STUDY ARTICLE 30
Reaching the Hearts of Nonreligious People
“I have become all things to people of all sorts, so that I might by all possible means save some.”—1 COR. 9:22.
SONG 82 “Let Your Light Shine”
1. What change has occurred in some areas in recent decades?
FOR thousands of years, the majority of people in the world seemed to have some form of religious belief. But in recent decades a remarkable change has taken place. More and more people do not view themselves as religious. In fact, in some countries the majority of the population describe themselves as not being religious. *—Matt. 24:12.
2. What might explain why so many people are not religious?
2 Why do a growing number of people consider themselves to be nonreligious? * Some may be distracted by pleasures or anxieties. (Luke 8:14) Some have become atheists. Others believe in God but think that religion is old-fashioned, irrelevant, and incompatible with science and logical thinking. They may hear friends, teachers, or media personalities say that life evolved, but they rarely hear logical reasons for believing in God. Others are repelled by clergy who are greedy for money and power. In some places, governments officially limit religious activity.
3. What is the purpose of this article?
3 Jesus expects us to “make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matt. 28:19) How can we help nonreligious people to learn to love God and become disciples of Christ? We must recognize that a person’s reaction to our message may depend on where he was raised. For example, people with a European background may not respond the same way as may those who come from Asia. Why? In Europe, many know something about the Bible and are familiar with the idea that God created all things. But in Asia, the majority of people know little or nothing about the Bible, and they may not believe in a Creator. The purpose of this article is to help us reach the hearts of all those we meet in the ministry, no matter what their background may be.
MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
4. Why can we keep a positive attitude?
4 Be Positive. Every year, there are nonreligious people who become Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many already had high moral standards and felt disgusted by religious hypocrisy. Others had low moral standards and many had bad habits that they needed to abandon. With Jehovah’s help, we can be sure that we will find those who are “rightly disposed for everlasting life.”—Acts 13:48; 1 Tim. 2:3, 4.
5. What often makes people respond well to our message?
5 Be Kind and Tactful. Often, people respond well to our message, not because of what we say, but because of the way we say it. They appreciate it when we are kind, tactful, and genuinely interested in them. We do not force them to hear our point of view. Instead, we try to discern the reasons for their view of religion. For example, we learn that some do not like talking about religion with a stranger. Others feel that it is bad manners to ask a person what he thinks about God. Still others feel embarrassed to be seen reading the Bible, especially with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whatever the case, we try to be sensitive to their feelings.—2 Tim. 2:24, ftn.
6. How did the apostle Paul show that he was adaptable, and how can we imitate him?
6 What can we do if someone seems uncomfortable when we use such words as “Bible,” “creation,” “God,” or “religion”? We can imitate the apostle Paul and adapt our approach to them. When speaking with Jews, Paul reasoned from the Scriptures. However, when he spoke with Greek philosophers at the Areopagus, he made no direct reference to the Bible. (Acts 17:2, 3, 22-31) How can we follow Paul’s example? If you meet a person who does not accept the Bible, it may be best not to make direct references to it when reasoning with him. If you sense that a person might be uncomfortable being seen reading the Bible with you, try showing him scriptures in a less obvious way, such as on an electronic device.
7. To be like Paul, as described at 1 Corinthians 9:20-23, what might we have to do?
7 Be Understanding and Listen. We must try to understand the factors that have influenced the people we meet. (Prov. 20:5) Consider again Paul’s example. He grew up among Jews. He surely had to adapt his preaching to Gentiles, people who knew little or nothing about Jehovah and the Scriptures. We might have to do some research or consult experienced ones in the congregation so that we can empathize with and understand the people in our territory.—Read 1 Corinthians 9:20-23.
8. What is one way to start a conversation about the Bible?
8 Our goal is to find “deserving” ones. (Matt. 10:11) To be effective, we must invite people to express their opinions and then listen attentively. A brother in England asks people for their opinion about how to have a happy marriage, how to raise children, or how to cope with injustice. After listening to their comments, he says, “What do you think of this advice written nearly 2,000 years ago?” Then, without saying the word “Bible,” he shows them well-chosen scriptures on his phone.
REACH THE HEARTS OF PEOPLE
9. How might we help people who usually avoid talking about God?
9 We can reach the hearts of people who usually avoid talking about God by discussing something that is already close to them. For example, many marvel at nature. So we might say something like the following: “You probably know that many inventions came about when scientists copied things that already existed in nature. For instance, microphone designers study ears, and camera designers study eyes. What comes to your mind when you think of nature? Do you think that it is a marvelous force, a person, or something else?” After listening attentively, we could add: “When engineers learn from the design of ears and eyes, we might wonder whom they are learning from. I was intrigued by something an ancient poet wrote: ‘The One who made the ear, can he not hear? The One who formed the eye, can he not see? . . . He is the One who imparts knowledge to people!’ Some scientists have come to a similar conclusion.” (Ps. 94:9, 10) We could then show a video from jw.org® under “Interviews and Experiences” in the series “Viewpoints on the Origin of Life.” (Look under PUBLICATIONS > VIDEOS.) Or we could give them either the brochure Was Life Created? or the brochure The Origin of Life—Five Questions Worth Asking.
10. How might we start a conversation with someone who is not inclined to talk about God?
10 Most people long for a better future. However, many fear that the earth Ps. 37:29; Eccl. 1:4.will be destroyed or be made uninhabitable. A traveling overseer in Norway says that people who are not inclined to talk about God are often willing to talk about world conditions. After greeting people, he says: “What do you think about our prospects for a better future? Does our best hope lie with politicians, scientists, or someone else?” After listening carefully, he reads or quotes a scripture that points to a bright future. Some are intrigued by the Bible’s promise that the earth will last forever and that good people will live on it eternally.—
11. Why should we try a variety of approaches, and how can we imitate Paul’s example, as described at Romans 1:14-16?
11 We do well to use a variety of approaches with those we meet. Why? Because each person is unique. What attracts one may repel another. Some do not mind discussing God or the Bible, while others respond better to a more indirect approach. In either case, we should take the opportunity to speak to all sorts of people. (Read Romans 1:14-16.) Of course, we keep in mind that Jehovah is the one who makes the truth grow in the hearts of those who are righteously inclined.—1 Cor. 3:6, 7.
SHARING THE TRUTH WITH PEOPLE FROM ASIA
12. What can we do to reach people from Asian lands who have not thought about the idea of a Creator?
12 Worldwide, many publishers are meeting people from nations in Asia, including some who come from places where governments have put limits on religious activity. In a number of Asian countries, many have never given serious consideration to the idea of a Creator. Some are curious and accept a direct offer of a Bible study, but others initially hesitate to explore new ideas. What can we do to reach them? Some experienced publishers have success by starting a casual conversation, showing personal interest, and then when appropriate relating how their life improved when they started applying a specific Bible principle.
13. What can attract people to the Bible? (See cover picture.)
13 Many people are first attracted to the practical wisdom found in the Bible. (Eccl. 7:12) In New York, a sister who visits Mandarin-speaking people says: “I try to take an interest in people and listen to them. If I learn that they are new immigrants, I might ask: ‘How are you settling in? Have you found work? Are the local people treating you well?’” Sometimes this opens the way to introduce a Bible teaching. When appropriate, the sister may add: “What would you say is the key to getting along with people? May I show you a proverb from the Bible? It says: ‘Beginning a fight is like opening a floodgate; before the quarrel breaks out, take your leave.’ Do you think that this advice could help us to get along with others?” (Prov. 17:14) Such conversations can help us to identify people who would welcome further visits.
14. How does one brother in the Far East help people who say that they do not believe in God?
14 What about those who tell us that they do not believe in God? A brother with much experience preaching to nonreligious people in the Far East Jeremiah 16:20: ‘Can a man make gods for himself when they are not really gods?’ Then I ask: ‘How could we tell a real god from man-made ones?’ I listen carefully, and then I read Isaiah 41:23: ‘Tell us what will happen in the future, so that we may know that you are gods.’ Then I show an example of how Jehovah has foretold the future.”explains: “Typically, when a person here says, ‘I don’t believe in God,’ he means that he does not believe in worshipping traditional gods. So I usually agree that most gods are man-made and are not real. I often read
15. What can we learn from the example of a brother in East Asia?
15 A brother in East Asia uses the following approach when making return visits. He says: “I show them examples of Bible wisdom, fulfilled Bible prophecies, and laws that control the universe. Then I show them how all of it points to a living and wise Creator. When a person accepts the possibility that God exists, I start showing him what the Bible says about Jehovah.”
16. According to Hebrews 11:6, why do students need to have faith in God and in the Bible, and how can we help them develop it?
16 When we conduct Bible studies with people from nonreligious backgrounds, we must continually build up their belief in the existence of God. (Read Hebrews 11:6.) And we need to help them to build faith in the Bible. This might require that we repeat some points a number of times. During each study session, we may need to discuss evidence that the Bible is God’s Word. This may include a brief discussion of the Bible’s fulfilled prophecies, scientific and historical accuracy, or practical wisdom.
17. What effect can our love have on people?
17 We help people to become disciples of Christ by displaying love for them, whether they are religious or not. (1 Cor. 13:1) As we teach them, our goal is to show that God loves us and wants us to love him. Every year thousands who previously had little or no interest in religion get baptized because they have grown to love God. So be positive, and take a loving interest in all sorts of people. Listen to them. Try to understand them. By your example, teach them to be disciples of Christ.
SONG 76 How Does It Make You Feel?
^ par. 5 We may meet nonreligious people more often now than ever before. This article discusses how we might share Bible truth with them and how we can help them to cultivate trust in the Bible and faith in Jehovah God.
^ par. 1 According to surveys, some of those lands are: Albania, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
^ par. 2 EXPRESSION EXPLAINED: In this article, the term nonreligious refers to people who either do not belong to an organized religion or do not believe in God.
^ par. 54 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A brother witnesses to a fellow hospital worker, who later explores our Online Bible Study Lessons.