3 Amazing steps to reaching someone in the New Age
Guest blogger Graham Allen who helps to lead a church in the US gives us some great keys here, enjoy!
NEW AGE RELIGION – HELP THOSE U MEET 2 MEET GOD!
Thanks to a recent request I’m glad to blog about how we can help to introduce Jesus Christ to a person believing in New Age Religion (NAR).
In the City where I live, NAR is very popular. Almost daily I have the privilege of meeting some of the many great people in Austin who are investing their lives in following this Religion.
In essence, I hope to help you find a more helpful way to have an encounter with a follower of NAR than those discussions we have that turn into a ‘my-idea-is-better-than-your-idea’ discussion!
This ‘war-of-ideas’ can often be the outcome of conversations we have with people who follow religions, including with followers of the religion of atheism. Rather, what is far more productive is to help your friend step aside from an ‘argument’ about whose idea is right or wrong, and to help them search the question of WHY they have chosen to follow NAR. It is when we find this out that we can begin to build a bridge towards Jesus Christ in their lives.
If you recall one of my previous Blogs entitled ‘Will Goliath step forward please’, we discussed finding out why a person would reject the Gospel i.e. what part of their life, what past experience etc, causes them to adopt the beliefs they now have – what experience in their past causes them not to invest their life in the Gospel, causes them to worship the belief system they have chosen? Once we have established this we can then begin to help them towards the Gospel. If we find out why a person will not come to Jesus, we can begin to help them find Jesus (as we build a Gospel bridge between their objection, and how the cross really is the answer to it, not anything else).
As with all witnessing and evangelism it is this moment when the cross of Jesus meets a person where they are in life that is the most fruitful way of helping to open the ‘Christ-door’ in someone’s heart & life. It is far more helpful than the ‘war of ideas’ discussion. That type of discussion so often never goes anywhere. In the Gospels Jesus himself, time and time again, meets the person at the point in their hearts where they have gone astray from God, and helps to show them that really God eclipses that, or that God is the real answer to it e.g. the rich young man, the woman at the well, blind Bartimaeus, Peter, Nathanael, Paul and all of us!
So the path that this Blog takes is this:
– A helpful A, B, C about how to help someone that includes:
– setting aside the ‘war-of-ideas’ discussion
– pressing into the question of why a person believes NAR
– helping to build the Gospel bridge from that place to Jesus
1) HELPFUL BACKGROUND TO NAR
It’s always helpful to understand something about the beliefs that our friend has.
NAR is not possible to define to a single particular set of beliefs or practices – the believer them self chooses what beliefs work for them (and therefore what practices they might adopt), drawing from a menu of traditions and philosophies, including but not limited to; Eastern mysticism and eastern and ancient religion, ancient and modern philosophy and psychology, science and science fiction, and the counterculture of the 1950s and 1960s.
It is possible though to headline a number of ideas that are common to most people believing in NAR:
– Jesus was not and is not the only Christ, nor is he God.
– God is impersonal, cosmic, a God of energy forces.
God can be found in all things; worship of mother earth, nature, universe
– The person themselves is ‘God’, for they consist of and are the creator of ‘the forces.’ A person already exercises the powers inherent in their divinity and need only to awaken to this fact.
NAR embraces supernaturalism, but ascribes it to the creature, not the Creator (as in Romans 1:22-24). The ideas of self-help, self-worship can be found here.
– The believer seeks & accepts spiritual instruction & direction directly only from the spirit world.
The lure of the occult is found here
– All religions and religious teachings lead to the same goal. They are all and equally of merit.
The idea of self-realization is found here, and of Universalism etc.
– The ancient wisdom of India, Babylon, Egypt and Greece is the basis of all truth.
Strong influence from some or many of – Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sikhism, Universalism, Pantheism (the universe is identical with God), worship of ‘mother earth’, Astrology, UFO religions, environmentalism, ecology, and other religions.
– Sin, evil and judgment do not exist. Peace and love are the ultimate realities.
Practices can include, but would in no way be limited to:
meditation, channeling, crystal healing, astral projection, psychic experience, holistic health, simple living, environmentalism, yoga, getting in touch with the inner ‘god’ or ‘self’, anti-establishment-ism, and a mixture of other practices drawn from (mainly) Eastern Religions and occult.
The fact that NAR is very popular should be no surprise. In fact you could say, why wouldn’t it be popular? After all, in many ways the believer is the creator of their own set of beliefs, rules and practices for their life drawn from some or all of the above. The idea is that the believer chooses or makes their own way to ‘heaven’ based on what feels right to them. This ‘best-of-all-worlds’ Religion is therefore an attractive and popular lifestyle to choose.
A believer in NAR I was recently speaking to summed it up very well, when they told me,
“I believe every person chooses what things they believe in based on what feels right to them, and what works for them, and it all leads to the same place in the end (heaven).”
I appreciated them summing up their genuinely held views so distinctly, and in such a helpful way.
The question for us as followers of God is – how can we begin to open up the ‘Jesus-shaped’ doorway in our friends heart if they are a follower of NAR?
Let’s be clear, I’m talking about a way of helping us get from where they are, to a place where they might become open to hearing about the Gospel.
So here is an A, B, C – three steps that will act as a helpful way to proceed when you are meeting with a believer in NAR.
A = ACKNOWLEDGE
B = BACKGROUND
C = CONSTRUCT
A) A = ACKNOWLEDGE
The absolute starting place is to establish the common ground between you both and to win trust. Winning trust ‘wins’ you the opportunity to make helpful comments and suggestions to people.
The common ground is that the follower of NAR believes in the concept of God (albeit a very misguided version of who God is) and spirituality (also a misguided version). This fact is really helpful – they are therefore open to understanding the revelation that God wants to know them through them becoming spiritually reborn/made new, in and through Jesus and his work for them on the cross and in the resurrection.
We find this idea of ‘Acknowledging’ and encouraging in Acts 17. Paul is in Athens, a place rich in the worlds religions, philosophies and mythologies: He starts by establishing the common ground – he observes that they believe in God, he Acknowledges it and commends them for it:
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god.
Paul begins by ACKNOWLEDGING the common ground.
Therefore, you can begin by acknowledging this ’common-ground’, by chatting (depending on how much time you have) about how spirituality and ‘god’ helps them to live their life. Find out what they believe, affirm them and Acknowledge that they are open to spiritual things. E.g. say ‘that’s really interesting, it’s great that you clearly believe in God – we’re both alike in that!’ Ask them questions about how their religion helps them in difficult times, what practices they use, what the future holds for them according to their beliefs.
To drive this point home to you – it’s all about questions! Ask lots of questions at this stage. It’s so helpful –
How does your belief system help you in your life? When times are tough? What practices do you use in the pursuit of your religion? Where are you heading in your view – what is heaven like? Who is in heaven? Why are they there? What are your dreams and ambitions?
At all times look for the common ground, and ACKNOWLEDGE it – win trust and opportunity.
Trust and respect win you the opportunity to be able to ask deeper questions of the person you are talking with.
B) B = BACKGROUND
This is where things start to get really crucial.
Next start to ask questions that draw out WHY they believe in NAR. (these are examples – you don’t have to ask all of them, or any of them!)
Why do you follow NAR? Or, what made you start believing in NAR? Or, how have you come to believe in these things?
Can you describe the moment you discovered NAR?
When did this happen?
What was going on in your life at the time?
What’s your history – where were you brought up, tell me about your life so far?
What major experiences have shaped you during your life?
Did your parents believe? What do they believe?
BIG IDEA 1
It is right here (the reason behind why they believe in NAR) that you are going to find the key to unlocking the ‘Jesus-door’ in your friends heart.
As you discuss with your friend about why they believe in NAR, and what they have experienced in their life so far, you will also be asking the Holy Spirit to give you insight.
What you are trying to find out is what lies behind the reason that they believe in NAR.
What has happened in their life to make them worship this set of beliefs, this ‘idol/false god’?
Another helpful question to ask is ‘what is your great dream in life?’
Hear their passion. Find out what their passion is? Their deepest dream.
You might then have the opportunity to unpack either, why it is that this dream has died, or explore how they are doing with achieving it. All this gives you useful information about your friend. You are going to use all of this later to help build a Gospel bridge that will help them to see Jesus.
What I am suggesting is this: that their following of NAR is a ‘fruit’ of their past experience. You are simply trying to find out what the trigger was for them taking this path.
Everyone in the world worships something (an idol) – you are simply trying to find out A) What they worship, B) Why they worship it / or, what is it about it that fills them, gives them value, seems to ‘complete’ them.
Any lifestyle or habit or religious affiliation has a trigger (or series of them); from alcoholism to drug addiction, from following Jesus to following a Religion.
Your search will uncover many things. Hurts, pains, disillusionment with life, divorces, abuse. It is from one of these experience that you are going to be able to build a Gospel bridge in their life.
BIG IDEA 2
At present your friend is investing in NAR as the answer to life’s experiences. You are going to start to help them to see how only Jesus is the real answer.
Example of how to handle a difficult question you might get asked:
During the course of your conversation your friend might make a statement, express an idea or concept – for example:
‘I don’t believe it’s right that any one person sits in judgment over everyone else’ (referring perhaps to Jesus),
‘I believe God can be found in everything; nature, stars etc’
‘I believe that all paths end up in heaven’
As we’ve said already, resist the temptation to start to trade opinions or ideas – the ‘ideas-war’! This is most often very fruitless.
It’s far more helpful to ask
‘that’s really interesting, can you help me understand why you believe this?’
‘What has led you to believe this?’
Remember: Some experience in their life has made them think that it’s right to adopt this belief.
What is that experience they have had? Because right in there is the reason why they don’t believe in Jesus!
You might even find it appropriate at some stage in your discussion to ask:
God says that through Jesus he’s made the way possible to know him (God), for all eternity. What’s your reaction to this? Or, ‘if this is the case, what would stop you from following Jesus today’?
The answer you get might help you find the ‘Goliath’ in their life. For instance, they might have one of several answers – here are just a few examples:
There can’t simply be one way to God
There isn’t just one truth, there are many
The church is appalling! Christians behave in a terrible way!
What you are opening up is a dialogue that is far more helpful. To find our ‘why’ a person believes as they do is always more fruitful than getting into the ‘war-of-ideas’.
Slowly but surely, by asking your good questions, and listening intently to your friends answers, (acknowledging common ground as you go) you will build up a picture about their life. The ups, and the downs. What you are looking for is the key experience (or series of experiences) they have had that stands in the way of them and ‘knowing-God’. In other words, you are finding out the answer to the question ‘why won’t they come to Jesus?’ What is their objection to him, and what life-experience has led them to believe this?
Where do we go next?
C) C = CONSTRUCT
We are going to arrive at a place where we feel we have found out one or any of the following:
1) What their objection to following Jesus is
2) What life experience has led them to believing as they do
3) What their big dream is
4) What they are investing their heart in e.g. money, sex, drink, cars, promotion at work, finding my ‘self’ etc.
Now we can take their answer and help them to see how only Jesus can be the answer.
Here are some examples:
1) A person I met who said their life so far, whilst having experienced divorce of parents, is going quite well. They have adopted a series of beliefs that make them ‘feel good’. It was when we got on to talking about their big dream in life that things got interesting. Their big dream is to own a car mechanics business. They are investing their life in their dream, and everything orbits around it.
C = CONSTRUCT. The friend who’s dream it is to be a car mechanic and own a car repair shop. He is investing his life and passion in his dream, while holding his ‘spiritual beliefs’ which feel good to him. I was able to say:
You long to take broken things and mend them (cars)!
It’s no surprise that you have this passion, because God says you are made in his image
And God has the same passion, to take broken things and mend them – not cars, but lives
So your passion is simply reflecting what God’s passion already is – it shouldn’t surprise us!
He’s placed this passion in you, so that when you hear about the cross of Jesus and his love for you, that you will understand HIS passion is to mend YOU.
Jesus gave his whole life (dying) so that you could be mended – because that’ God’s passion.
God isn’t impersonal. He’s personal, and he has given us Jesus to impact you right where you are in life.
Finally…..would you like to learn more about this Jesus?
His eyes widened. He was slightly speechless. In an amazed way he said, I have never seen life like that.
He hasn’t yet become a Christian, but he is meeting up weekly to know more.
The positive part of this approach is that it sets aside his set of beliefs, avoiding the war-of-ideas, and simply gets right to the heart of how Jesus is the ultimate answer to his dreams, and to what he currently ‘worships’. It finishes by showing how Jesus eclipses (is the ultimate answer to) how he thinks his current set of beliefs fulfils him.
2) Former soldier. Met him on the street in a shopping complex. Doesn’t believe in God, (quite aggressive about how anti-God he is) because he has seen so much killing that there can’t possibly be a God. On the other hand he has some ‘spiritual’ beliefs. So he lives as a part atheist/part NAR.
C = CONSTRUST
After AKNOWLEDGING how painful and terrible his experience has been, I acknowledged his belief in a ‘spiritual’ aspect to life. Through this I won a little bit of trust (he was really quite aggressive in his speech and body language).
I asked him to unpack his experience – what had led to him believing in the way he does? The answers were terrifying and unsettling. He had clearly had some very bad experiences.
I asked him if he would be surprised to know that God had the same revulsion to the killings he had seen, as he did? This was the case because he is made in the image of God, so not surprising that he feels the same passion as God?
He then said that the church was the problem with the world
I asked him to explain and unpack this.
I asked him if he would be surprised to learn that God too was unhappy with Christians/churches if they add to the problems of the world, not provide the solution.
I again won some trust.
I said, God hates death so much that he allowed his son Jesus to die, so that ultimately there will be ‘new-life’. God will remake the earth with no pain – because he is passionately against death, just like you are. Would you join this God in walking through life together?
He said no – but it had softened him slightly.
I finished by telling him that God is interested in him, and that A) here is my email address (I never heard from him), B) He might find over the years that someone else might speak to him about an aspect of God. I asked him to keep our conversation in his heart, so that he could start building up a picture of what God is really like. He did agree to do this!
This was a very aggressive encounter. Avoiding the ‘war-of-ideas’ softened the situation, and made a way for a discussion that bore a tiny bit of fruit. God can take that and build more in his life in the future.
3) The person I met who said (after many questions and sharing of their pain/hurts) that their mother was the key to their life. She had passed away some years before and the grief was still hard. If God is saying she is in hell, then this person would rather go there with their mother. As a result this person had constructed their own NAR set of spiritual beliefs that had made them feel comfortable.
We talked gently about how this person was the center of God’s passion, just as this persons mother had been the center of their passion. They could therefore feel something of how God feels about them. Just as they don’t want to let go of their mother – God doesn’t want to let go of them. Would they open their heart enough to hear and learn a little more about this God who cares about them so much? Their answer was, yes!
4) Met a person who had lived, and was presently living by a number of NAR beliefs. His life revolved around doing graffiti. Talked about how his art completed him.
After much talking and asking questions I was able to talk to him in this way:
I’d love to ask you about God, who is the great artist!
He placed this gift in you, so that you might know something about the ‘greater artist’
The ‘greater artist’ uses his gift to get your attention – through creation, and by dying for you
The ‘greatest artist’ wants to know you
Would you like to know more about him?
He said he would like to meet up and know more!
Winning trust by asking this person about their beliefs, Acknowledging the common ground, finding their deepest heart’s desire (graffiti and art), and using it to point to God, helped this person see God/Jesus in a new way. They have yet to come to faith, but the door is open and they want to know more!
4) We met a person who had and series of beliefs (discovered through lots of questions and time spent chatting) that were a mixture of NAR and atheism. At different times in their life they wavered between the two.
It was when we started talking about the birth of their baby, that they opened up about a significant dream they had had about the birth of their child. They thought this was a spiritual experience. Note: An opportunity to Acknowledge!
They went on to talk about how they felt that they knew about aspects of their child, before the child was conceived. Most importantly, that the dream had given them a deep feeling of peace, and that everything was going to turn out ok. They therefore said they believed in a spiritual side of life.
Later their child was conceived and born. The baby was exactly as had appeared in the dream. This added weight to their openness to spiritual things.
We discussed where this could have come from. After many questions I was able to say:
God is the God who knows everything about you, about your child
If he was able to show you through a dream that he knows you intimately, do you think he’s big enough to show you who he is through dying for you?
Slowly, gently, through much emotion, this person began to see that Jesus was bigger than the dream, and all their life experience.
The person was saved!!
5) The person, who follows NAR. They wear many tattoos.
After many questions, the talk turned to the tattoos. What do they mean? It turned out that they are a memorial to friend who died in a violent way.
When Jesus died, his body was marked for you, in the same way that you have marked your body for your friend.
God wants to you see that when Jesus body was marked, he had the same passion about you, that you have for your friend.
Would you like to know more about Jesus now?
Let’s finish with Luke, the writer of Acts, recording Paul’s words to the people in Athens. God knows every single person he creates, where they live, and what their lives revolve around. Luke records that God goes to all this trouble so that everyone will come to know Him!
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
God loves those people who have decided to follow NAR. He knows them intimately, and he wants to break into their world and show them who Jesus Christ is.
Be very encouraged. Go for it with the NAR people you meet. You will find out that they aren’t too far away from knowing Jesus.
Ask lots and lots of questions, and see what God does!!
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