02 2014

Doubters Welcome

As a college student I attended a campus Christian fellowship that always had a book table of Christian literature. There was a little pamphlet there called Doubters Welcome, and I always wanted to be part of a church that had that spirit. The third of Redeemer’s “core values” is that we be a place where those who are not believers (or who are not sure what they believe) find that their questions are invited, their doubts and difficulties are respected, and their struggles have been anticipated. We are relentlessly aware of and glad for the presence of doubters in our midst. We are very relentless yet extremely non-combative as we present the reasonable beauty of the Christian faith in every aspect of our ministry.
 
Why do we do this?
First the joyful effects of the gospel in our own lives give us an enormous energy for witness. How can we keep our mouths closed about such a wonder? But second, the humbling nature of the gospel leads us to approach non-believers without superiority and with respect. Since we are saved only by God’s grace and not our goodness, we expect to often find wisdom and compassion in non-Christians that at many points may exceed our own. Third, the love experience of the gospel removes from us the fear of others’ disapproval. All this drains us of influences that can lead us to treat non-Christians as “evangelism cases”—people that we relate to, talk to, and care for only in order to win them over to our side. That is to objectify and dehumanize them, and, not surprisingly, it is unwinsome. We don’t love people in order to evangelize them. Rather, we evangelize them in order to love them. The more these dynamics are present in our lives the more Redeemer will powerfully draw in new people like a magnet (Acts 2:47).
 
How do we do this?
In evangelism, we take we take an intelligent, not an authoritarian approach. We remember what it is like to not believe, and we do not expect people to believe simply by being told what is true. People want to know why. Second, we take a process, not a “crisis” approach. We provide for multiple exposures to the gospel. We afford people the opportunity to ask questions, so that they receive information about Christianity in an order and shape that addresses their situation. Third, we take a “presuppositional” approach to persuading people about Christianity. That means that we believe every person, even the skeptic, already does believe in God (Romans 1:18-25). We therefore we find “clues of God”—insights into truth—that they have, and use them to show the way back to their Creator and Redeemer. Jesus responded positively to a man who was in “process” who asked, “I believe—but help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24), and at Redeemer we want to do the same. 
 
Where do we do this?
Everywhere. At Redeemer we put out the Doubters Welcome Mat at every service and meeting, always expecting and hoping to be “overheard” by those who don’t believe. 
 
First, we believe that worship must be done in such a way that believers can understand and be included. In I Corinthians 14:24-25, Paul asserts that “seekers” are to be expected and accommodated in Christian worship. He demands that the service be conducted in a way that is comprehensible and convicting to outsiders. 
 
Second, we provide classes and “after meetings” where people can be debriefed after services and helped to understand the Christian faith. This is patterned after Acts 2, where non-believers were first impressed with the worship of the disciples (“we hear them declaring the wonders of God”), and then received a more thorough exposition of the gospel in response to their question (“what does this mean?” v.11). 
 
Third, we seek to have most of our small groups and service ministries open and inclusive of people regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey. 
 
We are extremely fortunate to minister in a large city, where Christians are not totally able to segregate themselves from others in their relationships. Urban Christians tend to have more good friends among people who don’t believe. At Redeemer, we aim to create a climate where the Christian comes and quickly realizes, “if I brought my unbelieving friends here, they will be surprised to see how attractive and sensible Christianity is.” As long as Christians are having that thought, Redeemer will continue to change many lives. 
 
This is a reprint of a Redeemer Report article by Tim Keller, originally published in 1996.




Articles in this Issue

Doubters Welcome
Tim Keller
 
Learn How to Engage the Homeless at Don’t Walk By
 
Interview with Rebecca Locke, CFW’s Artist-in-Residence
 
Questioning Christianity
Kathy Keller
 
Which Congregation Do You Call Home?
 
Update: Elder, Deacon and Deaconess Nominations
 
Conference on Being Single: Saturday, March 1