USA, June 6, 2004: This is an old article, available in full at "source," originally published in Evangelical Missions Quarterly, April, 1994. It's on the subject of "friendship evangelism," that is, the method of making friends with a prospective convert as a method of gaining access and trust sufficient to begin the actual conversion attempt. The original article has a long list of do's and do not's in dealing with Hindus. Hindus are difficult to convert, missionaries often complain and the complex psychology of this approach is one attempt to gain more success. Some excerpts:
Friendship evangelism is usually easy to initiate with Hindus. Most Hindus esteem religion in general and are free and open to speak about it. A sincere, nonjudgemental interest in all aspects of Indian Life will provide a good basis for friendship.
Criticize or condemn Hinduism. There is much that is good and much that is bad in the practice of both Christianity and Hinduism. Pointing out the worst aspects of Hinduism is hardly the way to win friends or show love. It is to the credit of Hindus that they rarely retaliate against Christians by pointing out all our shameful practices and failures. Criticizing Hinduism can make us feel we have won an argument; it will not win Hindus to Jesus Christ.
Do not argue or debate on points where we must disagree with our Hindu friends. Most Hindus sit lightly to their theology or philosophy. God is above our definitions and debates, and the man of God should stand above human disagreements. Often points are raised to deflect a conversation from Christ and his compelling demands; keep a focus on him and avoid debate.
Never allow a suggestion that separation from family and/or culture is necessary in becoming a disciple of Christ. To insist or even subtly encourage a Hindu to leave his home and way of life to join the "Christian" way of life in terms of diet and culture, etc., is a denial of biblical teaching. (See 1 Cor. 7:17-24.)
Avoid all that even hints at triumphalism ("the doctrine, attitude, or belief that one religious creed is superior to all others") and pride. We are not the greatest people with the greatest religion, but some Hindus are taught that we think of ourselves in this way. We do not have all knowledge of all truth; in fact we know very little (1 Cor 8:1,2). We do not desire all India to become "Christian." (Think of what that means to a Hindu--India like America or Europe!) But we do desire all India to find peace and joy and true spirituality. Be careful in using testimonies of Hindus who have found Christ, since triumphalism is often communicated and offends Hindus. Testimonies must be given with evident humility, and with love and esteem for Hinduism.
Do not speak quickly on hell, or on the fact that Jesus is the only way for salvation. Hindus hear these things as triumphalism and are offended unnecessarily. Speak of hell only with tears of compassion. Point to Jesus so that it is obvious he is the only way, but leave the Hindu to see and conclude this for himself, rather than trying to force it on him.
Never hurry. Any pushing for a decision or conversion will do great harm. God must work, and the Holy Spirit should be given freedom to move at his own pace. Even after a profession of Christ is made, do not force quick changes regarding pictures of gods, charms, etc. Be patient and let a person come to full conviction in is own mind before taking action.
Do not force Christian ideas into passages of Hindu scripture. We must be scrupulously honest in interpreting the scriptures of all religions, and must diligently study the larger context of all quotations. There are abundant points of contact between Christian and Hindu scriptures on broad thematic issues; claiming references to Christ where none exist only hurts our credibility.
Work into your life the traditional Hindu (and biblical) values of simplicity, renunciation, spirituality, and humility, against which there is no law. A life reflecting the reality of "a still and quiet soul" (Psalm 131) will never be despised by Hindus.
Empathize with Hindus. Appreciate all that is good, and be truly sad about error and sin (as sad as you are about error and sin in Christianity). Learn to think as the Hindu thinks, and feel as he feels.
Know Hinduism, and each individual Hindu. It will take some study to get a broad grasp of Hinduism, and patient listening will be required to understand where in the spectrum each Hindu stands. Both philosophical and devotional Hinduism should be studied with the aim of understanding what appeals to the Hindu heart. Those who move seriously into Christian work among Hindus need to become more knowledgeable in Hinduism than Hindus themselves are. Some study of the Sanskrit language will prove invaluable.
Remember the biblical pattern from Acts 17 of introducing truth to the Hindu from his own tradition, and only secondarily from the Bible. For example, the biblical teaching on sin is repulsive to many modern Hindus, but their own scriptures give an abundance of similar testimony. Bridge from Hindu scripture to the Bible and Christ.
Lead in prayer and worship together with your Hindu friend. Hinduism has a grand tradition of deep spirituality, and so it is only by deeply spiritual means that we can expect to bring Hindus to the feet of Jesus Christ. Worship in spirit and truth and communion with God in prayer will open our Hindu friends to the riches of the spirituality available to the followers of Christ. This is the atmosphere most conducive to the Holy Spirit's work of bringing Hindus into discipleship to Jesus.
A Hindu who professes faith in Christ must be helped as far as possible to work out the meaning of that commitment in his own cultural context. Often a new follower of Christ is ready to adopt any and every practice of Western Christians, and needs to be taught what is essential and what is secondary in Christian life and worship. For example, it can be shown that the Eastern practice of removing shoes in a place of worship has strong biblical precedence despite the fact that shoes are worn in Western churches. A new believer should be warned against making an abrupt announcement to his or her family, since that inflicts great pain and inevitable produces deep misunderstanding. Ideally, a Hindu will share each step of the pilgrimage to Christ with his or her family, so that there is no surprise at the end. An early stage of the communication, to be reaffirmed continually, would be the honest esteem for Indian/Hindu traditions in general that the disciple of Christ can and does maintain. Approaching Hindus on these lines does not result in quick conversions and impressive statistics. But a hearing will be gained from some who have refused to listen to traditional Christian approaches. And new disciples of Christ can be taught to deal more sensitively with their contexts, allowing them to maintain an ongoing witness to their family and society. As the leaven of the gospel is allowed to work in Hindu minds and society, a harvest is sure to follow in God's own time.
Courtesy of http://www.HinduismToday.com/
KATHMANDU, NEPAL, November, 2000: (Note: This is a dated article which someone recently found. As we had not reported it when it first appeared, we are including a summary now, as we are unaware of any subsequent changes to the temple policies.) Pashupati is one of Hinduism's holiest shrines, and houses Nepal's patron deity. A sign at the gate, enforced by a policeman bearing a stick, bars all non-Hindus. But what defines a Hindu, and who decides? Any brown-skinned Caucasoid, even a Muslim, or Syrian Christian from Kerala, can get in without problems. Tall, fair Nepalis with goatees have sometimes been stopped. It seems the only criteria that the gatekeepers have is skin color and the length of the nose. Groups of Hindu pilgrims from Bali, a predominantly Hindu island, were recently denied entry, as gate guards declared that the "Hindu" status on their travel documents did not prove their faith. The pilgrims had had no problems entering temples in India. Bishwesh Shrestha, their Nepali tour operator is livid. The groups were denied entrance by the office of the Mul Bhatta (the south Indian chief priest at Pashupati), which stated that one has to be born either in Nepal or India to enter (HPI adds: He hasn't even included Sri Lanka!). This directly contradicted the recommendation of the World Hindu Federation (WHF). The Pashupati Development Trust (PDT) assured Shrestha that Indonesians and other Hindus from abroad would have no problem entering the temple in future, but declined to provide it in writing. The police stated that they have no authority to determine eligibility for entrance, and that the Mul Bhatta had strictly ordered that Indonesians should be denied entrance. The Mul Bhatta's office refused comment. However, the Rangoon-based Indonesian embassy accredited to Nepal blamed the tour operator for not having informed the embassy. There are one billion Hindus in the world, and Indonesia is an advisor to the executive body of the WHF, which has a membership of 57 countries. Hinduism predates both Buddhism and Islam in Indonesia, having been taken to the archipelago by settlers from India 2,000 years ago.
Courtesy of http://www.HinduismToday.com/