I was giving a demo about online church communities at the Community Next Conference recently. I opened with a comparison of churches and schools–namely, that there are more Christian churches in the United States than K-12 schools, colleges, and universities combined. As I finished that thought, someone in the audience yelled out “That’s sad!”
His comment disrupted me. But I realized two important things.
One, it’s unwise to frame a discussion by comparing faith against education, especially when the talk is on a college campus in the Bay Area.
Two, reaching out to the atheist who is vocally anti-Christian should not be our primary target in marketing. I assume my heckler was atheist, and I wasn’t evangelizing to the audience (I was trying to convince them of the opportunities of bringing church communities online). But the lesson is that the agnostic might listen, the atheist probably won’t.
That applies to an idea, a product or a religion. Guy Kawasaki talks about this in regards to sales of the Macintosh. The die-hard PC users were attractive targets, but a waste of his time. However, the people with little exposure to computers were the “rich and fertile market for Apple.”
I’m not saying we shouldn’t share the Gospel with atheists. But let’s face it–those who have made up their minds to reject Christ (and vocally express it) are tough to convince of your idea or your church. It’s a battle of stubborn wills often ending in mud-slinging futility. It’s a “culture war” or a “war on Christmas” that we shouldn’t be baited into engaging. However, the young non-Christian, the un-churched bachelor, the curious teenager–talk to them. They are the majority. They might listen. And they may be convinced.