Many of our evangelistic approaches assume that people have questions about the Christian faith. But how do we engage people who appear not to be in the least bit bothered? Andy Bannister shares one idea


Source: Aleksandr Elesin / Alamy Stock Photo

“I don’t really care about God”.

One of my oldest friends, John, was one of the toughest people to start conversations with about Jesus. John wasn’t anti, nor hostile, he just was utterly disinterested in faith.

John had grown up in a Christian home but had walked away from his faith as a teenager. By the time I met him, he didn’t know what he believed—but that didn’t trouble him. During an early conversation, when I mentioned Jesus, John replied: “Look, I don’t care about God”. I pushed back slightly and he expanded: “Life’s fun! I’ve got the job I want, the car I want, the flat I want, the woman I want. Where does God come into it?”

I have other friends like John and perhaps you do, too. Friends, colleagues, neighbours, even family members, who appear not to care about spiritual things. Trying to talk to them about faith can feel like trying to nail fog to the wall.

The 2021 UK census revealed that this type of person is growing in number. More and more people simply appear not to care: they’re not atheist, they’re apatheist.

So how do we reach people like my friend John? Many of our evangelistic approaches tend to assume that people care, or have questions. How do we engage those who appear not to have any?


This is where the humble wondering question can be immensely helpful. A wondering question is based upon the difference between looking at something and looking through something. In an essay from over 100 years ago, my favourite writer, F. W. Boreham, asks us to picture a telescope, standing by a window. Now you might look at the telescope, admiring its brass fittings, how well engineered it is, and so on. Or you might step up to the telescope and look through it and behold! You’ll see amazing things as you peer into the night sky.

That difference between looking at and looking through also applies to many of our everyday experiences. Let me illustrate via a conversation that took place on the Premier Unbelievable Big Conversation series a while back between the Canadian psychologist, Jordan Peterson (famously vague about God) and the British psychologist and broadcaster, Susan Blackmore. Susan is an atheist, but more than that, Susan would say she can’t literally see any point in religious faith. She simply doesn’t care about God.

Halfway through the conversation, Susan remarked: “In recent years I have been in the habit of waking up in the morning (even if it’s raining in January in England), looking out, and going ‘Wow!’, and it’s a feeling of gratitude. Not gratitude towards god, or anybody, or anything, just free-floating gratitude.”

She expanded on the idea: “This morning, for example, I looked out and it was so green, we’ve had frost and it’s been white the last few days, but it was green this morning. And [I felt] gratitude to the universe, if you like. It’s not really ‘god’ because it’s not a creator, it’s not anything I can pray to though.”

There’s an obvious question here, and Jordan asked it: “So why feel gratitude towards it then?”

To which Susan responded with the immortal words: “I don’t know.”

I think what Susan was struggling with was that if you think we live in a universe where atoms are the ultimate reality, where science can explain everything in terms of material processes, and so on, then gratitude doesn’t fit. Yet when Susan flings open her bedroom window, instinctively she wants to shout “Wow! Thank you!”

Maybe the problem is that Susan is looking at the experience of gratitude, rather than through it. What might gratitude point to if you looked through it, rather than just assumed it was a few synapses misfiring? I would love to ask Susan: “Have you ever wondered why gratitude means so much to us? Maybe many of us don’t lack things to be thankful for, but perhaps some of us lack someone to be thankful to?”


Another example of a wondering question comes from my friend Michael Ots, who was chatting with a student. On discovering Michael was a Christian, the student blurted out “I’m not into God!”

“What are you into?” Michael asked.

“Love!” the student replied.

“That’s great,” Michael replied. “Have you ever wondered what love is?”

The student thought for a moment before replying: “I’m not sure”.

“Since you’re not into God,” Michael replied, “what about we try a biological explanation. Could we say that love is a chemical reaction that’s evolved in our brains, to make us attracted to people (usually of the opposite sex) so we reproduce and keep the human race going?”

“That’s a rubbish explanation!” the student said (it turned out her boyfriend was standing next to her).

Michael then asked her if she had ever wondered why she thought love was so important and why, if she really was an atheist, a purely materialistic answer wasn’t enough. Furthermore, if we look not just at love (“Hoorah, I feel loving today, my genes are working correctly!”) but through the experience, could it perhaps be the case that love in the sense that most of use the word makes more sense within a Christian view of the world?


With a wondering question your aim is:

  • · Find something your friend cares about
  • · Take an interest and ask questions
  • · Use a wondering question to gently introduce the idea that the thing your friend cares about doesn’t fit well into a godless world
  • · Show how Jesus makes the most sense of it

It was when I noticed the Amnesty International sticker on the back of my friend John’s car that we finally found a way into spiritual conversations when I asked: “Have you wondered why you care about justice?”

Want to explore wondering questions more? I’m thrilled to have co-edited a new book called Have You Ever Wondered? Finding the Everyday Clues to Meaning, Purpose & Spirituality. It’s a perfect gift for a friend in that “I don’t care” or “spiritual-but-not-religious” category and each chapter takes a different theme - from music to science, art to ecology, justice to love - and asks a wondering question about it. It’s buy one get one free, so you can give one to a friend, and keep one to help you learn better to ask wondering questions.

So give the approach a try with your friends. Although I’ve put a new spin on it, it’s not a new idea - Paul uses it in Athens in Acts 17:16-34, whilst C. S. Lewis, in one of his most beloved quotations, said: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”

Because Christianity sheds light on everything else, asking wondering questions about whatever our friends care about is a beautiful, gentle, and powerful step to gospel conversations.