Can Christians do Ministry WITH Atheists?
Have you heard of this thing called "Sunday Assembly"? It’s a church. Well, kind of. It’s a church in the sense that it’s an ekklesia. Ekklesia, the Greek word for church, simply means “assembly” or “gathering.”
Fuller Seminary’s Julia Speck wrote an insightful post about her visit to a nearby Sunday Assembly describing the experience. What she described was something that sounded, well, a lot like church. In fact, said Speck, “whether they intended him to be there or not, I felt God in that Sunday Assembly.”
Dave Kludt wrote a great follow-up asking if an atheist church might actually be a gift to the Christian church. He suggests first, “that there are societal issues that people of any or no faith can work together to overcome.” Then he notes that atheism is growing and Christians need to learn to engage with atheists. And finally, he points out that an atheist church is a helpful reminder to us that our Christian churches are about more than simply gathering on Sunday mornings. If coffee and community is all that gets our people to church on Sundays, we probably have some theological and spiritual work to do.
Can Christians and Atheists Partner in Ministry?
So here’s the question. Can Christian churches and atheist assemblies work together to make the world a better place? The Sunday Assembly’s mission is to “Live better, help often, wonder more.” Nothing wrong with that! If that’s their mission, maybe we can work together.
After I tweeted links to both of the above articles, @moinedeisme, an atheist, messaged me on Twitter and asked, “Can you imagine a world where faith and #atheism could peacefully coexist?”
I think this is a possibility that most of us—Christian or otherwise—have not really considered. Ok, I guess I shouldn’t speak for anyone else. I, personally, haven’t considered this possibility till now.
I’ve never had a problem working together with churches of other denominations, even people of different faiths, in order to do works of service and blessing in our communities. But serve together with atheists? Totally new idea.
So, then… Can Christian churches and atheist assemblies come together to bless our communities?
I think it is possible. (And here's an example!)
What About Jesus?
“But, Markus, shouldn’t we try to get them to believe in Jesus?”
Ok, here are my thoughts on that.
Working together with atheists doesn’t mean we think they should necessarily remain atheists. Our hope as Jesus-followers is that every person would discover the joy and fulfillment inherent in a relationship with our Creator.
But by working together we can affirm the good that we see in all human beings, including atheists. Atheists are created in the image of God, just like you and me. Atheists are not inherently evil. Atheists, too, desire to see the world become a better place.
Listen, God is at work everywhere, even in the lives of people who don’t believe in him. And if God is at work even among atheists—despite the fact that he wasn’t invited!—then we Jesus-followers should be the first ones to stand up (without judgement or condemnation) and say, “Awesome! Let’s hang out!”
What do you think? Can Christians and atheists work together? What do you think are the pros and cons?