Americans who say they are “non-religious” have grown in recent years. About one-in-five people (one-third are under the age of 30) claim to be religiously unaffiliated, according to the Pew Research Center. Some have a name for this new trend: “Apatheism.” This means people are apathetic about if there is a God and how He relates to their lives.
Here are three things Christians can do to combat apatheism:
1. First off you can pray. The Holy Spirit can work on their hearts while we obey the commission Jesus gave us—to proclaim the good news and make disciples.
2. Show them a reason to care! Find out what they care about and how they make value judgements in those areas. Then, you can ask them if they have a sense of “better” and “worse,” and how they work towards the better. Most recognize they have a standard higher than what they’ve lived up to. Once clarified, use their own claims as starting points to discuss how to best live, and naturally the necessity of God can be introduced during this conversation.
It’s not popular these days to call people “sinners,” but that’s what we all are, and we need to show the need for redemption. Be careful, however, in how you help them discover this fact. Remember rule number one: pray that God changes their heart. What many don’t understand is how holy God is, and without a basic understanding of sin, it’s difficult to see how people have sinned against God, breaking the holy relationship that we were designed for.
We all have a sense that there must be something more to this life; the cosmic chaotic accident evolutionists claim started all of this just doesn’t satisfy that unmet longing inside a person for purpose. Some need help to discern that unmet longing. This is why discipleship is so vital! We need to cultivate relationships with people and help them to see that those longings can be met in the love of God through Jesus Christ.
Using basic apologetics, you can also show apatheists how their worldview has borrowed from theism as a basis for deeming things good or bad. Then you can help point out inconsistencies in the current relativistic worldview that says everyone can find whatever belief works for them. Show them how there needs to be a moral objective grounded in universal truth (God), otherwise we could be subject to any one who is in power.
3. Relationship first, facts later. Remember Jesus’ model—He hung out with His disciples and built relationships with them while they were figuring out who He really was. He just loved on them, prayed with them and taught them. Let people know that you will be there for them when they go through a hard time (because we all eventually do). Christians have the best answers to life’s problems.
Apatheism is growing, but it doesn’t have to if we lovingly engage people in relational discussions with the primary motivation of showing them the love of God. It’s love that brings people to God, not judgment. We need to always be mindful that God is in the redemption business, and everything needs to be seen in that light. With God’s Holy Spirit leading and guiding, perhaps the growing number of non-religious people will lessen, and instead, grow towards Jesus, and His redemptive purposes for their lives.