Reaching People from Other Religions
As our country becomes more diverse, more and more people from other religions are visiting Pregnancy Resource Centers. Obvious as it may be, we can often fail to think carefully about how to approach someone with another belief system with the gospel. It requires careful thinking, and this is where the problem rears its head.
When many think about their approach to reaching people from other faiths, they not only over think it, they often think themselves out of ever starting the conversation! So, what can we do to overcome this twofold problem of 1) not making a plan and 2) over planning to the point that a conversation never begins?
The answer lies in thinking through a plan that avoids three common pitfalls. I have discussed these in many classes and training sessions over the years and have received a lot of positive feedback. I hope you find these helpful the next time you have a client who practices another religion.
Mistake #1: Assuming they know everything about their religion.
When someone labels themselves as belonging to a specific group or religious belief system, it can be tempting to think that they have all the answers to your questions about that system. Do not fall into that trap.
When somebody says, “I’m Wiccan,” or “I’m Catholic,” or “I’m Mormon”, they are simply telling you the group they affiliate with. They may be Mormon simply because their parents were Mormon. They may be Catholic simply because that was the only church they have been invited to. We should not necessarily make the mistake of asking them about all the ins and outs of their particular belief system in our conversations.
The reason is that if the person is only a nominal adherent to their religion, you will end up with is a frustrated individual who feels embarrassed he/she does not know more about their religion/group. Now, in this state of discomfort, they are primed for two things: 1) finding the nearest exit from the conversation to escape discomfort or 2) gearing up for a battle because they feel defensive. Neither of these will lead to a winsome conversation.
What should we do instead?
Ask them to share they personally believe about God, what happens when we die, or who Jesus is. It is what they believe that matters. You are not speaking to the Catholic Church; you are speaking to a person that may or may not hold to or be aware of everything the Catholic Church teaches. Asking something like “As a Catholic, what do you personally believe about _____________?” can be very effective. Now, they are sharing what they think, and you are earning the right to respond with what you believe as well.
Mistake #2: Thinking we need to know everything about what they believe before conversing.
As someone who loves to research the history of Christianity and the foundations of other religions, I hear this a lot: “Brock, I have a friend I want to talk to who is (insert religion). Can you tell me everything I need to know about what they believe so I can start meeting with them?” After sharing a couple of facts with them and commending them for their willingness to plan an approach, my first question is, “How will this help you get to know them and love them toward Jesus?” After a couple seconds of an awkward silence, I try to explain that the real motivation may not be winning them to Jesus, but a desire to have an answer to any claim they make about their belief system.
And here is the problem with that: Regardless of how much you think you know about another religion / belief system, you will always find a reason to learn a little bit more before you fully engage with them in a gospel conversation. You will constantly think of a potential statement, claim, or objection you need to be ready for – and thus, you never progress very far in the conversation.
Instead, let us set our hearts on being experts in what we believe and in explaining it well to others. When I ask someone from another faith background what they believe about Jesus, I should be so familiar with who Jesus is according to the Bible that any contrary information should stick out. So do not make the mistake of thinking you need to know every possible fact about someone’s faith system before you converse with them. Be conversant about Jesus and know how to succinctly explain the gospel in a clear and compelling way. If you have these things down, you will find them much more helpful than trying to be an expert in what someone else believes.
Mistake #3: Planning for combat instead of conversation
A saying I keep near and dear to my heart is, “you can win an argument and lose an opportunity.” It is a great quote for any discussion, and it is especially relevant to keep in mind if you are seeking to introduce Jesus to a client.
Of course, we all want to be right about our viewpoints and our worldviews. However, a problem emerges when are so determined to convince someone else we are right, we begin pursuing that goal at all costs. If this goes unchecked, we will start preparing for combat instead of conversation, and soon we will leave a trail of endless arguments and hurt feelings behind us. While there may be disagreement regarding the gospel, it should ONLY be because of the gospel; not because of our desire to prove we are right.
We must remember that it is God who convicts; it is God who converts; it is God alone who replaces a heart of stone with a heart of flesh. We are messengers on a mission to spread the truth and love of Jesus. We are not His lawyers trying to prove His case. We are witnesses who point others to Him.
We have the blessed opportunity to bring this message of salvation to all who the Lord places in our path, whether at a PRC or anywhere else in life. When we come across someone who is religious, we have to be careful not to take a combative approach and seek to prove that we are more convincing than them. That is not the goal. The goal is to lovingly present the clear message of Christ in the midst of a winsome conversation.
If they trust in Him, praise God! If they do not, pray to God! Ask Him to bring other laborers, to bring you and your teammates at the PRC more opportunities, and to change their heart. Let us let God do the hard work of being God while we pursue the blessing of spreading His word with truth and grace.
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