Imagine winning part of a debate with an atheist, or at least getting him to concede you had a point.
Matthew Parris, a self-avowed confirmed atheist, returned to Africa after 45 years and found that it just wasn’t the good that the missions and faith-based organizations had done. It was the actual belief in God that had transformed the people. He wrote:
It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
And of all things, this quote from the Times Online is posted on RichardDawkins.net. Not quite the place you’d expect a promotion of Christian influence!
Which leads me to encourage you to become engaged in your society. Too long we’ve given place to the world and its influences, allowing the world to go on its eat-drink-and-be-merry way. I’m a conservative, Independent Baptist; but I’m the first to admit that we can be so conservative that we don’t read outside our circles nor think outside our training nor fellowship outside our own. We got so separated that some became inbred and introspective. We forgot the part about being salt and light in our world. We’re afraid to be part of our community. We say they don’t like us, but it’s human nature to distrust the unknown. The reality is that we left them.
Would that it could be said of us, as Parrish writes again about his experience in Africa:
The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.
Let’s be different. Let’s be the ones who reach our communities by being part of them. Though they may not like our faith, they will nonetheless have to say that it works. And just maybe it might bring them to meet Jesus.