Have you ever known people who you wanted to have a relationship with Christ but they just didn’t seem open to a spiritual discussion? Or maybe every time you tried having a spiritual conversation, it didn’t go well? There are a number of barriers to faith that can be responsible.
If you don’t understand which barrier is affecting someone, you can approach a spiritual conversation the wrong way, make an unconvincing argument, or just not speak to that person in a meaningful way. Through understanding those barriers, you will be better equipped to reach such people in a more effective way. Indigitous recently asked author and attorney Anna Rapa to share her thoughts on barriers to faith and how to overcome them.
Anna breaks the barriers down into three categories:
- Rational Barriers
- Spiritual Barriers
- Emotional Barriers
Rational barriers are “based on intellect or logical discussion,” Anna says. Someone with a rational barrier to faith may say, “There are hundreds of different religions. How can we know which one of them is true?” Someone with a rational barrier to faith needs rational answers to their questions. They may have questions about evolution or why a loving God would allow suffering.
This is probably the barrier for which Christians are best equipped. From the Four Spiritual Laws to EveryStudent.com to books like Josh McDowell’s More Than a Carpenter, Christian evangelism and apologetics often focuses on answering rational questions about faith.
“At the core of all of us, we all have the same problem that Adam and Eve had, which is that we want to do it ourselves,” Anna says. People with spiritual barriers to faith don’t want to give up control and rely on God. They don’t want to admit that they are lacking and need anyone, even if that someone is God.
This is not a barrier that can be overcome rationally. You can make the best logical argument for faith and it wouldn’t have an impact, because their barrier is spiritual. “It takes a work of the Holy Spirit to put us in a position where we’re ready to accept that God does for us what we would prefer to do ourselves,” Anna says.
Emotional barriers to faith are largely unexplored. They are seldom discussed and few Christians are prepared for them. But it is more important than ever to address this barrier. Many cultures around the world have moved “from a reason-based decision making to more of an emotional or experiential-based decision making,” Anna says.
They may have an emotional barrier because they have been part of a church before and were hurt. Or they’ve felt judged by a Christian and feel that nothing they do can make themselves acceptable to God.
They may have an emotional barrier because their family members aren’t Christian. “If their father or mother or grandmother has passed away and they’re not Christian, then at an emotional level, for me to believe in Jesus, I have to also believe … [they are] suffering eternal consequences for that,” Anna says.
The concept of hell itself could be an emotional barrier to faith. For some, it’s the idea that they’re not good enough yet to be accepted by God. Maybe if they clean up their act, start doing the right things, stop sinning. “It’s this sense that I’m worthless and I feel worthless and I can’t approach God until I feel better about myself,” Anna says.
For some, they see people they know suffering and that suffering becomes an emotional barrier to faith. “If God is all-powerful and God is really a good God and He allows that suffering, how could I possibly be able to worship a God like that?”
How to Respond to these barriers
So how can emotional barriers to faith be overcome? While this is an area that needs more study, more innovation, and more experimentation, Anna does have some suggestions, which will be the topic of the final video in this series.
Until then, you should take time to think about those you want to reach. What barriers do they have? If you are using MissionHub to track your relationship with them, add that barrier information to their contacts.