A few weeks ago I was able to visit the Mormon Temple that has just been finished in Fort Collins. For those of you who don’t know this is actually a pretty big deal. because the temple is usually closed to non-Mormons. Since the temple is new they opened it for a short time to the public before the temple is dedicated and then closed forever to non-Mormon visitors. The temple was extremely beautiful and it was cool to see everything, and a few things caught my attention. The biggest surprise in my experience visiting the temple actually had nothing to do with the actually visiting the temple. The biggest surprise for me was the reaction I received from some of my Christian friends when I invited them to come and join me.
Many of my friends were either very opposed to the idea or felt it was dangerous or useless. Some of my friends even called the temple a place of evil, and Mormons evil. Thankfully after talking with most of them I think that they have changed their view on my visit, but I think their words express the thoughts of many Christians today.
I think that most Christians are afraid of reaching out to non-christians. It is one thing to try to reach out to non-Christians in a neutral environment. It would be challenging for most of us no doubt, but we see no problem with evangelizing on neutral turf. Our views often change if we are talking about approaching someone on their turf so to speak. Most of us wouldn’t go to a Mormon Temple, to a Buddhist retreat center, a Mosque, a Hindi worship center or an atheist meeting. Why is this? I think there are several reasons.
We are outnumbered and scared
Going to a place where we as Christians are outnumbered is intimadating. We start worrying about all sorts of things. What will they ask us to do? Are they going to try and convert me? Will they be mad that I came? Will they think I am infringing? Will they make me pray to Allah? These are some of the questions that go thru our minds.
The truth is most of the people at these places are just happy to see new faces that are interested in their faith. Just like at your own church you’ll meet people excited to talk with you and answer questions and others who simply want to do their routine and get out. We shouldn’t be intimadated to check things out.
We don’t feel Prepared
This is probably the biggest one. Most of us feel that if we go to Mormon temple or a Mosque we may find ourselves convinced into Mormonism or Islam or at least ill prepared to answer any of the questions that they may ask us. And for many of us this could be true. There are a lot of other beliefs out there and its hard to have answers for every question someone may ask prepared and ready.
The issue with this thinking is that we need to learn somehow. As the saying goes practice makes perfect. You’ll never figure out what questions they may have unless you go to them. You can’t start finding answers for questions people have unless you know what their questions are.
We think its a waste of time
This is where many of us just see little motivation for going to these places. We think that the people we will see are already set in their faith and no matter how prepared or how ready we may be there is nothing that we can say that will be able to convince them to follow Christ. To one extent that’s true. God has to work. We can have the perfect words but if God isn’t in it then nothing will happen.
But still this view doesn’t add up. We have no way of knowing what thoughts some of the people we may talk with are having. They may act as though they are as solid as ever in their beliefs, but your questions have started the wheels turning a direction they never have before. You may have planted the seed, and that makes it worth it.
The Apostle Paul was very much about this style of evangelism. In Acts 17 Paul sees an idol dedicated to ‘the unknown God’. Paul knew he was outnumbered, he may not have known every question they were going to ask him, and he had no guarantee that his words would have any impact, but he went for it. Paul reasoned with the men in Athens and through that discussion many came to the Lord. Today we are called to reach out and do the same with the people around us.
The truth is that we are too content to let others ask about our faith or find ways to share our faith with others without ruffling feathers. But instead we need to become very comfortable with ruffling feathers for the cause of Christ.