When discussing Christianity with a non-Christian, it’s not uncommon for them to dismiss the call to discipleship by saying, “I’ve tried religion and it didn’t work for me.” There are a number of questions you could ask when hearing such a statement.

First, “What religion(s) did you try?” There are many different religions, and most are as different as night and day.

Second, and more importantly, “How do you think religion is supposed to ‘work’? What do you think religion is supposed to do, such that you deemed it a failure?” For some people, they think the purpose of religion is to get God or the gods to do what you want. Perhaps someone “tried religion” because they wanted help overcoming an addiction, needed a relationship restored, or were in need of finances. When their prayers or religious observances did not get them what they wanted, they deemed religious a pointless exercise. Other people think religion in terms of emotional fulfillment – religion is supposed to give people a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Since they did not find emotional fulfillment in religion, they conclude that it “doesn’t work.” Or, more commonly, those who think of religion in terms of emotional fulfillment never even “try” religion because they find meaning and purpose in non-religious sources, and thus have no need for religion.

The problem with both of these approaches is that they are thinking of religion in practical terms, rather than in terms of truth. No one would say “I tried gravity and it didn’t work for me” because belief in gravity is not based on what it can do for the person, but whether or not it exists. Such individuals are taking one element of religion (answered prayers, emotional fulfillment) and making it the essence and purpose of religion. This is a mistake. Religion – particularly Christianity – is about so much more than answered prayers and emotional fulfillment. It’s about restoring a broken relationship with God and growing in our knowledge of God for eternity. That’s why, in the course of our evangelism, we should be focusing on who God is, what God wants for us, our sinfulness, future judgment, and what God has done to rectify all that has gone wrong in the world. These are matters of truth, not experience. The only reason to be a Christian is because it is true. Christianity will “work for you” when you properly understand the purpose of Christianity.