Know How to Answer: “How is your religion different than mine?”

People have fought over the differences between ‘religions’ for millennia. Some of the darkest moments of human history resulted from faith wars. And those conflicts–and questions–continue today. Just yesterday, I was approached by a follower of Hare Krishna, asking for a donation to their cause. Others choose to avoid the conversation altogether, and declare that all spiritual practices are equal–and maybe even lead to the same place. How do you respond when someone asks you the difference between their religion and yours? And how do you help someone see the freeing grace of the gospel when they’re locked in something else?

Here’s my attempt at a response. What would you add? (This post is part of series: 12 Questions Young People are Asking–and You Should Know How to Answer. Click here to see the other posts in this series, including an intro.)

Similar Questions:

  • How are evangelicals different from Catholics/Orthodox?
  • Why are you so against Mary? Why can’t we pray to Mary and the saints?
  • My priest says that the Protestant church is not the real church, so what do you say?
  • Why don’t you pray to icons?
  • What the difference between Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses?
  • What is the difference between the God of the Bible and the god of Koran?

Question Behind the Question:

How is this different than what I’ve experienced?  Are you saying my church is wrong?

Push it Personal:

What differences have you noticed?  What do you think of those differences?

Points to ponder:

  • “It sounds like you have some great questions about how your church is different than my church.  I’m not against your church; I’m just doing my best to live out what the Bible says.  Would you be interested in reading the Bible with me?”  (Focus on your similarity—the belief in the Bible—and invite them into that.)
  • “The most important thing to me is my relationship with God.  The Bible tells me that I can talk directly to him, anytime I want (Heb. 4:16).  So, I talk to God, not anyone else, because no one else is as important as God.”  (In response to a question about praying to Mary or to icons.)
  • “The most important thing for me is that I have a relationship with God only because Jesus died for my sins on the cross.  The Bible tells me that I can do absolutely nothing to earn a relationship with God (Eph 2:8-9).  That’s the most important thing for a church to teach.”  (Focusing on what our church does, not on what their church doesn’t.)

Connect with Christ:

“When Jesus died on the cross to pay for the evil things we do, He paid for everything.  Sometimes we think that we need to do something more to earn a relationship with God (like going to church, praying to Mary/icons, confession, etc.).  But, that’s like telling Jesus that what He did on the cross wasn’t good enough.  I never want to tell Him that!”

Self Story:

Story of how you chose your church, and why.

How about you? What would you add to this conversation?

12 Questions Young People are Asking–and You Should Know How to Answer

Have you ever walked away from a conversation and then thought about what you wished you had said?

Or, have you ever had a conversation scheduled, and wished you knew how it would go? Maybe you’re anticipating conflict or confrontation, and you wish you knew how the other person will respond.

Question Mark

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could know what is coming? This is especially true when sharing the gospel with someone. It would be so nice to know what their questions or objections will be … what their places of resistance or confusion will be.

Young people are asking 12 common questions today. These aren’t questions from a book. They aren’t from some smart professor at a college. These are questions that young people in Central and Eastern Europe are asking today … and perhaps young people around the world. I feature one of these questions from time-to-time on this blog.

In this talk, I intro the 12 questions material, and a basic strategy for walking with people through hard questions. If you want all of the 12 Questions material, sign up for my blog by email (on the right), and I’ll send you a free ebook with all 12 questions. Click here for a preview.

(If the audio player above doesn’t work, click here to play or download the file.)

(PS–If you enjoy this material, you might also enjoy 3 Essential Postures for Walking with Students Through Hard Questions and 5 Key Questions for Understanding the Mind of a Young Person. Or, click here for my audio page.)

Why Small Groups Don’t (Always) Make Disciples–and How to Fix It

Friends, I think you’ll love this article by Neil Cole on small groups and disciple-making. It’s a distinction I’ve often noted, also. Here’s how it starts:

“Pastor Brian Jones tells of the response he got from one ‘nationally recognized’ pastor when Brian told him that he hadn’t figured out the whole small group thing yet. Brian said the pastor’s response was something like this:

“Well, Brian, that’s because they don’t work. Small groups are things that trick us into believing we’re serious about making disciples. The problem is 90 percent of small groups never produce one single disciple. Ever. They help Christians make shallow friendships, for sure. They’re great at helping Christians feel a tenuous connection to their local church, and they do a bang-up job of teaching Christians how to act like other Christians in the Evangelical Christian subculture. But when it comes to creating the kind of holistic disciples Jesus envisioned, the jury’s decision came back a long time ago—small groups just aren’t working.”[1]

Click here to read the whole article on his site. This essential distinction simply can’t be overstated . . .

(As you know, I don’t often pass along other sites on this site. But this one is too important to miss. I’ve also added it to the Small Groups page here on this site, along with another link or two . . . )

How Jesus Would Lead Your Small Group

What’s your dream for your small group? If you could ignore reality, what would you imagine? If everything went right and nothing ever—ever!—went wrong, what would your small group look like?

Maybe you dream of a small group where students share deeply and vulnerably from the depths of their soul.

Maybe you dream of a small group where students wrestle honestly and wisely with the deep questions of life.

Maybe you dream of a small group that is doubling in size every month because your students are so passionate about evangelism.

Maybe you wish they’d just sit still.

[Read more…]

7 Simple Tricks Every Small Group Leader Should Know

We know that Jesus shared His most important truths in Small Groups. We’ve talked about 2 Essential Ways to Know if Your Small Group is Effective. We looked at the Teaching Secret of Jesus, and the Small Group Power Tool Every Small Group Leader Should Use. But, maybe you’re wondering, “What about the basics? What about the times I just can’t get my students to talk, or they’re so out of control we can’t focus on anything?”


Small Groups, Youth Ministry, Student Ministry, uthmin, stumin

(Photo by led_head101at Creative Commons) 

I don’t pretend to have all the answers to the small group problems we face. But here are 7 tricks every small group leader should know:
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A Teaching Secret of Jesus

I was a second-year youth leader. In the midst of a study on guy/girl relationships, it was time to talk about pre-marital sex. Some students had heard 100’s of times they shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage. Others were considering the idea for the first time—and considered it laughable. The statistics weren’t in their favor. Many students have sex outside of marriage. How to help them deeply wrestle with God’s plan for sex?

Photo by Michael Cordedda at Creative Commons

Photo by Michael Cordedda at Creative Commons

I knew my goal. I wanted them to bring their hearts to the conversation and think new thoughts.  How to help them do this?

[Read more…]

How to Ask Questions Like Jesus

Imagine the perfect small group. Eyes are alive with engagement and focus. Questions are popping with deep thoughts. Just like Jesus, you’re leading your students into life-changing truths. They’re bringing their hearts to the conversation, and thinking new thoughts. Real disciples are forming right before your eyes. This—this!—is why you work with young people.

Reality, however, is often a bit different. While you’re trying to engage life-changing truths, Peter is making paper airplanes. While you’re trying to help them bring their hearts to the conversation, Becca is talking to Lindsey about her newest boyfriend. And when you try to get them to think new thoughts, you get blank stares. Or at least, that’s how it feels on the bad nights . . .
[Read more…]

2 Essential Ways to Know if Your Small Group is Effective

Jason’s small group was thriving. The guys were totally engaged … talking, laughing … and always asking him to hangout together outside of youth group. Ending the time and sending them home was his biggest challenge—a ‘problem’ he was happy to have to deal with. He loved leading small groups. But deep down, he couldn’t help but wonder, “Are they really growing?”

Photo by chiesADIbeinasco at Creative Commons

Jennifer’s small group was focused. They stayed on topic, engaged the lesson, and gave the right answers. When it was time to share, they listened to each other with care and respect. She really liked her girls. But she couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this all there is?”

Maybe you’ve been there. Truth is, we’ve all been there! We know that small groups can be life-changing. We know that Jesus shared his best thoughts through discussion. But our small groups just don’t seem to measure up. How do we know if we’re being successful?
[Read more…]

5 Strategies for Tough Questions–Part 3: Points to Ponder

Imagine a universe with no end. A universe that goes on and on forever. Right now. Do it. Ok, now imagine a universe with an end. You get to the edge of the universe, there is a big wall, and on the other side, there is nothing. Which is harder to imagine, a universe with no edge, or a universe with an edge?

Rock Climber

(Photo by escultura on

There are things our brain can’t understand. There are questions that can’t be solved in 30 seconds or less (or even 30 minutes, for that matter). “What about evil and suffering in the world?” “How can you claim you have the only way to God?” “Aren’t Christians just a bunch of hypocrites?”
[Read more…]

12 Questions: “What proof do you have for me? Why should I believe this is actually real?”

We all want proof. Something to tell us that this faith-thing is for sure.  So, what do you say when someone asks you for it?  They like the story of the gospel, they like the idea of believing in Jesus, but they want proof.  What do you say?

Here’s my ‘skeleton’ answer.  What would you add or change?

Test tube

(Photo by 123dan321 on

[Read more…]

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