Preaching to the Unconverted

Infidel (literally “one without faith”) is an English word meaning “a person who does not believe in religion or who adheres to a religion other than one’s own”.

The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009

I am not Christian.

It’s a long story that I won’t go into here but in the meantime, I need to make a basic point:

Generally speaking, Ghanaian Christians are terrible at getting non-Christians to become Christian.

I don’t mean to offend, but I say this because it’s true and knowledge of a problem (and I assure you: it is a problem) is the first step towards finding a solution. This morning, yet another acquaintance approached me with good intentions but poor execution.

I think the root of the problem is that Christians here rarely have to deal with actual non-Christians. I’m guessing they mostly meet people who were raised Christian but have lapsed and just need to be reminded of their faith. Or they meet Muslims, who they just don’t approach at all. I doubt many Ghanaians have met or know how to approach actual non-Christians.

Here are a few pointers.

“When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me…”

The first thing to realize is that if someone has decided to go through the hassle and constant questioning involved in not being Christian, then it must be for a carefully thought out reason becausefrankly – it’s easier to be Christian in Ghana than not.

Christians sometimes have a fortress complex and are taught to believe they are under constant attack from the secular world. Perhaps this is the case in the decadent West but here in Ghana, Christians are the vast majority. If anything, they intimidate everyone else, often without realizing it. I even thought twice about penning this blog… in a country with so-called freedom of speech.

Think about it: would it be easier to declare yourself a Christian or that you are non-Christian? Could an atheist (not to say all non-Christians are atheists) run for President of Ghana?

Didn’t think so.

If someone decides not to be Christian – here? In Ghana? – it’s for a reason. Find out what it is. It shows respect for the other person’s opinion and opens the way for intelligent conversation. Then listen, find the gaps in what he believes in and show how what you believe in could fill those gaps. A person’s mind is often the biggest obstacle to their soul. Win it over and you just might bring them to faith.

Beyond the signs and miracles he was so loathe to use, isn’t that how Jesus converted people anyway? He showed them how what he believed made more sense than what they did. In a language and context they understood and could not fault.

Don’t just throw Biblical verses at someone or tell them stock phrases like “Jesus loves you” that they are bound to have heard (and ignored) before. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would feel if an atheist approached you with Richard Dawkin’s ‘The God Delusion’ expecting you to bow down to the supremacy of their non-faith simply because they (and many others) believe in it.

What would their chances be of swaying you?

You Don’t Own God

After Mfansipim, I moved to London where I dated a Muslim girl whose brother became my best friend and whose family I consider extended family to this day. They didn’t shake my faith: that happened back in school. They never once preached to me, but I learned a lot about Islam from them.

Before that, conventional Ghanaian Christian wisdom had taught me that Muslims were people who were just ignorant or stubborn. Speak to them, read a little or just think about their faith however and you soon realize how silly such notions are.

Just like you, people of other religions were usually born and raised in their religion. Just like you, they believe in their religion and have reasons to do so. Just like your religion, theirs probably has signs and miracles. Just like yours, it has a certain logic.

Why else do you think it has lasted as long as it has when other religions have come and gone?

Contrary to what you may have heard, there is nothing about Christianity that makes it immediately and obviously the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to someone who isn’t Christian. Trust me. I was once tormented about this. For years. I prayed about it (sincerely), read about it, studied it. Years later, nothing has pointed me towards Christianity. I wanted it to. But it hasn’t.

You see, it all boils down to faith. Belief. Either you have it. Or you don’t.

This can change… but not when someone of faith approaches you condescendingly and assumes that you will automatically bow down to the superiority of what they believe.

6 Replies to “Preaching to the Unconverted”

  1. I myself am an agnostic. Until four months ago, I hadn’t been to church for 10 years. The problem with me or the world is that, it is very hard if not next to impossible proving that God does or doesn’t exist. And telling me that I only have to look at the mystery of life and nature to believe that he does, is rubbish. The fact that I don’t understand something or what I am doing here on earth doesn’t mean it was formulated but a supreme being who demands my worship to stroke his ego. Fine, sometimes I do waver and consider the faint possibility of an unknown, unquantifiable force behind the universe,behind creation and also behind destruction. All this awesomeness that I see around can’t all be credited to an accident. But for some people to claim that entity for themselves, creating a quasi V.I.P club for members is for me the biggest fraud of human kind.

    Very insightful post Que?
    -dUkE-

    Like

  2. Oh my brother from another mother, again you have said so eloquently what so many of us think. Charle its hard not being a Christian in Ghana ooooo

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  3. …A fresh sense of kinship is what I feel now. Knowing there are others like me, right here in Accra, who are somewhat the ‘awkward’ kids because they choose to experience God NOT through Christianity…

    The marginalized experience just got so much better…

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  4. …A fresh sense of kinship is what I feel now. Knowing there are others like me, right here in Accra, who are somewhat the ‘awkward’ kids because they choose to experience God NOT through Christianity…

    The marginalized experience just got so much better…

    Like

  5. Oh I was so happy reading this. I am definitely not the only one. I don’t know why it is almost an abomination in Ghana to NOT be especially a Christian and even worse to not believe in God. Most of the people of Christian faith never listen or find out why a person has a different belief. Once you aren’t “Christian” you have a “disease”. They can’t believe it, they feel bad for you, condemn you etc. They never stop to think that maybe just maybe most of us are Christian by default. Same way if some of us were raised by Jews, buddhists etc we would be practicing same. So why condemn another person of a different belief? Why is yours right and theirs wrong? When we do grow up we try to find our own meanings of life. So if I decide to remain Christian, it is my choice and I have my reasons why Christianity works for me so does the atheist etc. I had a Wiccan friend and everyone was literally SCARED of him. At first I was thrown off a bit. (yup I too displayed a bit of the typical Ghanaian Christian attitude lol *face buried in hand*) The difference was I ASKED and i LISTENED. He explained why he was (because he is no more) and I understood. He had gone to church all his life and he wanted to search outside the CHURCH BOX to see what else was there. Now he has moved on from that. If you want to bring someone into your faith you don’t force it down their throats!!! Another problem in Ghana is most “Christians” try to convert other Christians which to me, makes no sense. Here, it is more about “come to my CHURCH”, the battle between orthodox and charismatic! ( oooooh tsk tsk tsk)

    Thank you for this post.

    Like

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