Atheist in Church?

Kurt Willems linked to this blog post written by an atheist who attends a Vineyard church in Scotland. I thought it was an interesting perspective.

As I read the article, I identified three things that keep the author returning to the worship gatherings of this congregation.

  • The highly relational way people connect
  • The celebratory, participatory worship music
  • Identifying with other congregants

Despite the fact that she disagrees with the core beliefs in the church, despite the fact that she has no real religious leanings of her own, she participates both in the worship and in a weekly Bible study.

This is a strange case of someone loving the church while not agreeing with its beliefs. The Vineyard is a very evangelistic movement. There is no doubt in my mind that the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed boldly and often, and yet this young atheist continues to engage with the congregational life. She does it of her own free will.

More that anything else, I think this article should speak to our sense of self as the church. We sometimes get so involved in trying to make people change or to conform people to an ideal Christian mold. We want people to know our language, sing our songs, become “part of our thing” so we don’t have to accommodate them anymore. This is not just unhealthy, it is unbiblical.

We have mentioned the idea of doxological evangelism, that glorifying Jesus through worship and the teaching of the Scriptures is perhaps the best way to share the gospel.

In our postmodern world, trying to compare Christianity to their worldview or assaulting their beliefs in classic apologetics does little or nothing. But glorifying God publicly? Letting the Spirit of God speak through His Word? That does more.

Glorify God in authenticity and truth. Be a true, real community of faith. Invite those “outside” into the community. Believe that where we are gathered, Jesus is present and he is drawing his people to Him. Be ready to answer questions. Be ready to discuss things. Be ready to teach. But also be ready to allow the Spirit to work in His own time.

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