Speaking specifically about those who fell away after being raised in a church, he said something like this: “People don’t quit following Jesus because they discover that Christianity isn’t true. They quit following Him because He no longer matters.”
Furthermore, the preacher pointed out that this abandonment usually follows a big change in life: a move to another city, or a new job, or a new school, for instance – any upheaval that places someone of superficial faith amidst unbelievers.
I hadn’t thought of it in such simple terms, but this is exactly right in many cases – perhaps most.
When asked, many of these people still claim to believe in “God” or even “Christ.” But that’s about all they’ll volunteer about Him. When pushed, they might say that their God is loving and forgiving and in complete sympathy with everything they think, say and do. End of conversation.
And why not? As far as they can see, they have no reason to seek the real God at the moment; they have places to go, people to see, more important things to do. They will perhaps give Him more thought when they are so old that they have nothing more to look forward to in this world; but until then, they’ll keep Him on a shelf in an unused closet, out of sight and out of mind.
I guess I’ve realized this at least subconsciously, since my prayer for unbelievers has generally been “Lord, do whatever it takes to get their attention.”
But I haven’t done a very good job of putting this thought into evangelistic action. Instead, I’ve spent my witnessing capital on trying to persuade these people that biblical Christianity is true.
News flash: They don’t care. True or false, Jesus simply doesn’t matter to them at this stage in their lives.
Of course, we can point out that we’re not guaranteed even one more breath, underscoring this fact with a real life reminder of a mutual acquaintance or celebrity who died young. But in my experience, this approach is usually ineffective; we’re all pretty sure that we personally will live to a ripe old age. (Astoundingly, this seems to be true even for those with fatal diseases. At first, the focus is on medical science and cures; when these hopes fail them, they’re too often drugged out of pain and into oblivion.)
So here’s the challenge: How can we prove that Jesus Christ is relevant to the once-upon-a-time believer – that there’s really nothing that matters more?