On the surface there is nothing the SBC is doing that should be making headlines. The heart of the matter is that they have a desire to share Jesus with other religious groups. That is called evangelism and it is an important part of our walk with Christ. We are always called to share our faith with others. Christians have been doing this for a long time.
The problem has come because of the way that Southern Baptist leadership have decided to attempt this. Recently the International Mission Board released a booklet urging members to pray for Hindus during their major festival, Divali. Prior to this they had enraged Jewish leaders by releasing a booklet aimed at Jews during their High Holy Days. Before that they targeted Muslims on Ramadan. To some the attempts came across as abrasive and somewhat combative.
What would be the reaction of Christians if they discovered Muslims were trying to convert Christians to Islam on Easter? Some Christians would shrug it off and not think twice, some would laugh and say “they can’t convert me, I know the truth!” and then others would get angry and be insulted. I think this is the issue. No matter which way you would react, the end result is that there is now a wedge that has been driven and you wouldn’t be willing to listen to a Muslim speak.
If you reverse the roles, you have an understanding as to why the Jews, Muslims, and Hindus are upset. I think as believers we have the responsibility to share the love of Jesus with others. I also believe the most effective way to do that is to develop and cultivate relationships to open lines of communication. If you can do that successfully, then you have earned the right and opportunity to share with someone else. As Christians we have the most important information that could ever be shared. It breaks my heart to think we have missed that opportunity because of an issue of style in our approach to evangelism. I genuinely believe the “leaders” who make the decisions on how to do things have good motives. Perhaps we need to develop more sensitivity to those we are trying to reach.
For years I have taught, because I have found it to be true in my own life, “you earn the right to be heard.” Announcing and publicizing that you are making someone a “target” will not earn you that right in most cases. Recently at the Lynchburg Christian Academy, Rev. Jerry Falwell held a meeting with homosexual Christians from across the country. In that meeting he clearly stated, “homosexuality is a sin, and my ultimate goal is to bring homosexuals to saving grace in Christ.” At the same time Falwell urged Christians to curb hateful language that could lead to violence against gays and lesbians. The end result is that in that meeting Falwell “earned the right to be heard” and kept open lines of communication that are essential in reaching people for Jesus.
There is a test that all of us as believers must use when pondering how to say things. Try using it next time you have the opportunity to share things concerning your faith.
1) Is what I am about to say true ?
2) Does it need to be said ?
3) How can I say it in a loving way that honors Jesus ?
If you can’t come up with an answer to #3, find some help and get good advice as to the best way to continue. Realize that truth is going to be offensive to those who don’t want to hear it, but we have the responsibility to communicate truth in a way that brings glory to the Father.