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.)

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 http://www.sxc.hu)

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 http://www.sxc.hu)

[Read more…]

12 Questions: “Do I need to change my lifestyle if I follow Jesus?”

This post is part of a series on 12 Questions Young People are Asking. To see the intro to the series, click here.  To get a sneak peak of the 12 Questions material, sign up to receive my free e-book on the right sidebar.  Today: “Do I need to change my lifestyle if I follow Jesus?”

Teenager

(Photo by yoshiaka on http://www.sxc.hu)

Similar Questions:

  • Do I have to change the way I live? I don’t want to be like those “good“ Christians around me. I’m not like them.
  • Why can’t I still sleep with my boyfriend/fiancé?
  • If God forgives all sin, what difference does it make if I say I am sorry or I don’t?
  • Do I need to give Jesus all of my life? Can I hold onto pieces of my life?

[Read more…]

5 Strategies for Tough Questions–Part 2: Push it Personal

Jacob (name changed) had come to youth group because he liked a girl. Smart, funny, and good looking, he thought himself to be wise beyond his years. He was used to impressing people with his big vocabularly and smart-sounding philosophies. As we talked afterward, he argued that there is no such thing as right or wrong. People simply do what they think is best. They make their choices, I make mine, and neither of us should judge the other.

Rays of light thru trees

(Photo by demjan on http://www.sxc.hu)

(This post is part of a series on 12 Questions Young People are Asking. To see the intro to the series, click here, for part 1, click here.  To get a sneak peak of the 12 Questions material, sign up to receive my free e-book on the right sidebar.)

I could have taken him to a logical argument about ethics, and why utilitarian ethics break down under logical scrutiny. I could have brought up Hitler or communism or the Rwandan genocide. But nothing is so personal, as, well, pushing it personal. So I asked about him.
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5 Strategies for Tough Questions–Part 1: Find the Question Behind the Question

He sounded like the short, bald guy from Princess Bride that walked around saying “inconceivable” in that strange, nasally voice. He looked a bit like him, too (but don’t tell him I said that). I was sitting in the hard, blue, plastic chairs of L101 at Multnomah University in a class called Adolescent Psychology, and he was the professor. In that nasally voice he kept saying, “The question is rarely the question.”

Shield

(Photo by Isah on http://www.sxc.hu)

It’s true. Someone asks, “How can you claim you have the only way to God?” But they really might mean, “Isn’t that arrogant of you to claim that you, of all people, know the only truth?” Another asks, “What about all the evil and suffering in the world? Is God really good?” But they actually might be asking, “Can I really trust or believe in a God who allows so much hurt?” A third person asks, “What proof do you have for me? Why should I believe this is actually real?” But they really want to know, “How can I be logically certain this is true?” There is almost always a Question Behind the Question.

Until you find the Question Behind the Question, all your energy is wasted.

Until you find the Question Behind the Question, they won’t really hear anything you say.

So, how do we find the Question Behind the Question?

  1. Always assume there is a deeper question. When I started in youth ministry, my dad told me, “Rob, you need to ask the questions that students want to ask but are afraid to ask. And, you need to ask the questions that students should be asking but don’t yet know to ask.” Assume a deeper question, and ask that question for them.
  2. [Read more…]

12 Questions Young People are Asking

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.
[Read more…]

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