Once we're friends with someone it can take months or years before they are ready to have a spiritual conversation. Your job is to be transparent and available without being pushy. They need to know that you love Jesus and that you're his disciple, but you don't try to force them to think or act in any way. You love them as they are, for who they are, with no strings attached.
I'm writing all of this knowing that any of my non-Christian friends may read it. There's nothing to hide here, they should already know who I am and what I do, and (here's the important part) they should feel comfortable being themselves around me. Because I'm a disciple of Jesus, doesn't mean I can't be friends with non-Christians (Jesus was great at being friends with the people labeled sinners by the religious establishment). Guess what, not all of Jesus "sinner" friends were converted by him. Some of them had fun at the party, enjoyed the wine that he provided (he made some good wine) and went on their way. Jesus didn't run and stop them, he didn't make them feel uncomfortable, he just kept loving them and going to parties with them.
However, if a friend is interested in your spiritual journey, you should be ready to share. Here's the trickiest, touchiest and scariest part of the whole process: let them ask any question. Remember that the life of a disciple starts with questions. When you invite your friends to see your life, they get to ask questions too. But their questions may be different from the ones you're used to asking or hearing. That's OK. It's fine. There are no off-limits questions in the disciple life. God isn't afraid of us asking anything.
Here are some of the questions I've heard:
- Why does God hate Jesus and kill him?
- Isn't the bible controlled by the Vatican? How can we trust it?
- Did Jesus have wet dreams?
- Don't all religions point to the same goal?
- Why would you want to go to heaven anyway?
- Can the church give me money for my marijuana to help me get off meth?
- Isn't God kind of like an abusive husband?
Note, all of these are real questions asked by real people who seriously wanted an answer. You cannot laugh, mock, scoff or scorn questions unless you want to damage the relationship. It's also a bad idea to try to answer the question outright. First off, you probably don't know the answer, and secondly, that's not the disciple process. You don't ask questions and then get answers. The process of searching and discovery is powerful and important. Don't try to short-circuit the process to help your friends or to prove that you're so smart.
I would respond with: "That's a great question. Can you tell me more about what you mean by it?"
Then, just keep digging as long as you can. What you're doing is acting as a sounding board for your friend to explore their own thoughts on the subject. One of the best ways to start searching for an answer is to have a clearly stated question. If you help your friend to state their question well, then you've invited them to take the next step of the disciple journey.
What are some of the best questions you've heard?