Text and Context in Dialogue
Ten Tips for Ministering to Hindus
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, nonjudgmental interest in all aspects of Indian life will provide a good basis for friendship. Personal interaction with Hindus will lead to a more certain grasp of the essence of Hinduism than reading many books.
A consistently Christ-like life is the most important factor in sharing the Gospel with Hindus. The suggestions that follow should help to break down misunderstandings and help to build a positive witness for Christ. But learning and applying these points can never be a substitute for a transparent life of peace and joy in discipleship to Jesus Christ.
- Do not 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. Criticizing Hinduism can make us feel we have won an argument; it will not win Hindus to Jesus Christ.
- Avoid everything that hints of triumphalism 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 (1Cor 8: 1,2).
- 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 (1Cor.7: 17-24).
- 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 fuller understanding and conviction in his own mind before taking action.
- Work traditional Hindu (and Biblical) values into your life,
like 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.
- 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 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.
- Be quick to acknowledge failure.
Defending wrong practices in the church and Western Christianity only indicates we are more concerned for our religion than we are for truth.
- Share your testimony,
describing your personal experience of lostness and God's gracious forgiveness and peace. Don't claim to know God in His majesty and fullness, but share what you know in your life and experience. This is the supreme approach in presenting Christ to the Hindu, but care must be taken that our sharing is appropriate. To shout on a street corner, or share at every seeming opportunity is offensive. What God does in our lives is holy and private, only to be shared in intimacy to those who will respect the things of God and his work in our lives.
- Center on Christ.
He alone can win their hearts' total loyalty to Himself. In your life and speech so center on him that all see in your life that God alone is worth living for. Hinduism is often called "God intoxicated," and the Hindu who lives at all in this frame of mind is put off by Christian emphases on so many details to the neglect of the "one thing that is needed" (Lk 10: 42). 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. A new believer should be warned against making an abrupt announcement to his or her family, since that inflicts great pain and inevitably 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.
This article appeared in Mission Frontiers Special Edition Jan. 2001 and is reprinted with permission. Subscription information is available at www.ijfm.org/subscribe.htm.
. bhakti, nom. devotion, love, loyalty