Why I stopped trying to convert people to Christianity….

When I was 18, I began having some deep theological and philosophical problems relating to Hell. I began questioning things and not liking the answers I was given growing up. What was once so “Biblical”, no longer seemed “Biblical” to me. Around this time, I was posing these questions with my friends and some of the people who spiritual influence around me. Over a period of months circling this question, some of the people threw me under the “liberal” bandwagon, told me I was falling away from God, and, others were “praying for me” and even worse “praying for my salvation”. Some people around me, tried to re-convert me back into their belief system. The cynicism and anger surrounding these events, took me years to recover from. It hasn’t been until the past year, that I felt able to re-engage back into this system.

After all of this happened, I engaged with the damage that this did to my faith, and, my lack of desire to enter into a faith system, or, a Church. I also knew that if I was being violently pushed back into “re-converting” to Christianity, how damaging it must be for those who are outside of my faith tradition. For those who hear street preachers, those who are handed Gospel tracts at concerts and sporting events, for those who had friends who were there strictly to get them into the “Kingdom of God”. And, even though I resonate with the deep-rooted desire to welcome those who are different from I, into the life-giving presence of God, both now, and, eternally, I also resonated with how shameful these conversions can feel, how much I resented others for doing that to me and how I wanted to throw away God because of Religion.

I have friends who are Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists, and a few deeply intelligent Anti-Theists (A term coined by the New Atheists). One of the few absolutes that I hold to, is the fact that God wants me to be human today. This was the very foundation of the Adam and Eve story. Man wanted to be God, and, then man felt the shame of sin. Humans are meant to be humans, and, God was meant to be God. So, this is the very thing I have in common with all people. I am a human and so are they. The very fiber of our nature and role, is deeply connected. This is the things that connects every human being with each other. By being human with others, by sharing my own deeply personal struggles with God and Religion, by sharing my love for other humans and things that humans do (Sports, Entertainment, etc….), I have developed extremely meaningful relationships in which I am able to share what’s going on in my life…. which includes my faith. And, they are able to accept that and embrace that in me, because, I can respect their humanity. I have seen people come into relationship with God through this and I have seen people find healing from the damage of Religiosity. I constantly see God at work in these relationships, not only by what I am able to give them, but, and, maybe more importantly, what they give to me. They deepen my own relationship with God.

I am not God. I cannot save others from their own fallen humanity. Hell, I can’t even do that for myself. But, I aspire and hope to be the grace between me and them, that connects them to God. I will always love them as fellow brothers and sisters of humanity, even if they don’t have a desire to share with me the connection that I have with God.

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17 thoughts on “Why I stopped trying to convert people to Christianity….

  1. Cortney says:

    Well said! A friendship with an agenda isn’t much of a friendship. I want that last paragraphed cross-stitched on a pillow. Think that would fly?

  2. BeckyD says:

    i get where you’re coming from…but isn’t there some danger here of throwing the baby out with the bath water? There’s no way of getting around the fact that Jesus gave the great commission of making disciples…granted that’s different from clobbering people in the street with a bible – but i don’t think that takes away from the need for the gospel to be explained and a challenge to be made? If we’re trying to reflect Christ then surely that needs to be holistic – loving people unconditionally, caring for the poor, standing against oppression and injustice – but also actively trying to introduce people to him by verbalising the message that he deemed worth giving his life up for?

    • mfries05 says:

      Thanks for your great question Becky,
      I absolutely affirm the need to voice this message. If Jesus is the new Adam, then Jesus came to redeem humanity, then we can interject Jesus into our conversations without converting people because Jesus’ message is universally liberating. So they may not find Jesus compelling as God the savior, but, Jesus is a great human liberator. And, when people can find Jesus on their terms, then his truth begins setting them free, and, they can begin desiring relationship with him. I think this is what good communicators and friends do, they’re able to give their life (Jesus) and allow others to find it, without telling them to join their “holy group”.

      • BeckyD says:

        thanks for this. im also not for the “us” and “them” mentality that seems to be on display in the “Christian” world a lot…joining a “holy group” isn’t the message Jesus taught. my response to Jesus’s love for me is to try and make disciples..but I’m fairly convinced that conversion (whether it happens instantly or over a long period of discovering who Jesus is) is part of the process of becoming a disciple? i don’t think anybody converts a person to Christianity – im pretty sure it’s God who does that – but where does that leave our role in the whole process? im just a little confused because Jesus claimed to be God the Saviour – he was a human liberator – but is also God. Isn’t that what makes him compelling? If you take God the saviour out of the equation isn’t that effectively watering down the power of the reality of who Christ is and what he’s done/does? Sorry i don’t normally get into long religious debates! I’m a bit rubbish at them!

      • mfries05 says:

        Great thoughts Becky, in the words of Richard Rohr, I need to be converted today. And, tomorrow, again. And, again, and again, and again.

  3. Gena says:

    I love this post, and have felt just like this. But what I found for me, at the heart of it, was an unwillingness to invest my time into forming actual relationships with people. That was what pricked my heart- the realization that whether it was passing out tracts to random people with a five minute speech, or passing on by, living my “quiet life” I wasn’t engaging anyone in meaningful relationships. And that is what truly evangelizes and changes the heart. Letting people see and experience God through you. But it takes time, investment, sacrifice, and a willingness to open up your life and home to others. It takes listening, respect, a willingness to receive and give, and mutual trust. And let’e be honest, speaking at a rally, shoving a pamphlet under a car wiper, or spending ten minutes evangelizing a person you’ll never see again is a lot easier.

  4. mikey says:

    Mike,

    Really loving your desire to live out of a heart that reflects the God who does not coerce and control us, who has no interest in self-righteous religion or pretension, but rather woos us into relationship by the beauty of his character.

    Somehow he manages to woo us more gently and yet more aggressively and relentlessly than you or I could ever model. He is in hot pursuit of us; I believe there’s no way I could have ever come to know him unless this were true. May you be aggressively gentle, grace-filled, and compelling in living a life that is uncompromisingly full of truth and beauty. 🙂

  5. “This is the things…” Such a typical Singaporean grammatical mistake 🙂

    I like and appreciate your thoughts though 🙂

  6. Matt Clayton says:

    I appreciate your honesty and the courage it takes to be true to who God is calling you to be.

  7. Pete says:

    Mate u are trying to ‘convert’ just in a more culturally relevant way, i could open this sentence into an essay but im gonna refrain.

  8. Mike,

    Becky brought up the great commission where Jesus called his disciples to make disciples of all nations and baptize the nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Your answer simply calls Jesus the great human liberator, but he and Paul make it clear that one must accept the gift of liberation to be liberated. What do you think about that?

    • mfries05 says:

      I agree with that. I think through God, we are able to experience the wholeness of our humanity. Sin dehumanizes the human. To use Pauline language, it a “disease”. The disease moves through us. We must accept the liberator to be liberated. But, I think God moves beyond Christians. Like Becky, also pointed out, God is moving in that person before a conversion happens.

      • Mike,

        Absolutely, does God move and work beyond those who are already Christians. Of course he is at work in non-Christians. But, he is at work in them to make them Christians. To make them more like Christ through their acceptance of Christ. If we aren’t active in trying to bring Christ into people’s lives, which is a part of being human before the return of Christ, then what are we doing?

  9. val says:

    Here is a blessing for you…truth.
    Satan has deceived the whole world Rev 12:9, until he is bruised by a woman Gen 3:15 who delivers the true word John 1:1 to the whole world Rev 12:5, 13 from the wilderness Rev 12:6 as a witness. The deception that God will put any child of his in a hell fire is a lie of the devil and is now proven by the word of God at http://minigoodtale.blogspot.com Satan’s lies are exposed not one child of God will go into a hell fire no matter what their sin. It has never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer 7:31, Jer 19:5.
    There is a punishment for the wicked but it isn’t death. Prophecy is fulfilled. Prove all things. Check out the bruising of Satan at the heel of time.

  10. I think almost everyone agrees that trying to get a conversion is the most annoying aspect to Christianity. Not many mind the whole love your enemy thing or picking up your cross – but shoving your religion down another’s throat – it’s so offensive.

  11. Irm Brown says:

    Nice to find you Michael Friesen. Good to read. Blessings.

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