How do we share the gospel with people who don’t care about God? People who aren’t necessarily hostile to faith, but for various reasons are simply indifferent to it?
This is the question Kyle Beshears sets out to answer in his new book, Apatheism: How We Share When They Don’t Care. And it’s a question that’s been immensely important in my own personal experience, so I couldn’t wait to read this book.
I totally get that for many people, the answer to the question is probably, “Don’t!” If they’re not interested, just leave them alone! But Beshears rightly points out that the more often we leave it alone, the more we risk drifting into our own apathy toward our neighbors’ spiritual welfare. It would require that Christians downplay the part of our lives that’s most meaningful to us, and it would become more tempting to withdraw into our own religious ghettos and become hostile to those outside.
Plus, there are ways to engage people in conversation about our faith (something that should matter deeply to us and be a passion worth talking about) in ways that aren’t belligerent or invasive. We just need to learn how. In this book Beshears shows us a simple and insightful way forward that is built around developing authentic conversations with the religiously-disinterested and honoring them as people seeking fulfilment in life just like us.
The book divides into two parts, with the first half diagnosing the problem of apatheism and its causes, while the second half describes a path toward engaging “apatheists” in spiritual conversation. Beshears draws on some great research and writings about our modern Western cultural situation and the various trends that lead people to become apathetic toward religion. He highlights four main contributing factors: beliefs about God become contestable and diverse, and people’s conditions of living become comfortable and distracted. The second and third chapters are a bit more on the technical and philosophical side, but nothing too academic, and it’s needed to lay the conceptual groundwork for the second half.
When it comes to the practical applications, there is a lot of magnificent food for thought. Beshears balances the importance of knowing and sharing truth with the need to love people and gradually prompt them into curiosity about spiritual matters. He rightly points out that emotions and desires play just as much, if not more, important of a role when it comes to dialoging with apatheists, and offers some steps to striking up conversations that operate on that level (as opposed to older apologetic approaches that rely too much on intellectual argument and are easy to shrug off or get too heated to go anywhere). He also has much to say about believers diagnosing and dealing with our own apathy and making sure that we are actually experiencing a fulfilling life with God that is worth sharing.
For my own part, I know I have a lot of growing to do when it comes to practicing having meaningful conversations about spiritual matters with many of my neighbors and family who don’t have as much of an interest in it (at least, not that they let show). Apatheism gave me many excellent ideas to work with. It was readable, practical, free of any unnecessary fluff, and didn’t oversell its own effectiveness. I appreciated Beshears’ humble, gracious tone and the detailed examples he offered of how to ask the right questions, spark people’s curiosity, and point them toward the joy and meaning found in Christ.
Anyone looking to grow in their ability to evangelize in our modern, Western, heavily-secularized culture will benefit greatly from this book. I know I did. It would also make an excellent text for courses on evangelism or apologetics. There was a nice little recommended reading list at the back with books on dealing with intellectual objections to Christianity, to help supplement the discussion.
All in all, this was one of the better, more focused, and more practical books on evangelism I’ve read. Highly recommended.
(I was provided a review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.)