It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Dr. Jeff Brawner is chairman of the Department of Missions at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Cordova, TN. In his ministry he has experience as an overseas missionary, pastor, and youth minister. He and his wife, Christy, have two daughters—Anna and Elizabeth.
Around the world people are becoming more multi-cultural and have more interaction with people of different faiths. In whatever neighborhood you live, someone likely has a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist person living nearby. Many Christians desperately want to get to know someone of another faith, but they don’t know how.
How to Share Christ with Your Friends of Another Faith gives the reader practical, specific advice on how to form relationships with adherents of another religion. This book contains interviews with missionaries and pastors who work with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, Mormons, animists, Catholics, and Protestants throughout the world. Each chapter gives a thorough, practical, step-by-step guide about a specific religion in how to: a) form friendships; b) build conversational bridges to presenting the gospel; c) share the Good News of Jesus; and d) respond to questions that might arise during a gospel witness.
Missions leader Dr. Jeff Brawner has not written a volume of theory but a how-to book that covers every base in how to work in our multi-cultural world.
List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (August 21, 2012)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Why Share Your Faith?Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
No matter how “open-minded” and inclusive my culture tells me to be, I just can’t get around John 14:6. My bet is that most sincere believers, deep in their hearts, can’t get around this verse either. I’m not sure Christ could have stated His case more clearly. He is the “way” to the Father. No other “way” is available, no matter how fervently one practices his or her beliefs.
• What if someone sincerely worships a Hindu god? In John 14:6 sincerity, while admirable, never is mentioned.
• What if someone fervently follows the five pillars of Islam? In this verse obedience, while difficult and honorable, isn’t mentioned either.
• What if you take away all desire and reach Nirvana as Buddhism teaches? In this verse self-control, while fruitful, also is not discussed.
Truly the beginning and the end of this verse have a common theme—Jesus. John 14:6 starts with “I” and ends with “Me”. If I start and end a proclamation about myself, I border on being narcissistic. However, when Christ refers to Himself, no ego is involved. He simply is stating a fact, or as this verse references, He is stating Truth. Christ is the only One in all eternity Who is worthy to speak of self as the Solution to our problems.
The exclusivity of Christ threatens commonly held notions we have in the United States. For example, our government runs on pluralistic ideals. We are a hodgepodge of diverse people with different ideas—people who join together to hammer out compromise for the good of all. Our government, the representative body of our nation, runs on this principle. Pluralism starts in the government and filters down into all aspects of life. Just as most Americans, when asked, will claim to avoid being on the fringes politically, they also want to be viewed as open-minded and compromising in all aspects of life—even in their religion.
However, Christ’s dictates do not function in the same manner. When you and I get together on the political stage, regardless of education, creed, economic conditions, or ethnicity, we are peers. We must hammer out compromise, because none of us ultimately has all the answers. Christ, with His proclamations, works differently. Christ knows what is best—in all situations, at all times. He doesn’t need to compromise what He says, because our input does not balance His. He knows best. The best is . . . Him.
Consequently, Jesus has stated that the plan for our salvation is only through Him. In a world of compromise this is an uncompromising position. If we want to be popular in all social circles, we cannot hold to this truth. Christ already warns us when He states, “In the world you will have tribulation . . .” (John 16:33). Holding to Christ’s exclusivity will be a position that costs us.
However, if what Christ states holds true, then you face a dilemma. By definition the only way to salvation is through Christ, but many of those moral, honorable people around you do not follow Christ. Many of them follow another “divine” entity. Other friends may pay lip-service to Christ, but by the fruit of their lives they exhibit no true life change. Other friends even might be NICER than a lot of Christians you know but are doctrinally incorrect about Christ. Your dilemma quickly becomes evident. Do you believe what Christ states about Himself? If so, do you actually care enough about your friend/acquaintance or co-worker to risk sharing your faith with him or her?
If our neighbors who are Muslims, Hindus, animists, Buddhists, Mormons, Catholics, Protestants, or atheists have not given their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they do not have salvation.1 How moral, how pleasant, or what kind of solid citizens they are doesn’t matter. To fit into His plan they must surrender their lives to Christ.
This book is designed to help you share your exclusive faith in Christ. Your faith did not start with you, nor does it end with you. Your faith is about Jesus. You can share only what He commands you to share. And He certainly commands you to share:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you . . .” (Mt. 28:19-20a).
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8b).
Christ’s message is readily apparent. Jesus always intended for His disciples to go into the entire world—among all peoples—and share HIM. You and I are to do the same.
This book was written to show you how to follow Christ’s command about sharing your faith. This book is purposely designed to be different from any other book on evangelism/world religions. The book assumes the following:
• You have an inward desire to share Christ with someone of a different faith but don’t know how.
• You are not looking for a treatise on every religion in the world. You need a brief summary of your friend’s religion so you can work with him or her.
• You need a STEP-BY-STEP plan in sharing your faith—a guide telling you exactly what to say from the moment you walk in the door until the time you might lead someone to pray to give his or her life to Christ.
• You lead a busy life. Time for pleasure-reading is a luxury you do not have. Consequently, the chapter on your religion of interest needs to be brief. You might not even have time to read this entire book. In fact, the book needs to be designed so that as you witness, you can read only the chapter about your friend’s particular belief system and do fine. You want this book to be as simple and hands-on as possible.
I think these four assumptions express the situation of many believers in Christ. After 16 years in the ministry as a youth minister, then a missionary, then a pastor, and now a professor at a seminary, I have observed that many good books about world religions have been written by very godly individuals. I strongly suggest supplementing this book with some of the titles listed at the conclusion of my book. However, I also have noted that when the time arrives for you to really describe how to share your faith, most books become disappointingly vague.
One of my mentors in the ministry once told me, “Most people have a difficult time going from the theoretical to the practical. You MUST make ministry practical.” I believe he’s right. Most people do not need general ideas about how to share their faith. They need a specific step-by-step plan. In light of this fact each chapter of the book will have three parts. Each chapter gives—
1) A brief overview of a particular belief system (religion).
2) A detailed summary of a plan(s) to witness to the individual. The plan will detail all necessary steps to a gospel witness. It will show how to start a conversation, how to find a bridge in conversation to the gospel, and how to use specific verses while you share the gospel. The idea of this section is to show you a STEP-BY-STEP conversation. Obviously you don’t have to follow these plans exactly, but this book gives you patterns to follow.
3) Questions an adherent to that faith might ask you.
I hope this book will give you a beginning step in the process of sharing your faith with someone involved in a religion or belief system. My prayer is that you will see your friend arrive at the point of accepting a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Second Peter 3:9 says, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (NIV).
As believers, we often toil to learn God’s will for our lives. The truth is, we can KNOW one aspect of God’s will. He longs for your friend to repent. Sharing your faith most certainly will fall within His will.
In closing, some words of caution:
First, no presentation of the plan of salvation is guaranteed to provide success. If someone had designed the perfect approach to witness to Muslims or Hindus—a method that always brings someone to salvation—his or her plan by now would be a best-seller. We would have seen, in mass, Muslims or Hindus trust Christ. No evangelistic techniques in this world guarantee salvation. Why not? Maybe the Lord knows that if He gives us a step-by-step plan that guarantees that someone will trust Christ every time a person hears it, then we would start putting our trust in the plan rather than in Him. Just share your faith. The results are up to Him.
Second, always use the plans given here as a base, but adapt as you become more confident. We are trying to give you a practical step-by-step guide. The book contains plans that you can follow. However, do not become bondservants to these plans. As time progresses, make these plans your own. For example, change this book’s suggested bridges to the gospel and suggested illustrations to fit your individual scenario. Jesus modified His approaches to fit the situation. He approached the gospel in radically different ways—whether He spoke to the woman at the well (John 4), a blind man (John 10) or Matthew (Mt. 9). He always found ways to personalize the message to the hearer.
Although I have written this book in a manner in which you can read only the chapter that pertains to your individual friend, I encourage you to read through the chapter either on Roman Catholicism or (Nominal) Protestantism. In those chapters I give a very detailed outline of how to utilize five verses from the book of Romans. Each of these chapters contains such detail that if you become nervous about what to say as you witness, to complete the witness you actually could just READ those sections to your friend. However, these five verses actually explain the gospel in a way that you can use for all chapters in this book. If you want a thorough review of how to share the gospel message itself, you would be wise to take five minutes and read those sections regardless of what religion on which you are focusing.
Third, don’t change the final message. You can change the bridges, illustrations, and even verses that you might use. However, the gospel DOES NOT CHANGE. What is the gospel? The Bible gives a simple answer. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (NIV) says,
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
What is the gospel? The gospel simply is that Jesus died, was buried, and three days later rose from the grave for our sins. You never change that part of the message. That part of the message is not part of a technique. Instead it reflects the core truth in all the universe.
Fourth, don’t preach; just share. Leave the preaching to the preachers. Be the concerned friend who, in love, is sharing the best news you’ve ever received. I’m a preacher. When I hear a preacher using his “preaching voice” off the stage (and oftentimes on it), I just cringe. Imagine how people in a lost world feel when they hear someone move from “speaking to them” to “preaching at them”.
Fifth, Scripture says that today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Anyone can get saved at any time. However, the Bible doesn’t say that you must bring your friend to salvation today. Don’t be afraid to take your time. Share your faith with boldness. If your friend is not ready, that’s OK. Let the Holy Spirit move you to stop or proceed as He sees fit.
Sixth, someone once told me that the joy of working among a harvest is not how many people trust Christ but how many people give you a chance to share with them. It’s the OPENNESS of people that defines a harvest. Will someone make a decision to follow Christ every time you follow these steps? I hope so! However, realistically, this will not be the case. Instead remember that part of the glory of sharing your faith is the joy that obedience brings in your life. Witnessing brings you the realization that you were obedient to God and that because of your obedience He will reveal Himself in ways you never could have imagined.
Seventh, form the habit of keeping a Bible in your car, pocket, or purse. You never, ever know when an opportunity to share your faith will arise. I love being able to share my testimony. Telling what Christ has done for me is powerful. However, nothing replaces being able to point to specific verses that apply to an individual’s life. Visually you can show your friend that the authority of your life isn’t your experience but is the Word of God.
Eighth, and finally, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll get back to you after I find the answer.” You cannot imagine how a humble response works in a Western culture. This book hopefully provides an example. Do I feel as though I am an expert in witnessing to all of these religions? No. Do I have experience with all of them? Yes. However, when I wrote this book, I realized I had colleagues that knew more about witnessing to Muslim, Buddhists, and Hindus than I did, so I contacted them. Huge portions of this book are attributed to individuals who know far more than I. In like manner, you’re never wrong to pause and say to your friend, “I need to ask someone else about that issue.” This takes the pressure off you and off the person to whom you’re witnessing as well. The person will respect you for your transparency. No one likes a “know-it-all”.
God bless you for taking the time to read this book. You can read it in its entirety or skip to the chapter that deals with your friend specifically.
A reader might ask, “What about other religions, such as Judaism, Taoism, Scientology, that are not specifically addressed in this book?” Obviously adherents to those faiths need Christ and are infinitely valuable before the Lord. Many of the general principles we have taught in this book will work with those groups as well. Hopefully, future editions of the book can expand to a variety of other faiths.