"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Rom 1:21 ESV)
Recently, I reestablished contact with a younger person that I watched grow up. (I am deliberately leaving their name and many of the details out for sensitivity reasons.) They attended a strong church as a child and youth. Even though this person was exposed to the gospel many times they have now, as a late teenager, chosen a totally different path. They now claim to be an atheist among other things.
While it would be easy second guess and ask, "what went wrong," it is more important to consider how this person might be reached again with the message of Christ. Here are some of my thoughts...
I am not trying to be overly simplistic here. I truly believe that prayer is absolutely essential to reaching the heart of a person that has rejected everything that they have heard about Christ. We must pray that their spiritual eyes and ears might be opened and that whatever is hindering them from believing would be removed.
What events have transpired in this person's life that may have caused them to reject God? Has there been a major tragedy in their life? Has this person been hurt by a professing Christian or group of Christians? What do you know about their family life? What do you know about their lifestyle? Did this person ever make a genuine profession of faith in Christ?
Many of these factors may give you an idea why the person has chosen the path they have chosen. I believe that a majority of atheists/agnostics have either a moral reason or emotional reason for rejecting belief in God. In other words, they are either living in open sin and refuse to acknowledge their condition or they have been hurt by people or life in general. (I am reminded of the young lady that my wife had the opportunity to lead to Christ in Wichita, KS earlier this year.)
This knowledge is not to be used as ammunition to condemn them, but as background information to help you understand and reach them.
Compassion should be the hallmark of the Christian life. Unfortunately, we as Christians can be some of the least compassionate people around. To be compassionate toward a lost person is to love them while they are yet sinners. It was said of our Lord that, "a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench..." (Mat 12:20) By no stretch of the imagination did Jesus ever condone sin. But He compassionately reached out to the lost with the truth. we must do as Jesus did.
I know of no one who rejects God overnight. It is going to take time and lots of relation building to reach them with the gospel. The Holy Spirit must be allowed to work in their hearts and break down the walls they have built-up.
I am interested in your thoughts. What do you think it would take to reach someone has been exposed to the gospel message, but for whatever reason, they have rejected it's truth?