What are some approaches to talk with people who may be apathetic towards the Christian faith?

Hi Nathan, one of the greatest barriers to evangelism that many Christians face is apathy. To many, it just seems that among their friends, there is little to no spiritual interest in discussing Jesus or the gospel.

My questions:

  1. Do you often meet people who are apathetic about spiritual conversations?
  2. Whenever you have experienced this, what are some approaches that you take?

Hi Carson,

Great question. I think this is indeed a major obstacle that Christians face when it comes to evangelism. It is something I have encountered many times, so much so that I wrote an article about it a few months back. Here is the link to that article, in case it is of interest: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/channel/utilities/print.html?type=article&id=140467

In the article I discuss that much of evangelism and apologetics focuses on credibility. Credibility addresses the ‘is it true?’ questions. The credibility questions are immensely important. As Christians, we have to be able to explain to our non-believing friends the answers to the evidential questions they might be asking.(ie: “Is the Bible true?” “Is it true that Jesus existed?” “Is it true that Jesus rose from the dead?” etc.) The credible claims of Christianity are precious.

But here’s the problem many of us face today: what happens when our friends are not asking the credibility questions? Yes, we might be able to explain to them that Jesus was God incarnate and that he rose from the dead, but those truths will simply wash over them if they are not asking those kinds of questions. What do we do then?

I think a meaningful way of addressing these situations is looking for ways in which, not credibility, but the case for plausibility is made. Plausibility explores the question, ‘Might this be true?’ If we can somehow move our friends to just considering or wanting the gospel to be true, it is then that we can start exploring some of the credibility issues. But making a case for plausibility is where we need to start before we move to credibility.

So what does this look like? What might the fine print look like?

  1. Making a case for the plausibility, I think, starts with the life of the Christian. Do we live a life that so embodies Christ’s character that others would say of us, ‘Wow. I want that.’ Ravi Zacharias often quotes the Irish evangelist Gypsy Smith who once said, “There are five Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, an the Christian, and some people will never read the first four.” The culture in which many of us live today is one that needs to see something compelling before they will listen to the meaning behind it.

  2. Asking good questions can have the power to awaken the apathetic soul to God. I remember speaking with a friend years ago who expressed that she was not interested in any religion or faith. After listening to her, I said, ‘but have you ever thought what it would be like if there actually was a God, and that same God was one who offered forgiveness, hope, and love?’ I did not even complete my thought before she interrupted and said, “Ooh, now that is a God I would want.” Not always, but sometimes our friends just need to be asked the right questions.

  3. We need to remember that salvation truly is God’s business. We have to do our bit, put in the thought, care, and seek the Lord for guidance and anointing, but the saving power comes from the Lord. This should encourage us that even though God could do it all by himself, he includes us and invites us to get involved. That should encourage us and empower us.

  4. We also need to remember that the spiritual battle is real. Just yesterday, I was reading Matthews account of Christ’s resurrection. Just before Christ gives the great commission, we read these words in Matthew 28: 16
    “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. v17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.”

A bit of context helps. Leading up to these verses, Matthew tells of many seeing the risen Christ. Yet, even for those who saw the risen Christ, there were some who still doubted. Many worshiped, yes, but some doubted despite seeing him. Many points can be drawn from this excerpt of Scripture. But for the topic at hand, this story should remind us that we should do as much as we can in helping our friends see the plausibility and credibility of Christ. We should seek the Lord to work and then leave it to him to draw our friends into relationship with him. Some will not receive the Lord, but we just need to ensure that it is because of the message of Christ that they are turning away and not because of our lack of care or thought.

  1. One book recommendation I would offer is Acedia & me_y Kathleen Norris. Years ago, when I was putting together a talk addressing the challenge of apathy, I found this book helpful.

This really is just a start to a big question, but I hope it provides good food for thought.

Nathan_emphasized text__emphasized text_