Three Questions Fake Christians Can't Answer

As we were on the plane, flying home from the Dominican Republic, a friend of mine (William) got into a conversation with a Polish man who currently lives in North Carolina. William asked him if he knew for sure if he would go to heaven when he died. The man said he didn't know for sure, but would like to. So, William proceeded to share the gospel with him.

An hour later, they had run down all sort of religious and philosophical rabbit trails. That's when I joined the conversation. We did our best to try to get back to the main point, but by this time he was trying to convince us that he was a Christian. However, he clearly did not believe what the Bible teaches about salvation. I have had similar conversations in which someone claimed to be a Christian and did not believe biblical teaching on salvation, and there seemed to be no way to break through their mind set.

Soon after we returned home, I discovered this video by Tim Keller, "Questions for Sleepy and Nominal Christians." I was particularly struck by the title of the article about the video on Three Questions Fake Christians Can't Answer. These are very helpful ideas for talking with people to claim to be Christians but don't seem to understand it or don't seem to be walking it.

How to Be the Kind of Person Everyone Wants to Be Around

When I was in college, we used to have “laugh-fests.” It all started at a large gathering when my roommate Jarrod and I decided to do an experiment. We began to laugh together. We were not really laughing at anything, except each other laughing. It was contagious. People started to gather around and laughed at us laughing.

People love to laugh. They like to hear people laughing and be around happiness. This is just one quality of the kind person that everyone wants to be around.

I already posted my first installment discussing the article from Business Insider,  “How to Make People Like You Immediately.” Let’s continue to take a look at these seventeen strategies for developing "better relationships faster." Let’s evaluate them based on biblical principles, and see if we can learn more about influencing others for Christ. Here is the second piece of advice from the article.

“2. Spend more time around them.”

This just seems obvious. If we want to build better relationships with others, then we will spend more time with them. This is easier said than done for Christians who spend almost all their time with their Christian friends. This is one of the greatest hindrances to the church’s influence in the world: staying in our closed Christian culture. Jesus addressed this very issue:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket,
but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

If we want to influence others (salt and light), then we are going to be where there is need of flavor and illumination. We cannot hide under our Christian culture basket. How are you intentionally developing friendships with people who need Christ?

“3. Compliment other people.”

Here is the basic idea: "People will associate the adjectives you use to describe other people with your personality."

I think there is a deeper truth here. The ways we compliment others say something about us. It tells others what qualities we value. If others value the same positive qualities, then a shared value system is developed, which is important for strong relationships.

Paul often spoke positively about others, in a way that he hoped would establish a shared value system and stronger relationships. When he wrote to the Philippians, he complimented Epaphroditus, the messenger the Philippians had sent to him. Paul described Epaphroditus as “my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier,” who “nearly died for the work of Christ” (Phil 2:25, 30).

“4. Be in a great mood.”

Just as people love to laugh, they love to be around smiles and happiness. People like to be around positive, fun people.

Fortunately for Christians, we have a reason to have joy and hope! Jesus said,

“These things I have spoken to you
that my joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full.”
(John 15:11 ESV)

Peter expected others to notice the hope shining through the lives of believers, so he encouraged them to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV)

How is your joy and hope affecting the people around you?

Develop Better Relationships Faster

I have been re-reading Dr. Wayne McDill’s book, Making Friends for Christ: A Practical Approach to Relational Evangelism. In another post, I mentioned the chapter about the simple and powerful act of listening to others. With the idea of making friends for Christ on my mind, I ran across this article from Business Insider called “How to Make People Like You Immediately.” The author provides seventeen “science backed” strategies for developing better relationships faster, based on “psychological research.”

Christians often shy away from such strategies. They somehow seem sneaky and manipulative to us. We usually associate such strategies with irritating salesmen or those trying to get something from us. Dr. McDill addresses this concern.

‘Well,’ you ask, ‘aren’t we cultivating friendships for a hidden reason? Aren’t we really aiming to influence these friends for Christ? If that’s our motive, how are we any different from that saleman?’ That’s a good question. But there are differences. For one thing, you seek nothing for yourself from the relationship—no sales, no commission, no bonus. You are cultivating the friendship, not for yourself, but for the eternal benefit of your friend. The friendship is not, in that sense, merely a means to an end. The relationship itself is filled with meaning. . . .

We have already discussed the miracle key to your influence in your friend’s life—your sincere interest in his personal concerns. We said that one way to show that interest is to listen sincerely to the personal concerns of your unbelieving friend. But let me stress this: listening is not just a gimmick to make the person think you care about him. You must really care.
— Wayne McDill, Making Friends for Christ, 84, 97

Let’s take a look at these seventeen strategies for developing better relationships faster. Let’s evaluate them based on biblical principles, and see if we can learn more about influencing others for Christ.

The first strategy for developing better relationships faster is to copy them.

This strategy strikes me as inauthentic, especially if someone were trying to do it on purpose. However, I have noticed that I have a natural tendency to act and talk like the people I am with.

I live out in the country in the NC mountains. I don’t talk like my neighbors, since I have a non-accent left over from growing up in Oregon. But when I am visiting with them, I find myself drawing out my words and adding in mountain inflections by the end of the conversation. I also match the speaking pace of the person I am talking with. When my kids are with me, they grin and giggle at my change in speech.

Simply mimicking other people to get them to like you is superficial. But there is a true principle in meeting people where they are, acting in such a way that allows them to hear you better. Paul explains his own strategy:

For though I am free from all,
I have made myself a servant to all,
that I might win more of them.
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.
To those under the law I became as one under the law
(though not being myself under the law)
that I might win those under the law.
To those outside the law I became as one outside the law
(not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ)
that I might win those outside the law.
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak.
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

(1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV)

Next time we will discuss other strategies like “Spend more time around them” and “Compliment other people.”

Do you adjust your communication style to the person with whom you are talking? In what ways do you think it is appropriate to become like those you are trying to reach? Please leave your comments and questions below. I would love to hear from you!