According to the Pew Research Center, the number of professed atheists in America has nearly doubled over the past few years. In 2007, only 1.6 percent of Americans surveyed claimed to be unbelievers. By 2014, this number had jumped to 3.1 percent. Another 4 percent of Americans labeled themselves as agnostics in the 2014 survey.
Younger, educated Americans are more likely to identify as atheists. The median age of adults in the United States is 46 while the average age of atheists in America is 34. Only 27 percent of the American public has obtained a college degree while 43 percent of atheists in this country have earned a college diploma. Besides tending to be younger and educated, atheists in America typically favor liberal values. An astounding 92 percent of this population supports same sex marriage, while 87 percent of atheists in the United States advocate legal abortion.
The uptick in atheism isn’t isolated to America. The majority of the populations in France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom, will soon be secular. Sadly, in the industrialized world, religion is becoming less important than it ever has been.
Matthew 9:37-38 says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Ministering to atheists requires both patience and compassion. The following tips can be effective ways to reach out to those who profess God doesn’t exist.
Uncover the Real Reason for Unbelief
Atheists doesn’t arrive at feelings of disbelief in God after years of studying science and reason. Sometimes, unbelievers convert to atheism after experiencing an unsettling event in their lives.
For instance, a spouse might have suddenly asked for a divorce, a child may have died, or a job might have been lost. When talking to an atheist, try to uncover the real reason for his or her denial of God. Determining it can help guide you in your continuing discourse with this individual.
Make a Connection
Growing up, Darren Gedye lived with an atheist father and a backslidden Christian mother. Never attending church, Gedye quickly learned to despise Christians, assuming they were all stupid for holding to what he saw as unfounded beliefs.
While enrolled in night school as an adult, a fellow student began to try to converse with Gedye. One night, this classmate invited Gedye to go to an evangelistic outreach with him. After Gedye refused, his fellow student started trying to be his friend without evangelizing to him. Gedye grew to trust his new friend. For the next two years, Gedye’s classmate answered all of his questions about Christianity without being pushy. When Gedye ultimately realized his friend’s views about Christianity made more sense than his atheism, he accepted Jesus into his life.
Like Christians, atheists are real people with genuine feelings. They laugh, cry, talk, and are able to connect with others. Without Gedye’s friend’s persistence to connect with him on a personal level, Gedye would still likely be chained to the void of atheism.
When confronting an atheist, look past the label. Be a friend. Make a connection that may lead to their conversion to a life of faith.
Renowned evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham believes letting your life be a witness is crucial when ministering to an atheist. Graham has stated, “People may argue with what we say – but they can’t argue with the reality of a life that’s been transformed by Christ.”
The Power of Prayer
Besides letting your life be a witness, the Rev. Graham advocates praying for atheists. Graham believes you can’t win an atheist over on your own. Instead, he feels part of your efforts must include God since, “He can conquer even the most stubborn heart.”
Famous minister Charles H. Spurgeon also felt strongly about praying for unbelievers. He once said, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
As millennial unbelievers grow up and raise children of their own, the atheist population in America will likely continue to increase. Therefore, time is of the essence. As Christians, heeding Colossians 4:5-6 is important. These verses state, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
~ 1776 Christian