All around you, people are talking about spirituality. Those from different religions and philosophies express competing claims, and the noise from their debates often creates a cacophony of noise and confusion.
But you can make sense of the chatter, and help others discern what’s ultimately true along the way. So don’t shy away from the spiritual conversation around you. Here’s how you can join in effectively:
* Gain confidence. Realize that, in the marketplace of ideas, you have just as much right to present your understanding of truth as anyone else does. So join in the public debate. Know that God doesn’t want you to remain silent when others are ignoring Him. Understand that it’s okay to make waves to get people’s attention. Don’t worry about what might happen whenever you express the Gospel message; trust the results to God, who has unlimited power to bring about good from even your most meager efforts. Don’t be concerned about any ability you lack (such as a sharp wit or a gift for public speaking), because God will help you do everything He calls you to do. Understand that you don’t have to be genius to discern truth or hold to a solid and legitimate worldview. Pray for confidence and the grace to represent Christ accurately. Rely on the strength God will give you to reach people He’ll bring into your path.
* Let your actions speak, too. Make sure your actions line up with your words by modeling a faithful life to others. Ask God to help you develop strong character and live life with integrity, so others can clearly see the positive impact of your faith. Regularly be kind to other people and devote significant time and energy to service. Give your best to every task you undertake, striving for excellence. Embrace the joy God offers you and let people see that joy at work in your life. Be grateful for God’s goodness, and strive to glorify Him and fulfill His purposes for your life.
* Don’t assume others have any prior knowledge of a biblical worldview. Understand that many people today don’t have even a basic understanding of the Bible or its concepts. Expect that you may often have to start from scratch when explaining God’s message to them.
* Recognize what you have in common with others. Realize that, despite cultural and other differences, you have much in common with other people because you share the experience of being human and the blessing of having been created in God’s image. Keep that in mind whenever you talk with someone whose views diverge from yours. Know that, if you relate as one human being to another, God can work through you both in amazing ways.
* Understand the six basic worldviews. Whenever you meet people, think about the remarks they make and ask yourself what worldview they’re promoting. The biblical worldview says: “Serve the one true God – the Creator of the universe – alone. Since God loves you personally, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. God’s rules are good and are for our good.” The Haunted worldview says: “Eclectic. Syncretistic. Don’t judge anybody. Get in contact with spiritual power, which spiritual power works for you.” The What You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG) worldview says: “The physical world is the only reality. You can only know what is material. Any appeal to spiritual reality is outlawed from the start as mere superstition, hype, hokum, wishful thinking, or deception. All morals and ideas of good, evil, truth, and beauty are man-made.” The Dueling Yodas worldview says: “Good and evil are in an eternal battle in a moral universe, but neither side ever wins. It is an eternal struggle.” The Omnipresent Supergalactic Oneness worldview says: “Absorption of all things into pantheism or monism. Evil and good are only apparent opposites. There are no innocent sufferers, since suffering is exactly proportionate to one’s karma. You create your own reality with your mind. You are ‘God,’ but so is that cockroach scurrying across the floor.” The Designer Religion worldview says: “It’s okay to mix and match religions. Never judge anybody. Get in contact with a spiritual power that works for you.”
* Let challenges from other worldviews strengthen your faith. Don’t be afraid of views that differ from yours. Instead, learn from them. Ask hard questions and wrestle with ideas. Confront your doubts and fears. Be humble enough to know that you don’t know everything. Pray for God to use your discussions with others to help you more clearly see the truth that leads to Him. But be sure to stay close to God (through prayer, Scripture reading, and church) so He can continually guide you, protect you from false teaching, and give you wisdom. Pray against being deceived by evil, and refuse to take part in practices condemned in the Bible, since doing so can open you up to attack in spiritual warfare. Don’t conform to the world, but ask the Holy Spirit to transform you by renewing your mind. Be on guard against religion and philosophy that depend on the world’s basic principles or human traditions rather than on God Himself – Jesus Christ. Remember that the Trinity sums up biblical revelation. Don’t settle for anything less than God’s full revelation of Himself. Trust that, if you passionately seek God, He will allow you to find Him and strengthen your faith.
* Ask creative questions. Ask questions to invite people into dialogue, gain a better understanding of what they believe, and possibly build friendships with them. Use questions that define key terms you’re discussing, clarify, classify, challenge, and point out what is assumed. Be confident, polite, humble, and persistent. Respect people’s dignity and don’t engage them in unnecessary arguments. Keep a sense of humor. Help people think about their own beliefs and the biblical worldview in ways they may never have previously considered.
* Be patient. Rather than becoming exasperated or giving up when people with different worldviews cling to them for a long time, continue to pray for them and love them. Trust that God is already working in their lives. Give them the time and space they need to work through their issues.
* Be honest. Don’t ignore or sugarcoat topics that cause others to struggle with accepting the biblical worldview, such as horrible events in church history or the sins of some famous Christians. Acknowledge the failures of people who embrace a biblical worldview, and emphasize the fact that everyone needs God’s mercy and forgiveness in this fallen world.
* Focus on love. Remember that what sets a biblical worldview apart from all other worldviews is love. Resist the temptation of thinking that God is an abstract concept to be explained. Know that He is a loving Father to be experienced. Make God your top priority so you can fully experience His love, and so others can see the powerful difference true love makes in your life.
Adapted from Blah, Blah, Blah: Making Sense of the World’s Spiritual Chatter, copyright 2006 by Bayard Taylor. Published by Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Bloomington, Mn., www.bethanyhouse.com.
Bayard Taylor holds an M.Div. degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is Biblical and Theological Editor at a major Christian publishing house. He teaches on worldview to high school, college, homecoming, and parenting groups.