When Religion Blocks Relationship … and Belief

By Sean Dunn Published on March 15, 2023

I have never seen such a clear picture of relationship versus religion and the way the world will react to it. 

While having lunch with a new friend, the waitress confided that she had a son she was concerned about. He was making poor choices, surrounding himself with bad influences and starting to pull away from his family. She was very open to share and very grateful for the compassion she was receiving.

I asked her if she would share his name because we wanted to pray for him. After telling me his name, she got down on her knees (in the restaurant where she worked with the employees and customers looking on), folded her hands, put her elbows on the table and closed her eyes. 

I had a couple of thoughts: ”She hasn’t prayed since she was four,” and “She is desperate for help.”

Religion Gets in the Way

After we prayed for her and her son she stood up and continued the conversation. As I told her God cared about her and her son, she leaned in … but then religion took over. She was very receptive to hearing about all that God/Jesus offers, but the gentleman I was with began projecting shame and judgment on her, and she couldn’t get away fast enough. 

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Interrupting me as I led her towards an understanding that God loved her and had a plan for her life, my companion said, “If you want your son to make good choices, you are going to have to make good choices, too. If you want him to go to meet good friends you are going to have to take him to church. Time you start living right and giving him an example to follow.”

She went from leaning in to running away — because Religion tried to win her instead of relationship. 

If you’re like me, you want to be a part of seeing a significant move towards Jesus. So, how can we influence those in our families (kids and grandkids), our businesses and our communities to see Jesus as He truly is? Let’s explore a few suggestions:

  • Pray: It all starts with prayer. “Lord, rescue the lost, help the hurting, awaken the church, captivate our hearts” is a foundational prayer we can pray to get our hearts right and to ask God to move in our hearts as well as the hearts of those around us.
  • Encourage: Why is it that as Christ followers we want to be the gatekeepers instead of the encouragers? We point out what we don’t like or we are not comfortable with instead of highlight what we are grateful for. I’ve learned that God doesn’t often use skeptics and people waiting to point out the problem.  He uses people who lift up the solution (Jesus) and encourage others to pursue Him. 

Lead with the Lord

  • Jesus: Jesus is at the center of this movement and momentum, and He should be. When He is lifted up, He will draw men/women to Himself. (John 12:32) May we point to Him as the answer to every meaningful question, the source of all hope and the giver of peace. 
  • Love Jesus Authentically Yourself: Scripture says we should be ready to give an answer to the hope that we have (I Peter 3:15), but may it not just be something that is rehearsed, may it be something that we live. He is our future and our salvation, but He is also our hope, our peace, and foundation, here and now. If we want to encourage others to seek Him, they must see us seeking Him first. If we want them to have a passion for Him, then He must be our passion first. 

Amazing things are stirring in our nation. Light is starting to shine. You can see it in college campuses and in churches. People are worshiping longer, praying harder and pursuing the presence of Jesus more aggressively. 

You also see it in culture. More people are coming to faith in the U.S. right now than ever before. Last year alone, at Groundwire, we saw 533,414 people walk the virtual aisle to profess faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is impossible to resist — particularly when we don’t get in his way.


Sean Dunn is founder and president of Groundwire, a global ministry with the mission to lead every youth and young adult into a personal relationship with Jesus by leveraging current media channels to connect with them wherever they are. The group led more than n 2020 and has seen more than 1 million professions of faith since 2017, with more 111,000 coming this year. For more information, visit www.groundwire.net.

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