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"Ill take a caf latte," the man said pleasantly to the woman behind the
counter. "Did I cut in front of you? Oh, please forgive me. Maam, take her
order first. So very sorry."
And I knew he was. He was polite, had a kind face, a sincere smile and a
gift for making me believe that he truly regretted placing his order before
mine. In short, he was Mr. Nice Guy.
I struck up a conversation.
I told him to go ahead and get his latte, that I had a big order to fill. My
Sunday school class was serving Starbucks, and Glenn and I had two coffeepots
to fillone with decaf, the other with high test. I nodded toward my fellow
classmate, as Mr. Nice Guy smiled and extended his hand. He had a
warm handshake to match his engaging personality.
Within five minutes I learned that Mr. Nice Guy and his brother owned a
small networking business, hed been married for 19 years to "the love of my
life," his former job required too much travel and time away from the family,
he volunteered in a literacy program, and he thought a good education was the
best legacy he could pass along to his three children.
"Nothing is more important than instilling in my kids a sense of learning."
He patted his thick Sunday paper and told me he read the book reviews
Nice Guys are so easy to talk to, I mused as I heard enough
snippets of his life to realize that churchand, more important, Christwere not
part of the picture.
He indicated the two huge coffeepots and inquired about me.
Glenn was ready to load the car, so I excused myself with a quick
explanation of where I was headed. Mr. Nice Guy appeared amused by the prospect
that my adult Sunday school class provides Starbucks coffee.
"Sounds like a happening place," he said.
"Who was that guy?" asked Glenn, as he arranged the full pots into a box in
"Said he spends every Sunday morning at Starbucks with coffee and the
newspaper. Then he goes home and cooks brunch for the family," I replied,
launching into a discussion about the "people group" that most interests me as
an on mission Christian. Its that large population like Mr. Nice Guy
and perhaps the other folks who were at Starbucks that Sunday morning. They are
really, really nice peoplegood people, in factfolks with high values, a sunny
outlook, a productive life. They raise fine children, are model citizens and
make a positive contribution to society. Yet they dont know Christ, never read
the Bible and rarely darken the door of a church.
In a less crowded setting, I told Glenn, I might have asked Mr. Nice Guy why
God isnt part of his life.
"And yet," I predicted, "I already know the answer."
"Doesnt need Him," said Glenn.
I agreed. Folks like Mr. Nice Guy arent hostile toward God. They just dont
see His relevance. They think their success is due to their own efforts. Life
is good. What more could they need?
In years of interviewing non-believersand sometimes engaging them in
conversations about ChristIve always found the Mr. Nice Guys to be the most
challenging. They dont realize their need for Christ, because they feel so
self-sufficient. Over the years the exploration of their shortcomings has
resulted in a reorganization of their priorities, their lives or their
schedules, usually responsibly and with no harm to others. The abundant life
seems to be happening here and now, and they have no idea of the Source.
How do we respond to the Mr. Nice Guy who ignores God? For that matter, how
do we talk to the person who hates God?
On mission readers have asked for help with understanding what
these people think and for shaping an answer in response. Following are
excerpts from conversations with non-Christians. By listening to them we can
discover what barriers we and our churches can strive to dismantle. Through
them we can learn to be more effective.
On page 54 we offer suggestions for responses to objections from people like
Allen (a pseudonym like the others, although biographical information is
If you have anecdotes about why some people skip church on Sundays and what
you have told them
please share them with us by writing On mission, 4200 North Point
Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022-4176 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carolyn Curtis is editor of On mission.
Click here for some: Ready answers to
some common objections
What I mean is that Ive done some really bad things (stole a car at 19, was
addicted to pornography in my early 20s), and the people I met all seemed very
... well, Ill call it perfect. In fact, they were so polished I was a little
intimidated. I felt out of place. I dont know if any of them had horrible
problems in their past like me. I wouldnt expect them to share that with me
right off the bat, of course, but Im just saying that I felt a little dirty
compared to them. They had 1,000-watt smiles that just seemed to say, "Dont
touch me unless youre as pure as I am."
I believe God has forgiven my past and given me a new life, but I also dont
feel I belong in a church community with people who seem to have it all
together. Is there a way to convey to visitors that church members are not so
"perfect" just because they smile from ear to ear and shake your hand like they
have all the confidence in the world?
Where was God when I was victimized?
Id had two stepfathers by the time I was 15. One was wonderful and died in a
car wreck, but the other one was a drunk who slapped me and my mother around
almost every weekend. Why didnt God keep the first stepfather alive to love me?
Why did God allow the second one to hurt me? I need someone who can listen to
my pain on this subject without giving me the pat answer, "God did it for your
own good. Just pray about it."
"Born agains" have had too many scandals.
Just once Id love to hear one of them say, "All that embarrasses me too." A
lot of them put on a plastic smile and gloss it over.
The only Christian I know is a workaholic like my father.
The man across the street is serious about his faith, but he spends more
time witnessing to others than simply enjoying his family and even his time
alone. Didnt Jesus talk about the abundant life? How can working all the
timeeven for Godbe the only way to live?
My father spent six days a week workingprobably 50-60 hours a week. Then at
60 he dropped dead. So what did all that work gain him? A retirement pension he
could never enjoy?
If the Christian life is all about running around at breakneck speed, then I
dont want any of it. It should be at least a little enjoyable, shouldnt it?
Some Christians seem flighty.
When we had a flood a few years ago, I met some wonderful Christians who
helped us rebuild our warehouse. But after a month or so they forgot about us,
and we never saw them again. They lived in the next county, but they may as
well have lived in China. They promised to stay in touch, but they didnt.
That exposure to the Christian faith gave me the impression that its built
It was the summer of 1991 when our daughter drowned in a boating accident.
Church people rallied around us for the first few weeks. Dave and I thought
we had found our home. But just when our grief shifted into second gear, the
church people disappeared. Or, worse, they acted like: get over it, just come
to church, be happy, pray, believe in God, everything will be okay. It was an
inappropriate response to our situation. The worst part was that Dave had never
been a Christian, and I had. So when they first started paying attention to us,
I thought, Oh, good, hell see how wonderful Christianity can be.
Unfortunately, that reinforced Daves negative stereotype that Christians are
We never overcame that tragedy, and I never forgot my disappointment in the
people who said they were there to help but didnt hang in for the long
Im in a 12-step program for recovering alcoholics.
We talk about our higher power, and I assume that to be God. I meet with the
group at least five times a week, much more than I would meet with a church. We
end each meeting by holding hands and praying the Lords Prayer aloud. Then we
hug and leave. Some people keep in touch between meetings. No one leads the
meetings; we just show up during our noon hours [in a banks community center]
and talk about what troubles us, what motivates us, what lifts us up. This is a
community of people who need each other. I dont see why I would need anything
Sunday is the one day I dont have to set the alarm.
My husband doesnt have to go to the plant. Three of my four kids work, and
thats their day off too. The smallest stays in her room listening to the radio.
Ive even trained her to keep it low. Her brothers usually party on Saturday
nights and dont show their faces until noon on Sundays. But who can blame them?
The two middle ones are still in school until 3:15, then they work until 9:30;
thats five days a week. The oldest is saving for college; he works six days a
week. In other words, I cant see myself getting this house up in time for
churchtheyd laugh in my face. And I cant blame em. Im pooped too. Didnt God
rest one day after He created the world? Seems like a plan to me.
I was raised on the Golden Rule.
I learned about Jesus as a kid growing up in Ohio. Ive lived in four states
since then, always moving up the corporate ladder. But I still make a conscious
effort to apply the Golden Rule to my family, my friends and my customers.
Seems to me that if I do that, Im living as a Christian. I dont see any need to
go to church. If I ever get married and have kids, Ill take them to get the
same foundation I got. But, in the meantime, I think I know enough about God to
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