Chris' Blog


Chris Philbeck

It’s a Dialogue, Not a Debate.

I’ve been going to church since I was a baby in the nursery. In fact, I can still remember the woman who would rock me on her lap and read Bible stories to me when I was young. I called her “Aunt Gail.” She wasn’t a member of our church, she was someone the church hired to staff the nursery. What’s really interesting about this story is that she introduced my single mother to her oldest son and they got married. When he adopted me, along with my older sister and brother, she became my “Granny Gail.” The bottom line is I’ve been in church my entire life. And I’ve been to a lot of different church services. But I have never been to a service like the one that is happening this weekend at Mount Pleasant.

As a part of this special service in our One Life series, I will be spending about 45 minutes interviewing a group of people who are not Christians. I will be asking them questions about where they are in their personal lives in relation to Christianity, what their beliefs are about God, the Bible and Jesus. And I’ll be asking them questions about their experience with church and Christians. I can assure you that the people we’ve invited to be a part of our panel have been chosen very carefully and prayerfully after a significant time of interviews, questions and conversations. These aren’t people who have an angry or militant attitude toward God, they are people who have genuine questions and reservations about God and the Christian faith. I suspect these are people very much like people you already know in your family or where you work or in your neighborhood. These are people who have a genuine interest in spiritual things but have some kind of “sticking point” (to use Lee Strobel’s language from this past weekend) about Christianity. 

Now I can just imagine someone thinking (or saying), “Why?” Why are you doing something so unusual? The answer is really twofold: First, the Bible makes it clear that every spiritually lost person matters to God who has commanded us to be ambassadors of this truth. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. Second, the best way to be an ambassador is by being willing to have a dialogue with someone who is spiritually lost. We make the mistake at times of thinking we need to have a debate. But a dialogue is much more effective. I experienced the reality of that when I hosted my first Spiritual Discovery Group in the fall of 2017. In our first session I asked each group member (none of which were Christians) the following question: “If you could ask God one question that you knew He would answer right away, what would it be?” I followed that up with the simple question, “Why?” And that led to the building of some great friendships as we engaged in spiritual conversations. I want you to see that this coming weekend in this panel discussion. I want you to have a better understanding of the mind of someone who is not a Christian. And I want you to see the value of engaging someone in a spiritual conversation. As I mentioned at the close of each Sunday service, this will be a very different time of worship as there will be people on stage talking openly about the fact that they don’t believe in God or the trustworthiness of the Bible, etc. Take that into consideration when you’re choosing whether or not to put your kids in our Children’s or Student ministry classes or bring them into the service. 

Finally, will you commit to praying every day between now and the weekend for this service? Will you pray for our panel members? We need to show them the love of Jesus this weekend. We’re not going to put them on the spot and we’re not going to try and convert them with an argument or defense of our faith. We’re going to welcome them, love them and pray for an opportunity to build a relationship with them. I’m excited and, honestly, I’m a little anxious because I want to do a good job with this opportunity. So, pray for me as well. I love this One Life series we’re involved in, and I’m so excited about the opportunity for all of us to do a better job of being God’s ambassadors with the message that Jesus offers a new and better life. 

Jesus cares,
Pastor Chris