Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Encountering Other Religions - Part 1 of 2

Happy New Year! What a wonderful time to renew your commitment to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others. I hope you will make this Website a part of your equipping routine as you seek to hone your gospel sharing skills. I will do my best to share articles that help you do just that. As always, your feedback and comments are welcome here on FriendFluence.com.

I just returned from the annual Rose Parade outreach in Pasadena California. We had a marvelous time of witnessing on the streets. California is such a fruitful environment for spiritual conversations.

Not everyone that we encountered on the streets was open to the gospel. But our main task in evangelism is to discern who is open and who is not. If a person is open, then you should seek to share the gospel in the power of the Spirit. If not, then move on to find someone who is open.

I encountered some interesting people on the streets of Pasadena. One man, who was enjoying the holiday "spirit," was from a Muslim and Baptist background. He understood that there would be a final judgment, but misunderstood that he would have a chance to ask for forgiveness at the moment that he was facing that judgment.

Another man, who was standing in front of the Scientology Center, was a Jewish Scientologist. He believed in self improvement and living a moral life. He still clung to some of his traditional Jewish beliefs, but for the most part believed that everyone had the right to their own religious beliefs.

Whenever you actively practice evangelism, you are bound to encounter other religions. How will you react when you come across someone who is from a different religious background that you may not be familiar with?

Here are some practical thoughts on witnessing to adherents of other religions:

1. Understand what you believe. When they train members of the secret service to identify counterfeit currency, they make them handle real money first. They become familiar with how real money feels and looks and therefore can spot the fake as soon as they see it. When it comes to faith, you need to be conversant in your own belief system. This is especially true of essential doctrines such as the inspiration and inerrancy of the scriptures, the virgin birth of Christ, deity of Christ, His atonement for sin, the bodily resurrection of Christ and His return. If you know what you believe, you will easily discern false beliefs when you hear them.

2. Understand how other religions view salvation. People have often asked, why are there so many religions in the world. Truthfully, you can categorize every religion in the world in to 1 of 2 categories: those with works based salvation and Christianity with grace based salvation. Practically every religion in the world except Christianity teaches that a person has to perform some type of ritual or work to gain acceptance to God. The Bible teaches that a person cannot earn salvation, it is by grace they are saved through faith.

3. Don't be afraid to ask. If you encounter a particular religious belief that you are not familiar with, don't be afraid to ask the person to tell you what they believe. Recently, I encountered a man who practiced Moorish Science. He did not come out and tell me what his religion was, but shared enough of his belief system that I was able to further research his beliefs and discover what he practiced. In case you are wondering, Moorish Science is a mixture of Islam and mysticism created by a man named Drew Ali. (Google it for more information.)

4. Study, study, study. First of all, make sure personal Bible study and scripture memorization is a part of your regular routine. Secondly, nothing replaces good hard work and research. A good place to start your research on other religions is http://www.4truth.net which is maintained by the North American Mission Board. You can find a good article on Scientology on this website. There are many other Websites out there where you can learn about other religions.

Whatever you do, don't panic when you encounter someone of a different religion. If you know what you believe, you will do well as long as you depend upon the Holy Spirit. In the next article, I will share more about the dos and don't of witnessing to people of other faiths.

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