exhort us to honor Christ above all else in life and to approach nonbelievers with gentleness, respect, and a clear conscience. (HR,TBN)
*** Will Myers
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