Christians often cower from evangelism because they believe that it may offend non-Christians, but they should also consider the fact that they may offend non-Christians by not evangelizing. (Of course, I am not speaking here of the intrusive, harassing variety of proselytization.)
The Christian non-profit organization, Fixed Point Foundation, recently concluded a nationwide survey to find out how and why college atheists abandoned their Christian faith. The findings are remarkable, and among the most surprising is the fact that young atheists were disillusioned by Christians who did not take their faith seriously enough to evangelize.
The study quotes Penn Jillette, an illusionist, comedian, and an outspoken atheist, who said:
I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward. … How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
Jillette’s full vlog is worth seeing, as it is evident that he was quite taken by the Christian man who proselytized him after one of his shows:
As Christians, do we really believe that Jesus Christ is “the way … the truth, and the life,” and that “no one comes to the Father except through [him]” (Jn. 14:6)? If Christ is who he says he is, he can be anything but an afterthought.
Christian faith is not a matter of opinion, but of conviction. An opinion is your personal preference with which others are entitled to differ; a conviction is what you hold to be the truth for everyone regardless of their beliefs.
Too many Christians live as functional atheists who rarely stop to ponder their missional imperative. Let us heed these young atheist voices and consider the offensiveness of not proselytizing!