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How to Talk to People Who Hate Church

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

"I'm kind of like a pastor for people who hate church"

Penelope is a disciple-maker in Southern California. She met Jennifer, a goth hairdresser who absolutely hates church and dislikes Christians. Here's how God moved to allow Penelope to have an amazing spiritual encounter with Jennifer that sparked a friendship.

Praying and Fasting for My Afghan Hairdresser

I've known my hairdresser Sadia, a Muslim from Afghanistan, for 20 years. I have witnessed to her countless times and shared the gospel, but she hasn't been receptive. But we still have a friendship and I continue to pray for her.

With the recent news of the tragedies happening in Afghanistan, I have been in contact with Sadia and telling her that I'm praying and fasting for her, her family, and her country along with many other believers. She has been very grateful. However, the story today isn't really about Sadia, it's about Jennifer.

The Gothic Hair Salon

Several weeks ago, I went to the salon to get my hair done by Sadia. It was late in the evening, so the only people in the salon were me, Sadia, and the salon owner, Jennifer. This is a Gothic salon, decorated with a Halloween theme year-round. The walls are black, the floors are black, even the toilet and toilet paper are black! And there are dragons and black cats displayed all over.

Jennifer is totally goth. She has black fishnet tights, dyed black hair, long fingernails painted black, and tattoos and piercings everywhere. Before this evening, I had never had any conversations with her. However, whenever I do overhear her talking, she is very vocal about how she hates anything involving conservative values.

When I Put My Phone Down, God Did Something Amazing

That evening, I conversed with Sadia as she did my hair. After a while, I began to scroll Facebook on my phone. Then I sensed the Lord tell me, "Put down your phone! You're in a place with two non-believers—you don't have time to be on your phone. You need to be aware and engaging with them."

I put my phone down. Jennifer walked over and started decorating the "Christmas" tree which was black and covered in spider webs. "Gosh!" Jennifer fumed. "October 1st is coming up and I hate October 1st! It's the worst day ever."

I thought that I needed to ask her about that. "Hey, why is October 1st such a bad day for you?"

"That's the day my sister was murdered in the mass shooting in Las Vegas four years ago," Jennifer replied. She explained the details of what happened and I felt so sad for her.

"October 1st destroyed my life," Jennifer sighed. "That's the day I gave up."

In that moment, I knew I needed to give this woman a hug. So I got up from my chair with hair-dying foils all over my head and said "Can I give you a hug?"

Jennifer nodded. As I embraced her, she began weeping. This is someone who I've never talked to before and who knows nothing about me. Then I started crying. And then Sadia joined us too.

"You're so kind," Jennifer told me over and over. "You're so kind, you're so kind!"

Then she started apologizing, "I'm so sorry. I'm not supposed to talk to other stylists' clients about personal things."

"No no no," I assured her, "don't worry about it!"

My Muslim Friend Told Her I Pray for People

And then Sadia interjected, "Penelope will pray for you! She prays for people. She prayed and fasted for me and for my whole country of Afghanistan. And she had hundreds of others praying too."

Jennifer looked at me and paused. "Are you a Christian?"

Her comment made me a little nervous. However, I was reminded of a tactic David Watson uses. When people ask if he's a Christian, he asks in return, "What do you mean by Christian?"

So I asked Jennifer, "Well, what do you mean by that?"

"Do you believe in Jesus?" she clarified.

"Yes!" I said.

"Well, I do too!" Jennifer grinned.

Then Jennifer stood up, looked at me, and said, "I really trust you."

A Pastor for People Who Hate Church

From there, Sadia finished up my hair as I continued my conversation with Jennifer. "I do believe in Jesus," Jennifer explained, "but I will never go to church. I hate church, and I hate that most Christians hate the LGBTQ community. Because I love the LGBTQ community and they are my people."

She continued to tell me how she participates in all the gay pride parades that her sister who was murdered was bisexual. Although she herself is straight and married, most of her friends are from the LGBTQ community.

"I am so sorry," I replied. "Because as a Christian, I do not hate LGBTQ people. And God does not hate them either, because God is love and He loves them. I agree that many churches don't show these people love like they should."

"I agree! But still, I will never go to church." Jennifer continued. "And my dad is a pastor. I talk to him on the phone all the time, and every time I talk to him, he tries to tell me Bible stories, and I am so sick of it. I do not want to hear Bible stories."

Then I pulled out a line I learned from Paul Watson. I said, "Well, I'm kind of like a pastor for people who hate church!"

"That's awesome!" Jennifer exclaimed. "I would love to get to know you. Could I get your number?"

So we exchanged phone numbers. A few weeks later, on October 1st, I texted her saying, "Jennifer, I am praying for you today. I know this is a very hard day for you. But I want you let you know that I'm praying for you and thinking about you throughout the day."

"Thank you, that means a lot," she texted back.

Now, my next step is to ask the Lord what He wants me to do. I am excited to pursue a friendship with Jennifer and see what God will do as He draws her heart to Him!

What Penelope Learned from this Experience

From this story, I appreciate how it was because I prayed for Sadia that she brought prayer and spirituality into my conversation with Jennifer. My example of prayer and fasting for Sadia led her to point Jennifer toward God and cause Jennifer to trust me deeply.

Through this process, I also learned the importance of listening to the Lord in the moment and being slow to speak. I could have shared a Bible story, but I didn't because I was listening to Jennifer. Now, knowing that she hates hearing Bible stories, I am so glad I just listened. This time was meant for meaningful and spiritual conversations. Jennifer was receptive to a relationship with me, but wasn't ready for a discovery conversation about Scripture just yet.

Finally, if I had stayed checked out that evening on my phone, I never would have had this beautiful encounter with Jennifer. What I learned is that I really need to be in tune with the Spirit and what He's doing at all times.


Podcast: How Will You Befriend Lost People This Fall?

In this podcast, Paul Watson and Rebecca Ewing share engagement ideas and how to think outside the box on where you can connect with people who don't know Jesus.

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