Post by Keelan Cook – How to Ask Someone About Their Religion (And Actually Discover What They Really Believe)
I get this question a lot, so I thought it fitting to address it in a post.
With the remarkable diversity we find around ourselves today, we can no longer assume we understand someone’s religious background. This is obvious when we talk about discovering and engaging unreached people groups around us. Discovery is more than finding out where people live around us, it is finding out about who lives around us. Part of discovery is cultural acquisition, or learning someone’s culture. That is not as hard as it sounds, and there are five simple categories you can consider to learn someone’s culture. Faith is one of them.
But this issue is wider than working with internationals. I have a hunch that the average American Christian (faithful, church-attending believer) does not know as much about the average American’s religion as they think they do. We have grown up hearing people say they are Christians and we take it at face value. Or, people claim to be “non-religious” or “nones” on the census survey. However, I am convinced that these terms do little to actually tell us what someone believes. In fact, neither do the terms Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Atheist.
Nevertheless, when I tell people that part of discovery is learning someone’s religion, they most frequently treat it like a check box. They will ask, “What religion are you?” Their new friend responds with, “Muslim.” Then it is done. There is no follow up on what this actually means to that person. Instead, a bucket load of assumptions are dumped on to that person about what they believe. However, two different people who say they are Muslim will mean very different things by that term. Just like two different people who merely say they are Christian may have totally different belief systems.
We must dig deeper.
When proclaiming the gospel, we need more than the religious label someone applies to herself. We need to know what they believe… FINISH READING