When I moved to Thailand about five months ago, I knew embarrassingly little about Buddhism, even though it continues to grow in both Asia and the west, especially in an increasingly pluralistic world. I decided to spend some time learning about Buddhism and sharing the Gospel with Buddhists. Please note, there are large variations in the types of Buddhism that are practiced throughout the world. Most of the tips that follow can apply to any variety of Buddhism, however, they are based largely on my experience with Therevada Buddhists in Thailand. Below are some practical tips to for sharing the gospel with Buddhists. Many of these can also be used with adherents with other faiths, obviously making adaptations for their specific worldview.
1. One of the most useful tactics when sharing the Gospel with anyone is to first ask them to tell you about their worldview. Most people like to be heard more than they like to be talked to. Also, you should be interested in their answers, genuinely interested. If you aren't interested in hearing what this person has to say, perhaps you need to do a throne check and examine your heart before continuing. Ask them to tell you what they believe about God, sin, salvation, the afterlife, etc. Ask them what Buddhism means to them. Ask questions about anything surprising or unclear. Understanding where a person is coming from is very important to understanding what truths they will need to accept before they can accept Christ as Savior.
2. When sharing the Gospel with a Buddhist, it is important that you and they both understand what terms each other are using so that you can both understand each other. Do not assume that they have any basic biblical understanding. Use as few “Christanese” words as possible. Instead of asking “What do you believe the consequence is for sinning?” Instead say something like “What do you think happens to us when we do something wrong?”
3. Live a consistent lifestyle. Many Buddhists speak of being turned off by Christianity because they see inconsistent behavior in the lives of Christians. We must strive to see that our actions are consistent with our words and beliefs.
4. Show appreciation for those things which are good about the religion of the person you are sharing with. In Buddhism, this may be the empasis they put on being morally good, their desire for peace, their belief in life after death and their concerns about evil, suffering and conflict in the world.
5. Explain Christian ideas carefully and with love. Logical arguments are not as effective with Buddhists as one might expect, but stories can be quite effective. Talking about your own experience of God and using stories to illustrate biblical ideas can be very effective.
6. Opening the scriptures with them and inviting them to be a part of Christian events and community. Romans 10:17 speaks of how God works in peoples' hearts through reading the Scriptures. Engage in Bible studies to clear up misunderstandings about the teachings of the Bible and the person of Jesus (most Buddhists think he was a great moral teacher but not a savior).
Most of all, we must trust God that he is working in our Buddhist friends hearts and draw them to him. We should pray and be faithful to share the Gospel with him, ever trusting that we are joining in the work that God is already doing.
Melanie and her husband Joel live and do ministry in Bangkok, Thailand. She is mommy to baby Claire and a graduate of Denver Seminary with a degree in Intercultural Ministry. She enjoys traveling, reading and discussing theology, and spending time with her family and friends. She loves the adventure that comes with living every day in another culture.
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