Tip of the Day: Evangelism (2)

When interacting with someone of a specific world religion, no matter how many comparative religion classes you’ve taken or how many apologetics books you’ve read, never presume to tell them what they believe.

  • It is possible that their specific “brand” of Islam or their specific “brand” of __________ teaches something slightly different than you had first imagined. This is understandable; even within the context of what would be called “Christianity,” there is a wide-array of views on specific topics.
  • It is possible that an individual will call himself a “Catholic,” for example, but be completely out of touch with what the Vatican actually holds as truth.

For these reasons, it is better to give the individual the courtesy of telling you what they believe. The benefits are well worth it:

  • Friendly conversation is an obvious first step towards establishing a relationship.
  • Allowing them to honestly tell you what they believe will make it easier for you to ask soul-searching, gospel-oriented questions that need an honest answer.
  • It is possible, even probable, that the individual’s personal beliefs are easier to deal with than the official teachings of their religious affiliation.  
  • If you give them the courtesy of defining what they believe, they will often extend the same courtesy to you.

  1. #1 by Justin on February 11, 2009 - 11:50 am

    I have learned this is true. I have studied a lot on Mormonism out of trying to reach out to some Mormon friends years ago. My church’s youth and education minister calls me the “mormonator”. There is a lot of benefit to learning about a religion, but when witnessing to some (particularly the youth) it is best to let them define their religion. They may not even know what the church teaches!

  2. #2 by clearly on February 11, 2009 - 12:44 pm

    Exactly. Besides, we are more interested in what they believe than what their church believes anyway!

  3. #3 by Kathy on February 11, 2009 - 11:04 pm

    Both my husband and myself were saved out of a cult, so here’s another tip:
    The people who wrote the book, or delivered the seminar, or gave the advice that you studied, may not have their facts straight. If you use untrue statements to witness to the unsaved, you will give them the idea that you (or “Christianity”) don’t know what you are talking about, and thus their own teaching is correct. An example of this is saying to someone, “I understand that you people keep slaves”, when in fact no slaves have ever been seen by the unsaved person! This validates the instructions they have received from their leaders, that anything negative said about their religion has come from either ignorance or a malicious attempt to destroy their faith, and thus must be rejected.
    Finding out what the person believes is important, and just as Jesus did not verbally slam those he spoke to, we should respectfully speak with others. The Lord is capable of leading people out of false religions, and we should be praying that he does so.

  4. #4 by Travis on February 20, 2009 - 10:26 pm

    Hey Dave,
    I was listening to a sermon preached by Mark Dever at the Desiring God Pastor’s Conference this year. He was preaching concerning evangelism and he said something interesting to go along with this. He said he often will ask the person he is witnessing to what the barriers are for them to accept the gospel. I had never really thought of first asking the person what they needed me to explain about the gospel. I just thought it was interesting. I totally agree that some people have much different beliefs than the actual religion they hold to. Thanks for these tips.

  5. #5 by clearly on February 21, 2009 - 5:34 am


    Thanks for the info — I know Dever does a lot on evangelism. I just read his book: Personal Evangelism. I would highly suggest you get a copy. It’s cheap at Westminster books (like 7 bucks), plus it’s in the library at natha.

    I was just reading a journal article last night on Islam — going right along with this post — the author explained that while many Muslims hold their orthodox Muslim beliefs, they also practice some form of animisim/mysticism – whether it be praying through dead saints, etc. Again, very important to find out what they believe and how they practice…

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