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Not Beyond Reach
How to Share Jesus with the Young, the Deconstructed, and the Non-Religious
Are you – as a parent or grandparent – concerned about the spiritual health of your kids? Do you sense they’re drifting from the Christian faith they grew up with? Or have they perhaps already outright rejected it? In this series, guest teacher Aaron Pierce – from an international missions organization called Steiger – has some hope and direction for us. He’ll unpack a sequence of intentional conversations you can use to better understand and reconnect with your kids, and lead them to Jesus. Learn why today’s young people are prime to hear the saving message of the Gospel and how you can share it with them.More from this series
The next key principle is to recognize that pretty much everything has spiritual implications. Like, everything that we do and that we talk about has spiritual implications. And that as skilled missionaries to our culture, we need to be in tune and skilled at drawing those conversations out in a natural way.
And that these are often very important things about us. And our goal is to move from the secular and the superficial to the spiritual. How to move our friendships and our conversations from the superficial to the spiritual. And, again, recognizing that I’m just going to list a number of things here. These are just a handful of very general topics that have spiritual implications and they are a part of daily life.
So when people discuss morality or purpose, you know, the purpose of their – what do they do? Their job, right? Or their identity, which is a big one today. Or love and family. You know, work, beauty, hope, dreams, sickness, loss.
All of these things, which are universal in terms of connecting with people, have spiritual implications. And a lot of times when you’re engaging in spiritual conversations, it’s about asking questions that tease out the spiritual implications, right? You don’t have to tell them, you can just ask the question, like, are there universal human rights? Or where does human value come from? Why is it that humans are valuable?
So, a lot of these things are things that we interact with on a daily level with people. As we build those friendships. Remember, the context here is we are developing authentic friendships with people. And that gives us the ability to ask harder questions or get deeper about these things and that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going straight to Jesus and the message of the cross.
That is our goal but I am now challenging the underlying assumption, I’m getting people to think about why they believe what they believe or to even begin to see the incoherence and the inconsistency of what they believe without putting on them on the spot, right?
Like, because when I ask a question about human value, that’s much different than saying, “Why are you pro-choice?” You know what I mean? Like, think about the – I just asked essentially the same question, but very different context and very different, much more receptive to actually progress and productivity in a conversation.
So, again, the goal here is that we need to become good missionaries by knowing how to tease out, to ask good questions that bring out spiritual conversations in everyday life.
And it’s really cool, because when you do this, man, you can have an amazing conversation. And so, again, that’s the idea of the spiritual implications.
Now, what you’re doing when you’re having these conversations is that you’re looking for four things. You’re discerning and you’re identifying four things.
You’re looking for idols. And, you know, idols has a weird connotation in a biblical sense, but it’s just things that they are putting their hope in, things that they are putting their identity in, things that if they put their hope in an identity and they are not, they are going to be crushed by that because it will let them down, you know?
It can be lots of things. It can be career and work; it can be their bodies if they are into health. It can be lots of things that you are putting your hope and your identity. And what are the idols? And you’re not, like, calling that out. You’re just saying, “Okay, I see where they are putting their hope.” Right? Because then, in a loving way, eventually you’re going to be able to challenge that, right?
Or what are the felt needs that they have? Like, people will tell you pretty honestly when they are dealing with anxiety or depression or broken, broken relationships. You know, a lot of people, a lot of us, all of us, struggle with broken relationships. So, identifying the felt needs that they are experiencing.
And then looking for lies that they believe. And by that I mean, like, what are things that they are believing that is out of alignment with biblical truth that is standing in the way from them hearing the gospel message? What are lies that they are believing?
Oftentimes, it’s going to be lies about sexuality, what they believe about what is the purpose of sex and how they are living that out. Or it’s lies that they believe about truth and morality or the Church or whatever. What are the lies that they are believing? Begin to identify those things.
And then, fourth, begin to identify truth that they believe or are living out without even, without realizing that they are already living in alignment with biblical truth. And the reason you want to do that is because you can begin to affirm. If you can identify things that they believe or ways that they are living in their character and in their behavior that is already in alignment with biblical truth, that gives you an opportunity to affirm and connect with them.
So, if they are passionate about caring for the oppressed and those that are marginalized, you can say, “You know, I really respect and appreciate that, because you’re living in alignment with biblical truth without even knowing it.” I don’t say it like that, but my point is you’re looking for ways to connect, both in terms of affirmation and challenge, your conversation to at least one truth of the gospel, right?
So, that truth can be about human value and dignity because we were created in the image of God. Right? I can say, like, “I see that you value human life. Well, I want to affirm that and I am with you and here’s why.”
Or we can challenge the fact that in secular culture, for example, one of the lies of secular culture is that we can fix ourselves. That with enough education, and the right political system and laws, we can fix ourselves.
And as Christians, we can challenge that. We can say, “No, I don’t see that truth, that’s not true because it doesn’t seem to matter what system, what education we do, we can’t get rid of evil and pain and corruption.” Right? Now we are challenging something that they believe.
But it’s all based on that relational trust that we have built up as we seek to identify idols, felt needs, lies, and truth in our spiritual conversations.
Now, here’s a couple things that I want to talk about about the way, the “how” we do this. This is the “what,” but how do we do this in a good way?
So, the first is that, we want to approach this. We are not convincing people that you are right. You are encouraging them to pursue the truth. Those are two very different things.
And it’s actually quite liberating to just encourage people to pursue the truth, because I don’t have to know everything, right?
And I can just be honest and transparent. It also evens the playing field. It’s not me coming at them from a place of superiority and “I know and you don’t.” Instead, it’s like we are in this together and let’s pursue truth.
And here’s the beauty. Jesus is the truth. And so, we need to trust that an honest pursuit of truth always leads to Jesus. And that that’s why you’re encouraging them, not to – because when it’s, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” then it creates defensiveness. It creates an adversarial approach.
But when it’s like, “Hey, let’s pursue the truth together,” and you exhibit some humility along the way, it opens them up to pursue the truth along with you and then there’s going to be questions and things that come up that you don’t know the answer to, and that’s okay. When you have approached it from this way, you can, like, “Well, let’s figure that out. Let’s look into that. Let’s try to understand that.” And now you are pursuing the truth together. And that’s where you want to get.
And then the second thing is that you want to create an open environment. So, here’s the thing. We live in the time of cancel culture, right? Now, as Christians, we think we are, like, the only victims of that. Like, and so, we’re like, “Oh, everyone is out to get us.” Maybe, maybe not. But the point is everyone deals with this cancel culture environment.
And so, everyone is afraid to say something wrong that is going to get them canceled. And so, what that creates is it creates a sense where we are not willing to say things or process things in an open and honest way because we are afraid.
And so, what you want to do is you want to counter that cancel culture by creating an environment where it’s okay to doubt, where it’s okay to ask hard questions, where it’s to say something, even to say something stupid, like, or offensive. Like, I’m not here to catch you, I’m not going to tweet this later.”
This is, like, in a great, open environment and to process in real time. And here’s the cool thing, when you do this and you show that this is real, this is, like a great space for people, because they feel this is not something the world has. Everyone is like, “I’m out to get you. If you say the wrong thing, I’m going to slam you.”
And this is, it’s such a freeing thing to be around people, who may or may not agree, and to respect and love each other and allow for that environment. And, again, I’m not saying this because I don’t believe there’s an ultimate truth; there is. But you want to create an environment where the truth can be pursued.
Alright? So, then when you have done all that, then you just do the basic work of apologetics. You listen and ask a ton of questions. Be patient, respectful, and gracious like it says in 1 Peter. And then, the whole thing that we are doing as we talked about is we are trying to understand: What are their assumptions? Remember? What are their idols? What are their felt needs? The lies and the truth that they believe. What are the inconsistencies? And how can I begin to challenge them? What are the questions or truth behind the objection? Again, this is something that is both discerned by our natural listening but also spiritually discerned. Like, what is the real issue that you’re dealing with?
So, a lot of times people’s hostility is based on pain that they have experienced and so that’s the real issue, not the intellectual objection that they have. And so, how can you identify the real issue?
And then, of course, our whole heart is win the heart, not the argument. Right? And as someone that likes to debate and my parents had to teach me this one growing up, because I liked to win even if I lost a friend in the process. Right? And so, the whole idea is you’re trying to win people’s hearts, not their arguments.
So, this is the context of how to engage in a spiritual conversation.
Now, I want to end this part by just asking the question: Have I failed if I don’t share the gospel? Right? And my answer to that would be: It depends. Because success is about obedience, not about you feeling good because you shared the gospel. It’s about: What did God ask you to do? So, if He asked you to share the gospel and you didn’t, then, yeah, that’s a failure and – by the way, there’s grace and you can get back up and do it again, right? – but if He asked you and you didn’t, then yes. But there are also times when we need to be discerning of the Spirit where it isn’t the right time. And sometimes we become such Jesus robots that we vomit our scripts without being discerning, right?
So that the point here is, in 1 Corinthians 3:6, that it says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has seen to make it grow.” The idea here is we all have a role to play. Right? And the big thing is that we are not the hero; Jesus is. Like, that is an important point and it’s also very liberating. Right?
Because it’s not about me, it’s about responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and being obedient. And if you’re really in tune, if you’re growing in intimacy with Jesus, and you’re in tune to the Spirit, then in particular moments you’re going to, maybe He’s going to call you to a prophetic word of challenging someone and speaking truth and it’s going to be confrontational. Sometimes that’s the way it is. Other times all you’re there to do is be a friend. And it’s because it’s not a formula, it’s about obedience to an act of the living God that is working inside of you. And so, that’s what we want to, how we want to do it.
And the goal here is that we are moving people closer to Jesus every time we interact. That’s the goal. That every time they interact, I am moving them closer to Jesus. I am breaking down maybe some relational challenges, I am challenging a truth, or I’m affirming something in them. But I am drawing them closer and closer to Jesus by the power of the Spirit every time I interact with them.
Alright? So, this is our goal as how to engage in these spiritual conversations. And I’m going to show you a video because I just want to illustrate to you how much people are very much open to this and how much they desire it. We have done a series of focus groups in which we basically use these principles and people are so hungry for this kind of spiritual conversation. So, we’ll end it with this video and then we’ll be done with this section.
[Speaker 1] I think would be that religion, I see religion more as, like, a way that people use to teach values and teach, like, what is right. That’s why you’ll see, like, you know, Christians here are going to be a lot different than Christians in the South or Christians across the world. Same with any religion, you know, there’s no, I’d be hard pressed to find a religion that is the exact same everywhere because people will take their values and apply it to the religion and use the religion to justify their values. So, it really, you can’t just say, like, one religion would be right when people are taking it and using it to amplify what they already believe.
[Speaker 2] And it also is about implications, because as you said, when what we believe about the world and what is true and who we are has massive implications for how we act. And a distorted view of Christianity has led to some horrible things. But I would also argue that a view of the world that says there are no consequences, I’m just a highly evolved animal and the best thing for me to do is survive and dominate the weak, that could equally justify and has justified some horrible things. Which is why this discussion isn’t just Halloween candy and costumes, which is why there are serious implications even to things that we can’t fully grasp or fully prove. What do you guys think?
[Speaker 3] I was just going to add, like, right, you could go down that route of doing something bad or believing an ideology that has, like, negative implications on the world, right? But then if we factor in the whole idea of love, right, like, if you’re going out killing people because, like, you think that that is your truth and that’s, like, good for you, right? If you factor in love to that equation, that’s not a loving thing to do to kill people, right? So, I suppose, like, love could be a, like, foundation from which we could strive for the truth.
[Speaker 4] The definition of God’s love for us in Christian idea is that He sent Jesus to basically sacrifice Himself for you. That’s the ultimate expression of love. And so, I think that is kind of one of the, I think, the challenge is that so much garbage gets in the way of something that it distorts our view of it. But if you consider the Christian view is actually not that it makes, like, bad people good; the Christian view is it actually makes dead, people that are spiritually dead, alive. That’s actually the Christian message. And it’s, and the reason that I find hope after this life is not in my deeds, but actually in my connection in a relationship with my Creator.
[Speaker 5] What was really surprising is that people did engage, you know, even after it ended. People didn’t want to leave. People wanted to stay, people wanted to talk.
[Speaker 6] Yeah, I really do appreciate the opportunity to get to hear the opinions of other people and the viewpoints of other people. So…
[Speaker 7] Yeah, It was good conversation. I feel like I kind of left with my head in circles a little bit
[Speaker 8] [I like to] think about the truth but I don’t always necessarily have an answer ‘cause like we kinda talked about, there maybe isn’t necessarily one. So, I guess I’m kind of left with my brain going, I guess, a little bit…
[Speaker 9] It’s almost as if these people weren’t strangers anymore, that they were actually sitting there together and actually enjoying this kind of conversation.
[Speaker 10] And it was just an incredible example of how hungry the youth culture is today to have deep and meaningful spiritual conversations.
[Speaker 11] I haven’t had, like, a lot of chances to have conversations like that.
[Speaker 12] I was just really happy to be here… it was a very welcoming environment. Yeah, it’s eye opening.
[Speaker 13] Yeah, and to hear like, a whole bunch of like, different perspectives and like, you know it wasn’t, like, frowned upon to like, disagree with anybody.
[Speaker 14] I’m came into it pretty skeptical but after hearing everybody’s ideas, while they were talking about finding your purpose and all that. That’s really, I definitely do believe in my heart there’s got to be something else.
[Speaker 15] This is going to have me leaving with a lot of thinking going on and I love to think and I love to hear what other people think about the world and the concept of spirituality. So, ten out of ten would do this again.
Pretty cool, right? So, here’s the thing. We can do this; you can do this. Like, this isn’t just for, like, apologists, people that are intellectual. All of us can have these conversations.
So, again, Spiritual Conversations for the Non-Religious, literally a tool that is to help you have these conversations with people in your life, seeing that you are building that bridge from a friendship to the gospel through spiritual conversations.