AJ, thank you for taking the time to share. My question concerns sharing the faith with other scientists. I am a researcher and I find that many of my colleagues are curious when they discover I’m devout, but I am still learning how to try to deepen that curiosity.
How do you go about witnessing with your fellow researchers? Do you have some examples of how you have kindled that curiosity?
Hi, Sean, et al. Thanks for the question! It’s great that you’re an insider! And that your colleagues are curious when they learn you are devout or serious about your beliefs and life as a Christ-follower. I would say that any sign of curiosity on their part suggests a much deeper curiosity and openness to know more than you might imagine. But it’s really important to remember everyone you encounter will be coming from different experiences and levels of understanding, curiosity, self-examination, awareness, and longing.
So different things may work well with some, and other things with others. Other than that important nugget, another really important nugget is to realize that every encounter you have with them is a chance to scatter seeds of the gospel into their lives and you do that both by the life you live and the words you share. Be praying that God puts other Christians in their lives that will be scattering seed too!
Often it requires time, time to build relationship, time to understand where they are and what touchstones God might be using to reach them. In other words don’t anticipate mass revival and response after a single conversation! Although God could do this, most of my witness with colleagues in long-lived and ongoing.
Learn to have confidence in God and the truth of a well lived and well thought through Christian faith/life. Pray. Invite the activity of the Holy Spirit into the other person’s life and your relationship with them. Listen… to the promptings of the Spirit and to the other person. Ask good open ended questions. Researchers love questions and problem solving, so phrase your questions to engage their problem solving mode or their curiosity to deeper levels. Drop small meaningful spiritual content. If they respond positively, keep going deeper until they change the topic.
I can’t over emphasize the significance of living authentically in your ups and downs, in your own questions, failings, frailties, and consistent pursuit of forgiveness and deeper understanding and deeper Christ-likeness. My greatest witness to my friends in science has often been in times of my deepest struggle and calling out to God or clinging to him while I wait for clarity.
But in our times of flourishing, our message of hope and purpose and meaningful life in Christ is also very powerful. I have had opportunities when colleagues are struggling to simply say, I’ll be praying for you, is there anything in particular you’d like me to pray for as I do?
I think another really important thing you can keep in mind and act on is to be authentically curious about their lives, ask questions, don’t make assumptions about what they think or believe. Ask them and then listen.
One last thing, well, two last things. Help make space for them to step back from the busyness of their work and other commitments. Invite them to dinner or go on a hike together, or something like that. Creating space can help them take time to ponder deeper questions and reflect on life away from the urgency of deadlines and work. And help deconstruct false views of God, Jesus and what it means to be a Christian/Christ-follower.
I’ve given a talk where I unpack some questions that I think are helpful. I’m in the process of having one of my co-workers at RTB edit the video down to ~30 min. I’ll post the link here when it’s ready… Hopefully tomorrow at the latest. Here’s the link: https://vimeo.com/246191201/f1d2a97a70
And remember not everyone will be hungry or curious, that’s okay treat them with respect and kindness. That will matter to those who are curious already and may just cause the others to become more curious as to why you are that way in the midst of a pretty competitive field.