I love your heart! Thanks for caring so much about those who don’t know God, even when they themselves don’t care! I totally understand that struggle. Coming from a very secular culture, there are so many people that I love who immediately become extremely uncomfortable around me the moment I directly approach the topic of Christianity.
I do think that there are times when it can be appropriate to raise the question of tragedy in order to generation conversation- however, I absolutely agree with you that in general, that can feel like quite a scare tactic! Some people respond to that, but more often than not I find that people dismiss it, both because they don’t want to be persuaded to a belief simply out of fear, and also because our culture is so good at avoiding talking about even the prospect of death that I think for many it doesn’t seem like a relevant concern right now- instead, people push it off with the assumption that there will be time to worry about that when they are older.
As an alternative, Vince and my preferred method of generating conversation is to focus on what it is that people ARE passionate about. You’re right that, very often, they are seemingly disinterested in the questions that we consider most essential to life. However, that doesn’t mean that they are disinterested in everything. Far from it!!
In fact, one of the things that I love so much about millennials and Gen Z is that they are a cause driven generation who are passionate about social justice. So my encouragement to you would be to look out for whatever it is that your friends or colleagues are passionate about, and then find a way to engage in deep and meaningful conversation around that subject. As Vince would say, because we believe all truth is grounded in God, that means that we can receive any question as an opportunity to share about Him, our task is simply to think hard enough and creatively enough to find a way to build that bridge through asking good questions.
So, for example, an atheist that I love dearly has absolutely no interest in talking with me about God, but she is passionate about the environment. So I have been spending time lately learning more about eco living and how to better care for our world (which to be honest is extremely important anyway, so I am being blessed and challenged in the process), in order that I might engage her where she is at, rather than trying to force her to take an interest in where I am at.
Part of doing this means asking sincere, thoughtful questions about her passion. Questions like: “how do you think animals are different than humans? Who is more or less deserving of care? Why do you think that? Do you think that environmental care is a moral issue? Where do you think that conviction comes from? How would you handle those who say it’s no big deal? Is their view equally as valid? Why do you think we humans have a hard time acting less selfishly? Where do you think your sense of justice comes from? Say we do take care of the world, what does that ultimately achieve? Does doing that give you a sense of meaning? Where do you find hope?” Etc. You get the idea!
The more we engage meaningfully on other people’s passions and ask thoughtful questions, the deeper the conversation will go and the closer it moves to issues like justice, morality, meaning, hope, love, destiny, what does it mean to be human?, all of which are absolutely at the heart of the Christian worldview. Once you’re there, and once you’ve taken the time to draw someone into a fascinating conversation and shown that you genuinely care about their opinions and intuitions, you are now perfectly positioned to share how you see it from your Christian perspective, and to show them just how compelling and robust the Christian worldview is both in its explanatory power, and in its uniquely hopeful vision of what God makes possible. And at that point, once you’ve established a practice of asking meaningful questions, your friend will hopefully feel so cared for by you that they are far more willing to hear your perspective as well.
Perhaps you may feel disheartened that some of things that your friends are most interested in don’t seem that deep. That’s ok! Vince would say that the most significant step he ever took in helping his dad coming to know God was simply by becoming a New York Yankees fan, just in order to connect with his father in a more consistent way. All that to say, you’d be surprised what God can do when you’re willing to step into other people’s worlds, rather than always working just to draw them into your own.
I realize we’ve only scratched the surface here, and much more could be said. However, I hope this is helpful to you, and that this week you are encouraged by the way that God is at work in conversations as you look to connect more deeply over the interests of your loved ones.
God bless you!