How to Talk about Your Faith

To be a follower of Jesus means we are His disciples. A disciple is a learner or pupil. Notice the emphasis on receiving knowledge first in this definition. 

It is a privilege to be in a career that endeavors to help others grow in their faith in Christ. And yet, I still find far too often that it is hard to have a productive conversation between those who identify as Christians and those who don’t. This is especially true when we meet each other online. 

In my experience, growth is hard but not impossible. I believe there are four crucial components that will foster a mutually beneficial conversation both on- and offline: authenticity, listening, vulnerability, and validation. Without these components, it is unlikely that anyone will gain a hearing when we enter into conversations about faith.  


A few years ago, I was asked to officiate a wedding for a church member. She was engaged to an unbeliever.  For our purposes, I will call them Carly and Gene. Gene was a very well-read and successful professional. Carly asked that we include time in our premarital counseling to discuss the Christian faith. She wanted Gene to become her husband. She also wanted Gene to become a Christian.  

When we met for the first time, I could see on Gene’s face how awkward he felt. He knew Carly unconditionally loved him. But he also felt like he’d become her (and now my) evangelism project. Yet, he was still open to talking about the Christian faith even if it felt like a forced conversation. He clearly loved her and so was willing to listen to what I had to say. But the uneasiness in the room was palpable. Clearly, Gene would not be in my office were it not for his loving bride. 

Here was my first challenge: How could we transform what felt like an artificial conversation into an authentic conversation? Notice I said “we.” Although Gene and I did not talk about it, I assumed that he and I had the same shared goal: neither of us wanted him to feel like a project. He is a person with his own story. He began his spiritual journey long before we met.  

Listen to learn 

Years ago, one of my pastoral mentors told me how important it is to listen. This means being slow to speak and quick to listen. This also means we are interested in what a person has to say, in their spiritual journey, and learning is always a two-way street.  

If we are not genuinely interested in a person’s story or point of view, what makes us think they will be interested in ours? If we have no curiosity about the other person and are not open to growing ourselves, then there is no conversation—only monologue. It means we do not respect each other. It means our pride is keeping us from being a blessing and being blessed. People are smart. They will know through the choice of our words and body language if we see them only as the next checked box in our attempt to follow the Great Commission. It’s hard to think of a greater conversation killer than to patronize others. 

Would it not be even more of a joy to learn something new about our Creator’s creation and people through the eyes of a different culture? Would it not be even more meaningful to build a conversation and relationship out of mutual respect and curiosity?  


The first thing Gene said to me after a brief introduction was how skeptical of organized religion he was. That was a gift. He entrusted me with where his heart and mind were on the matter. I did not feel the need to come to religion’s defense because I have experienced enough organized religion to share the same skepticism. I wanted to hear what bothered him about clergy and communities of faith. I learned that Gene really disliked it when people of faith dismissed science as a source of truth. I learned that Gene did not want to separate his faith world from his day-to-day world. He wanted an integrated worldview.  

Gene said, “I guess you could say I’m agnostic.” He paused as if to say it was my turn now to disapprove or begin an argument. “What does the word agnostic mean to you?” I asked. Gene seemed surprised by my question and desire for him to tell me more. He said, “I have so many unanswered questions about God. There are a number of things that bother me in the Bible.”  

It was my turn to be vulnerable and to speak from my heart. I said, “I also have many unanswered questions about God, even though I have degrees from three different seminaries. I am still perplexed and unsettled by things in the Bible. By your definition I am also agnostic—not knowing with certainty many things concerning God.”  


No longer was I the preacher and Gene my captive audience. We both shared things that perplexed us and unsettle us about the Christian faith. We talked about the origin of the universe and were able to share our wonder and awe from both a scientific and biblical framework. We talked about things that rocked Gene to his core such as how God can still be a loving God and allow unspeakable evil. Gene’s struggle with these things reveals a deep empathy, and dare I say godly care, for others. 

Our conversation validated what I believe in my core: every human being is fearfully and wonderfully made. The light of Christ and image of God longs to manifest in every soul. That is one of the joys and gifts of relationships and true spiritual companionship: we get to see God’s work in a whole new way.  

Gene ended our conversation with, “I look forward to talking about these things again.” He almost quoted one of my favorite examples of evangelism from Acts 17. Paul shares his faith with Greek philosophers and quotes their writers (v. 28). They end the conversation with “We will hear you again about this” (v. 32). 

To be a follower of Jesus means we are His disciples. A disciple is a learner or pupil. Notice the emphasis on receiving knowledge first in this definition. This is something we can all work on modeling better when we meet opposing views from others, whether in our social feeds or on the sidelines of our kid’s soccer game. 

How can you show up as a disciple in your interactions with others today? What is God calling you to receive in these relationships? 

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