How do you even start a spiritual conversation with a friend or colleague, especially if they’re apathetic or disinterested? One approach is to try asking them a wondering question: that’s when you start from something that your friend is already interested in and get them wondering about its source, significance, or meaning.
There’s a good example in the Bible. In Acts 17, Paul is in Athens and as he explores the city he stumbles across the Altar to the Unknown God. Later in his speech at the Areopagus, Paul gets his Athenian audience to wonder about the identity of this god they’re worshipping as unknown.
We can use a similar approach. Whilst our friends may not have erected altars to unknown gods, nevertheless they will have things they care deeply about, things that actually only make sense if God exists.
Here’s an example. During the Christmas holidays, a friend remarked to me that she loved Christmas because it’s a good time to pause and be grateful for all the good things of the last year. We chatted about the kinds of things she had in mind and then I asked: “Have you wondered why we see gratitude as something to aspire to?”
“I hadn’t really thought about that before,” she said.
I then explained how I’d recently read a blog which had included the line: “The greatest problem for many of us is not that we have nothing to be thankful for, but that we have nobody to be thankful to.”
“That’s so right!” she said. “But then … who are we supposed to be thankful to?”
That quickly turned into a much bigger conversation!
With prayer and practice you can learn to ask wondering questions about everything from human rights and justice to beauty, music to movies, love to loneliness and more. You can find loads of examples on the Solas website to inspire you, as well as in chapter 10 of Andy Bannister’s book How to Talk About Jesus Without Looking Like an Idiot. And look out for Solas’s Have You Ever Wondered? book coming this Easter: the ideal gift for a non-Christian friend!
And try praying: Lord, would you please open my eyes to the things my friends care about. Help me be attentive as Paul was attentive in Acts. And then, Lord, please inspire me to ask good wondering questions that might start conversations that lead to you. Amen.