I was having lunch with some friends after church last Sunday. One of them worshipped regularly though he was not a Christian. In the course of conversation, he mentioned that he didn’t like the term prebeliever. He said he was happy to be called a non-believer but why prebeliever? I told him that I had had the same discomfort with the term.
First off, I don’t like to label people. Next, the title sounds presumptuous. Are we assuming that the person will follow Christ at some point in the future? Do we view a person purely from the perspective of whether he or she accepts the gospel and not as a human being? Conversion remains a mystery and we cannot tell if a person will follow Christ. Maybe from the perspective of the Christian who uses the term, it is a statement of faith, a declaration of belief that a person will follow Christ one day, but how would a non-Christian feel if labelled as such?
Perhaps the word is meant to be used in-house, within the Christian community, but seriously how do we keep such terms from our non-believing friends? I have heard the term used many times in open meetings where Christians and non-Christians were in attendance.
I also note that different groups use the term prebeliever in different ways. Sometimes it is used interchangeably with all non-believers. Then there are those who restrict the term to those who [have] already indicate[d] some interest in the Christian faith. I [however] choose not to use the term at all and am uncomfortable when I hear it used. I also do not see the term used in Scripture.
What is clear is the mandate to share the gospel with all who will hear. We are to demonstrate God’s love, tell God’s story, and convey God’s invitation. And everything is to be done above board.
Here is Paul summarising his evangelistic approach to the Thessalonians:
. . . but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. (1Thessalonians 2:2b–5 NIV)
I find the public space closing and a more anti-religious secularism on the rise. In other countries it is the rise of some of the traditional religions in a way that discourages the sharing of the gospel.
I don’t think it has ever been easy to share the gospel. But as followers of Jesus, we have been beneficiaries of the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ and we have been tasked to share that good news with others. If people reject the gospel, let them reject the message of the gospel and not the insensitive way we sometimes do evangelism.