How I ditched formal evangelism

..and just started being a friend

Mar 19, 2014 by

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My career as an unofficial evangelist began in my first year of university.

Quiring, age 18

Quiring, age 18

I had been a Christian all my life and had been made to feel guilty about my failure to “share my faith” for many years already. But after I attended an enormous Christian revival event with my youth group, I became On Fire for God and ready to spread the Gospel.

Yet my first attempt to convert a college friend was disastrous. In my evangelistic efforts, I crossed over from being a real friend to being a missionary whose only apparent aim was to convert her. Our friendship never recovered. I can only guess that she may have felt a little used and dehumanized. As far as she could see, I no longer valued her intrinsically as a person and a friend, but only as a recipient of my Good News.

A year or two later, I took a summer art class at the university. I was getting married in a few months and wanted to decrease my upcoming semester’s workload by doing a class during the break. In art class I met a remarkable woman whom I’ll call Wendy.

I have met few human beings in my life as beautiful as Wendy. She was sweet and honest, with a personality that was as warm and golden as her hair and her amber complexion. She had a younger brother with a developmental disability whom she absolutely adored and about whom she talked with refreshing fondness. As a result, she was extremely sympathetic to all people with disabilities and loved hearing their stories.

She was a generous and friendly individual, and she struck up a conversation with me on the first day of class as we were setting up our easels. When she found out where I lived she suggested that we carpool to school. So, for the rest of the summer, I got to drive back and forth with her every day in her parents’ big white Expedition, talking about music, boys, family and art. She would play her country music really loud and keep the windows down, and then yell over the roar of the wind about how she loved the singer’s voice or how she wanted to collect paintings for a gallery some day.

I don’t even remember ever mentioning that I was a Christian. I never do anymore. It seems people can just tell, or maybe I let it slip without realizing it. But on our last day of class, as we were heading home for the last time down the highway with the wind roaring in our ears and Rascal Flatts serenading us over the speakers, she yelled to me, “So … why do you believe in God?”

I explained to her, as best as I could, that God just made sense to me, and helped me to make sense of the world. I explained that I was pretty sure that Jesus was God. I explained how I believed the Gospels were accurate historical documents and that I found Jesus a pretty compelling deity. Wendy said that she wasn’t really convinced but she would probably remain open to the possibility that God existed. We drifted on to another conversation topic, and shortly after that we arrived at her house. I got into my car and exchanged warm goodbyes, and I gave her an invitation to my wedding before I drove off.

We didn’t ever talk about God explicitly again, but we continued to hang out every once in a while. She even came to my wedding, looking like a goddess in a short white dress, and danced with all the people with special needs, including my brother-in-law, who is autistic. I visited her a couple of times at her place until she moved to another province to do another degree.

I never succeeded in converting her; but that was no longer my mission. And neither did I turn her off from God or church. I figure that’s gotta count for something.

I loved this new way of talking about God.

I loved being asked about my faith, and being able to talk about it openly without any pressure to change the person who was asking. I realized that I had no control over whether or not Wendy wanted to know Jesus, and that was okay. That wasn’t my responsibility. I was available to her if she ever did want to know more, and I’m sure she knew it. I didn’t have to give her a weird, “I’m available to talk if you ever want to come to Christ” spiel. That was already apparent.

My job was simply to continue loving God and living in relationship with him, and to make friends and to be open to talking about God with them if they were interested. And if they simply weren’t? There was nothing I could really do about that.

After that summer, I was often surprised to find myself in the middle of a conversation about heaven with a friend over lunch or chatting about prayer while walking to the library. I was surprised to find how naturally — and frequently — it occurred. People — particularly atheists — loved talking and hearing about God, as long as I wasn’t giving them a sermon.

And it never felt weird. It was just as natural as talking about our weekends or our boyfriends or the authors we were reading. I simply shared some of my own young thoughts and experiences when the subject came up. And my friends seemed to value them.

I never had to intentionally steer the conversation in that direction if it wasn’t going there. God came up on his own accord.

Using this approach, I also had plenty of time to get to know my friends first before diving into God stuff — to learn what kinds of things they found interesting or exciting.

I also found I was never nervous about talking about God anymore — my friends cherished my views and often found them intriguing. What was there to be nervous about? We were equals; we were both spiritual seekers, even if we had come to different conclusions about the universe. I had no responsibility but to be loving, open, honest and thoughtful.

This is the form of evangelism I have embraced since the failed conversion, and I have had no shortage of conversations about God since then.

Kathleen Quiring lives in Leamington, Ont. She makes her own shampoo, deodorant and laundry detergent, and holds a master’s degree in literature. This post is part of a series on evangelism that originally appeared on her blog,

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