Who knows you better than your friends and family? Sometimes that’s fun and sometimes that’s awkward. But as well as they may know you, do they know the details of what you believe about spiritual things? And do you actually know what they believe about God?
It could be that you’ve never asked what your aunt thinks about Jesus. Or maybe you asked her five years ago how her spiritual background shaped her current beliefs. Sadly, her answer made it obvious she wasn’t interested in talking about God. So in your mind you put her in the “not interested in God” box and there she’s stayed.
But did you know that what a person believes can change over time? It might be a subtle change or it might be a huge shift. Just look at your own life.
What do you believe about God? And have those beliefs changed over time?
Pastor and author A.W. Tozer said, “What you believe about God is the most important thing about you.” This is true, whether you live like he doesn’t exist, believe he’s a tyrannical God waiting to punish you when you mess up, or think he’s a loving God overflowing with grace and mercy.
A number of factors have shaped, and are still shaping, your beliefs. For instance, the environment you grew up in, the government you live under, the culture that surrounds you, and the amount of time you spend online or with neighbors, friends or mentors.
Your family culture also affects what amount of brokenness you’ve been exposed to. The world is full of evil and sin. And the brokenness that saturates every area of life affects you to some degree, shaping what you believe about God — if he is real, good or just plain mean.
As you grow up and have new experiences, there will always be something or someone that can change your beliefs and perspectives. Whether you know it or not you are growing and learning on a daily basis as you interact with the world around you. One person, podcast, image, story, conversation or experience can change the way you think about everything, including about the spiritual side of life.
Take a moment to reflect on the different stages of your life and how you thought about God in each of those times.
Then think about how, if your beliefs can change, so can the beliefs of those closest to you.
How can you find out what your family and friends believe about God?
When you think about how you’ve changed, it can remind you just how much someone else could have also changed, even in a short amount of time. Staying curious about your own beliefs, especially as they develop, will help you be curious about the lifelong faith development of your family and friends.
But what are some ways you can find out what they actually believe about God? Here are three things to try:
- Make use of the spirituality category in Openers*
Asking questions is a really simple way to get to know someone and what their beliefs are. The following questions are some options from the Openers tool in the GodTools app:
- “If you could ask God for one thing right now, what would it be?”
- “What was your exposure to religion growing up?”
- “What spiritual belief did you have as a child that seems ridiculous to you now?”
- Share your story to help the other person share theirs
Asking to hear someone’s story can help you know what has shaped that person. But you may need to share your story or be vulnerable yourself first. Being transparent like this will show the other person how emotionally deep you’re willing to go in the conversation. Sharing stories can build trust and friendship as well as create opportunities to connect with the other person on a deeper level.
- Join the other person in what they’re doing
Joining the other person could be doing a fun activity together, running an errand or sharing a meal with others in their life. As you spend time together you’ll learn about their hobbies, values, what they like and don’t like, and hopefully their spiritual beliefs too. The more time you spend with someone, the more chances you have to learn about them and what they think about life, spiritual things and God himself.
As you try to find out what your friends and family truly believe about God, remember that their faith development is a lifelong process. Everyone is on a spiritual journey and you never know where that journey has taken someone. Yesterday may have been the day they totally changed their mind about God.
Learning what your friends and family believe can help you talk with them about the good news in a way that makes sense to them. So stay curious. Then let the gospel shine into the dark places of sin and brokenness in their lives where its light has not yet reached.