Evangelism to World Religions (Part 2)
Now that we understand why we should be concerned for members of other religions, we come to our second question: What is the message of Christianity?
The message of Christianity is a profoundly simple (though not simplistic) message of sin, atonement, and redemption — all through Christ. If the message is so simple, is there an easy way to share the message? In this section, let’s consider an easy way to share the message of Jesus, a way known commonly as the Romans Road.
The Romans Road is a simple way to share the gospel with non-Christians, consisting of six passages:
- “Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect standard, his glory.” – Romans 3:23
- “There is a penalty for sin: physical and spiritual death; God offers the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.” – Romans 6:23
- “Jesus died for sinners.” – Romans 5:8
- “Salvation is offered through confession of Jesus and real belief that God raised Jesus from the dead.” – Romans 10:9-10
- “True, lasting peace with God the Father is offered only through justification by faith. In other words, humans can have peace with God, even though they are all sinners and have all fallen short of His perfect standard. The only way to have peace is through trusting Christ and believing in His work and message.” – Romans 5:1
- “Eternal condemnation for sin is now no longer a worry for the person who trusts in Christ.” – Romans 8:1
Thus, the message of Christianity is simple. All humans are sinners; all have missed God’s perfect, required standard. All humans receive physical and spiritual death as payment for their sin. However, God has provided a way to escape the spiritual death we so rightly deserve, and the way of escape is the free gift of eternal life offered by God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son, who died for sinners. Only by confessing Jesus as Lord and believing in Him can anyone escape spiritual death. Likewise, the only way to find true and lasting peace with God is by confessing Jesus as Lord and believing in Him. After doing so, the new Christian finds no more need to be concerned about eternal condemnation.
How should Christians talk to members of world religions?
Unfortunately, Christians occasionally treat members of other religions of the world as inferior to them, and may even take the opportunity to be a “jerk for Jesus.” this is not only unfortunate, but unbiblical. As we saw in 1 Peter 3:15 earlier, the Holy Spirit, through Peter’s pen, commands followers of Jesus to be gentle and respectful when interacting with unbelievers about the gospel. Telling the gospel to a non-Christian is confrontational in itself; the Christian need not make it more so. When the non-Christian hears that he is a sinner, that he deserves physical and spiritual death, and that the only way to escape is by placing his faith and trust in Jesus, the non-believer will be offended by the message. There is no reason for the Christian to add more offense to the message by his conduct.
How, then, should Christians interact with members of other religions? Is there a good, practical guide for doing evangelism?
Krister Stendahl, the former Dean of Harvard Divinity School, gave three basic, very instructive rules for interacting with members of other religious groups.
Stendahl’s first rule is that Christians should learn about the beliefs of another religion from members of that religion. We would expect this from others in regard to our own beliefs. Any time Christianity is the subject of a news report, Christians usually are interviewed. In the same way, if Buddhism is the subject, Buddhists usually are interviewed. Our evangelism should focus on the beliefs of others in the same way. If your calling in life is to minister to Muslims and you would like to know what Muslims believe, ask a Muslim. If your calling in life is to minister to Mormons and you would like to know what Mormons believe, ask a Mormon. There is, of course, a much-needed place for books, articles, or explanations about religions by non-members. This first rule is simply that the most accurate understanding of a particular religion and its belief system is likely to come from a member of that religion.
Stendahl’s second rule is that we should make fair comparisons. When listening to debates between members of various religions or reading works by members of various religions, make sure to listen to debates between parallel speakers or to read works by parallel writers. By this, Stendahl simply means that we should compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. Don’t read a work about Jesus by a Christian with a Ph.D. and compare it to a work about Jesus by a Muslim layman. Don’t read a work about creation by a Buddhist with a Ph.D. and compare it to a work about creation by a Hindu layman. Likewise, don’t compare the Christianity of David Koresh or Jim Jones to the Hinduism of Mahatma Gandhi, and don’t compare the Islam of terrorists to the Christianity of Mother Teresa. Put simply, compare equals and you’ll be on the right path toward understanding for the sake of evangelism.
Stendahl’s third rule is that we should leave room for “holy envy.” Though this sounds a bit ecumenical, Stendahl simply means there are likely aspects of other religions, and aspects of the lives of members of other religions, from which we can learn. Here, the Christian does not need to agree with the other religion or with the member of the other religion, but he can recognize that the Buddhist may pray more intently, the Hindu may believe more strongly, the Mormon may give more liberally, or the Jew may love more fully than the Christian. This is where holy envy is found. If the Christian believes he is absolutely, objectively correct in his belief, he should have the most intense prayer, the strongest belief, the most liberal giving, and the fullest love. The devotion of members of other religions should drive Christians to be even more serious about their deeply held convictions.
Our final question, then, is somewhat borrowed from Francis Schaeffer: namely, how should we then evangelize? How can we most effectively propagate the gospel to world religions?
First, we pray. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to pray continually and our prayers should include petitions for opportunity to speak with members of other religions, boldness when confronting false belief, and compassion over the lost condition of those involved in other religions.
Second, we study. 1 Peter 3:15 commands us to be ready to give a defense for our hope in Christ whenever we are asked. The best way to defend the hope we have is to know what others believe and to be ready to ask them difficult questions as we present Christ to them. Acts 17 serves as a good example of how the early church did this very thing.
Third, we go. Matthew 28:18-20 commands us to go into all the world, proclaiming the gospel and making disciples.
May God grant us the courage, the boldness, the compassion, the ability, and the burden to propagate the gospel to members of the world’s religions.
This post is an excerpt from the Guide to Evangelism edited by Southern Seminary. It is used with permission. You can purchase this resource in its entirety here.
Evangelism to World Religions (Part 1) can be found here.