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When an Atheist Preaches One of the Best Messages Ever

Beyond the timidity, beyond the social tension, and beyond the noise of culture, the silence must be broken. And it’s our silence. My friend, proselytizing people for Christ isn't an option. It's a mandate, because the silence is killing people, quite literally.

I’ve been thinking that maybe the atheist is right after all. And just in case you thought there’s a typo in the last sentence, allow me to be clear: you read correctly.

Don’t stone me, but what would you say if I told you that one of the most compelling evangelistic campaigns I have ever heard came from the mouth of an atheist—a God-denying, card-carrying atheist? Well, I did. Last week, I was stopped cold in my tracks while listening to a five-minute monologue from Penn Jillette, the outspoken atheist of the renowned duo Penn and Teller. And in my opinion, he preached straight-up truth…for the most part. Listen, I see that raised eyebrow, so watch this before you arrive at my doorstep with riot gear:

I don’t know about you, but I just got served.

Served for hiding behind timidity, thinking the urgency of the Gospel would be handled by someone else. Served for staying too comfortable speaking Christianese to my Christian friends in my Christian circles. Served for talking about making disciples instead of actually making disciples.

Maybe the atheist is right.

Locked and Loaded

Revisiting Preacher Penn’s pithy sermon, he aimed the crosshairs and fired, saying, “If you believe that there’s a heaven or hell and you believe people could be going to hell and not getting eternal life…and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that. If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it…there’s a certain point where I tackle you…and this is more important.

drops the mic…walks off stage

This is more important and it’s time to break the silence.

Breaking the Silence

In Matthew 28:18-20 (AMP), our marching orders are delivered without hesitation: “Jesus approached and, breaking the silence, said to them, All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be).”

Did you catch that power-packed three-word phrase? For the sake of hidden, broken lives all around us, the silence must be broken.

Go Means “Go”

Jesus said, “go” but for most Christians, we “go” to Bible studies to talk about the verse, write books about the verse, memorize the verse, and exegete the verse. Yet “go” means “GO,” not talk about going. The hang-up for a lot of Christians is that we believe “going into all the world” requires a passport and an airplane ticket. But in the original Greek (the language in which the New Testament was written), the word go translates, “as you go.” The implication is that as you go throughout your everyday life, allow the authentic, love-motivated, normal (not weird), humanity-valuing representation of Christ to be glaringly evident to all those who cross your path.

Just as it was for my friend, Dalia.

When Heaven Invades Chicken

A year ago, I walked into a local restaurant where I met a middle-aged, tenderhearted woman named Dalia. After having ordered my food and striking-up a conversation about her unbelievable menu, I knew I’d be back. Two days later, I returned for more chicken but left with a burden for this very kind Muslim woman who was blanketed by heaviness. Because of her background, I knew that in order to have access to her heart, I needed to earn her trust, and that would take time. So for the next two months, I became her friend and learned about her restaurant, her family life, and her dreams for a hope-filled future.

Then on a Wednesday last November, I walked into the restaurant and sensed something was troubling my friend. “What’s wrong, Dalia?” I asked as I approached the counter. She snapped back in surprise, “How in the world did you know?” “Just a feeling,” I replied.

Dalia went on to tell me that just three days prior, her father passed away as a result of, in her words, “a really rare disease that you’ve probably never heard of…multiple myeloma.” Myeloma. The same hellish disease that my mom battled for 18 years.

As the lunch crowd was queuing-up, I quickly assured her, “Listen, I’ll be praying for you. The Lord will comfort you.” The next day, I went into the restaurant to check on her. Puzzled, she asked, “When you said the Lord would comfort me, what did you do to me?” Even more puzzled, I asked, “What did I do?” Dalia told me that “something made her stomach drop” when I said those words. “Alright, Dalia,” I gently stated, knowing I needed to break the silence, “I’m a Christian and truly know that the Lord Jesus can heal you everywhere you hurt.” At that moment, the lunch crowd was herding in for feed, so I left and told her I’d be back soon.

On Friday of the same week, I intended to visit her once again, but I didn’t simply want to tell her about the Kingdom. I wanted to show her the Kingdom.

Show & Tell

That morning, I asked the Lord to show me His heart for Dalia and give me the opportunity to minister to her in a personally relevant manner. I believed that He told me she had a problem with her feet and was in pain.

It was time to break the silence once again. Now, if you think I was cool as a cucumber and ready to be Mr. Power Evangelist, you’re dead wrong. I was scared out of my mind. But faith is spelled “r-i-s-k,” so I had to be willing to look stupid if I ended up being wrong and act upon that which I believed God told me.

“Dalia,” I said as I approached the counter, “by chance, do you have pain in your feet?” With a stunned look, she snapped, “WHO TOLD YOU?! I had a botched surgery three years ago. My feet are in pain every day!” I replied, “Remember I said the Lord Jesus would comfort you? Well He told me. Would you like to feel better?” With reservation, she said, “Well, yes, but what are you going to do about it?” I asked, “May I pray for you?” Timidly, she answered, “Yes.”

Because of the long and deep counter separating us, the best I could do was ask her to just listen while I prayed. As I declared the healing power of Jesus over her body, tears began to roll down her cheeks. “What’s happening? Who’s doing this to me?” she frantically inquired. All of the pain was leaving her body. As I continued to pray, she marched around the linoleum floor—by this time sobbing—and exclaimed, “WHO IS DOING THIS TO ME?! The pain is gone!”

Seizing the moment, I implored, “The Lord Jesus is healing you…and He can change your life forever. Do you want to make Him the Lord of your life right now?!”

“YES!” she insisted.

Silence shattered.

In that moment, we prayed together and with genuine belief in her heart, she asked Jesus to be her Lord. Interestingly, during those few moments, no other customers visited the restaurant.

Over the next couple months, I fed her a steady diet of books, teaching CDs, conversations, and connection to a local church where she could begin her journey to an authentic, maturing relationship with Christ. She was on board. Way on board. Her life had been changed and now, her kids are asking questions about “this Jesus.” To boot, she never had another day of pain in her feet!

I believe it when Jesus said, “heal the sick.” (Matthew 10:7-8) He didn’t imply that you would only consider them on your prayer list and like the flip of a coin hope everything would work out. I believe Him when He said, “bring deliverance.” And I believe Him when He said, “make disciples.”

So my call-to-action to you, friend, is this: break the silence. Your silence breaking doesn’t have to be as dramatic as Dalia’s story; a plot-thickening story isn’t the goal—a real, life-changing God encounter is. Be salt. Be light. And as Penn Jillette said, be genuine, be authentic, be normal, be caring, and be kind.

This is the Way We Go to Church

For just a moment, I’m going to get a little messy. How much more concerned are we about service format, program management, stage position and color coordination, sitting down, standing up, and our token slogans than breaking the silence? Are we more concerned with our seating count than our “sent” count? Are we more focused upon “doing” church than being the Church?

None of those things are inherently wrong at all, but Jesus never taught people to make Christians who would simply attend church. He taught us to make disciples; “all-in” Christ-followers who would make other disciples.

Beyond the timidity, beyond the social tension, and beyond the noise of culture, the silence must be broken. And it’s our silence. My friend, proselytizing people for Christ isn’t an option, it’s a mandate, because the silence is killing people, quite literally.

Your “Dalia” is out there…and waiting to meet you.

Recommended Resources

Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples

God Is Not Mad at You: You Can Experience Real Love, Acceptance & Guilt-free Living

Walking Worthy of the Call: Your Journey as a Disciple of Jesus Christ

The Power That Changes the World: Creating Eternal Impact in the Here and Now

Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live.

  • Adam Istvan

    Dude… Yes!!! Best post ever! Keep it up bro.

    • THANK YOU! The readers asked for spiritual growth, so here it is. I’m looking forward to bringing even more provoking content like this.

  • Kathy Craig

    OK. I saw the movie “The War Room” this past weekend (excellent movie, btw) and now you share this story. Time for me to get out of my stagnant Christian life. Thank you Chris!

    • I’ve yet to see the film, but have heard awesome reviews! I’m glad this article was stirring! All my best, Kathy.