Now that I understand somewhat the missional emphasis in certain parts of the Body of Christ, I suspect I have been doing it for a long time.
College is a natural place for that “sharing of our lives together” to occur, isn’t it? It particularly was in the days when many, many Christian youth went off to state universities.
We had a good interdenominational Christian fellowship on campus at Oakland University in the 1970’s. Several area churches sent people by to give us rides to church on Sunday morning. And some of us owned cars so we could go to other churches, and take friends along . . .
We also had an arrangement that, even in the 1970’s was a bit unique–a Christian special interest floor in Vandenberg Hall (one of the dormitories). We requested that floor every year I was at OU, and it was always granted. Probably half the folks on our floor were not in the Christian fellowship, so it was not a situation of total segregation.
In fact, when someone donated a fountain called “Saints and Sinners” which was installed in front of the campus library, the non-Christians on our floor started calling us the “Saints and Sinners” floor. It stuck. Ha!
Thing is, all of us majored in different things and interacted with different segments of our 10,000 member student body.
As a psych major (first of two majors), I met plenty of atheists in my classes on Freud and Skinner. And, to be honest, I was drawn most of all to the intellects of a few of them.
I have always been one who appreciates people who can think for themselves. In every group, there are a handful of people who are only there because it is easier than charting their own course through life or swimming upstream at any juncture. Thus it is probably not a huge surprise to realize that, even in the church of Jesus Christ, there are some who find it attractive to let others do their studying and thinking for them (despite God’s commands to the contrary). I have never liked that fact–when I find those who are intellectually lazy in the Body and who hide behind the scholarship of others, I try my hardest to get them to confront that tendency in themselves.
One way I kept myself sharp while at university was discussing faith issues with atheist friends. We would go into our discussions with our eyes wide open–perhaps continuing a discussion begun in class over lunch in the residence halls. We were pretty certain no one was going to convince anyone of anything, but we would go over, as friends, and ask openly questions about “why do you believe?” and “why do you not believe?”
Those conversations helped me far more than the “yea, verily” conversations I often had with my Christian friends, conversations in which we pretty much agreed on everything . . .
I don’t think I nor my Christian friends were intellectually lazy in those conversations. Probably all of us engaged with our non-Christian friends from class. We just relaxed with each other at the end of the day and didn’t engage in anything too mentally challenging. We were comfortable together. That is easy to understand.
Later, when I added my Spanish major, I helped found the campus Spanish culture club. I also joined the International Students Club as one of several U.S. students who valued spending lots of time with our many, many students from overseas (we had a good engineering major at OU and the U.S. automakers were all headquartered in nearby Detroit). Although I didn’t think about it at the time, the international students were kind of a “reverse missionary” opportunity. I enjoyed them.
All that to say, it is indeed possible to interact with non-Christians in a variety of uplifting and interesting activities in which discussion of Christ comes up regularly but is not the sole emphasis. If we are Christians, people will become aware of that fact as they get to know us. And, if our lives are truly centered in Christ, as He is the center of all that is uplifting and good, then there is no wholesome activity in which He doesn’t play a part. Our job is perhaps less about contriving things to interject about Him and more about just being who we are in Him.