Sometimes people who have gone to church a long time are the most difficult people to talk to about God.
Strange, I know.
But it can sometimes be very challenging to have a real conversation about spiritual things with certain people because they have learned to use religious language as a means of keeping others from knowing who they really are.
One way people sometimes attempt to do this with pastors is through effusive praise and shows of respect. It is a great thing to encourage someone else and to verbally affirm their ministry. It is another thing of course to keep telling someone how good they are to keep them from actually talking to you about areas in which you need to grow.
Sometimes it is difficult to get to know what is really happening in the lives of religious people because they are using spiritual language as a means of justifying themselves in the eyes of other people.
When you ask them a question about their relationship with God they are not thinking about giving you a real answer as much as they are thinking about giving you the answer you would like to hear because they want your approval.
This makes counselling very difficult of course. You end up actually not counselling the real person as much as a version of that person that they think you will approve of. And, when you spend all your time counselling a version of a person instead of the real person, the real person does not usually end up changing all that much.
And sometimes it is difficult to speak with religious people because their knowledge of spiritual things keeps them from really knowing spiritual things.
They think that knowing the word is the same thing as knowing what the word means and the fact that they know the word keeps them from really listening when someone is speaking to them about the significance of that word for their everyday lives.
Just the other day I was sitting down with a couple of young men and talking about their relationship with God. I asked one of them why he woke up in the morning, in other words, what was he about. He said that he woke up to fulfil his purpose. I then asked him what his purpose was. He said to achieve his destiny. So I asked him what his destiny was. He said to fulfil his purpose. Wow. Now, I completely understand.
It would be wrong of course to give up speaking to religious people about God just because it is difficult. There is a Holy Spirit. The gospel is the power of God. We have hope. But knowing the challenges of speaking to religious people should challenge us to spend more time on our knees crying out to God for help. It should also cause us to evaluate our own lives as well to make sure that we are not using our religiosity as a means of keeping us from really knowing God.