By Sarah Mitchell

Buddhism 202: Outreach to Buddhists

I.  Types of Buddhists

serious students - monk, etc.

western converts

people whose core of their being is Buddhist worldview

  • these are the majority of Buddhists we have contact with both in the U.S. and overseas - not strongly Buddhist until they are challenged to give up Buddhism


1) charitable acts

2) keep laws of Buddha - examine oneself to avoid errors

3) bear insults and avoid pride

4) not overly concerned with things; keep striving toward goal

5) meditate to purify one's thoughts

6) strive to cultivate the wisdom of Buddha - including methods, hope, efficiency, and resolution to understand truth

II.  Various relationships with Buddhists

personal Buddhist background

family is Buddhist

classmates or friends are Buddhist

heading overseas to Buddhist country

(many ways to present same gospel - know your audience)

III. Misconceptions/worldview - speak the same language


Christian Concepts Foreign to BuddhistsBuddhismChristian(1) GOD

undefined force

not personal

different from humans only in degree

complete emptiness

separate from his creation

personal interest in his creation

transcendent only in boundaries (knows and lives with) but not any physical form (doesn't become creation) - Ps 139

complete fullness

has emotions as seen in humans


man is naturally good

worldly attachments are bad - the ideal is to empy oneself of selfish desires


man was originally created in God's image but since the fall all people are vil and imperfect by nature


(3) SINJapanese/Chinese word for "sin" is the same word as "crime" - very few commit "crimes"sin is "crime of the heart"; rebellion against God (refusing to accept our position beneath our primary superior); unlcean, impure, dirty heart(4) FORGIVENESS

if a wrong has been done, restitution must be made. if not possible, endless shame must be borne by the individual and family

it's a virtue to continue despite being wronged, but not to forgive

shame worldview doesn't deal with forgiveness

there is no way to make restitution to God

forgiveness is offered because of God's mercy through Christ's sacrifice

forgivenes restores us to the same relationship as before the wrong

since God is our superior, we should imitate his mercy

(5) INDIVIDUAL DECISION/ RESPONSIBILITYthe large group or family is most important, one should not stray from the thinking of the group or do anything to harm it

God is the creator of everyone - we are his family and have responsiblity to our "brothers and sisters"

Jesus died for his people (made the ultimate sacrifice for his people)


there are many paths up the same mountain

resentment against being forced to make a commitment

God himself told us not to have any other paths

it is technically an exclusive faith


self-discipline, focuses on own internal strength

private but often done in the presence of family or community

focuses on creator God

"family of God" uniting in praise to the Father

(8) PRAYERnot really communication, requesting power from self or ancestors

communication with God, two-way

power is in God, not in the prayer itself

IV.  Stumbling blocks

clear understanding of God - not "good luck" charm

sin = unclean/ rebellious heart

grace - creates non-harmony because we are indebted to God - can't pay Him back

  • to explain grace, then, we must accept total grace ourselves

exclusiveness (compare turning to or loving other god to adultery)

V.  Unnecessary stumbling blocks - Ways we can cross over to them

II Cor. 6:1-3

prayer - explain; keep simple - "introduce" them to God in your own prayers

learn about and respect their traditions

do what would show love to them (observe carefully to determine what would show love - don't assume they appreciate what we appreciate)

don't make them feel obligated to you

be uncomfortable for their sake

eat their food

go to "heart language" church, provide them with Bible in 'heart language"

VI.  Ancestor Worship vs. Ancestor and Family Respect

respect elders while alive ---> respect for ancestors

pray for mercy on ancestors - remember fondly

ancestors don't need us now

ancestors would have heart of rich man in luke 16:14-30 - want their loved ones to know the truth

help with family gatherings in any way that does not demonstrate worship of ancestors or giving to "spirits"

VII.  Points of Contact

Even though our worldviews are so different, there are some points of contact that the Bible makes that can specifically speak to those with an Asian religion worldview .  Some of them are:

                1) Shame vs. guilt (shame worldview is found Gen 3 and Lev. - "unclean")

                2) Compare original sin to family shame

                3) Compare Son of God to authority of the son of the emperor

                4) Sin means you can't look at the Father in the face

                5) Compare Jesus to hari kari to remove shame from the family

                6) Compare Jesus to eldest son in family - our older brother

                7) God's family and adoption into the family

                8) Jesus = light (Buddhists seek enlightenment)

                9) Love vs. obligation

              10) The Biblical instructions for marriage

              11) The Biblical teachings on parent/child relationship (child-rearing) - born with sin

              12) Jesus is the Way (Tao)

              13) Jesus will never leave us - no "alone-ness"

VIII.  Mini (but important) Steps Toward Total Commitment

___ Engages in dialogue with Christians about the Bible or Christian topics

___ Expresses own non-religious or non-Christian belief

___ Willing to consider Christian viewpoint

___ Identifies with or "belongs to" Christian group

___ Believes God created the world

___ Believes God created mankind in His image - different than the rest of creation

___ Believes God is aware of and in control of all  things

___ Believes there is only one true God in the world

___ Believes all people have sinful hearts from birth

___ Believes all sin must and will be punished by God

___ Believes Jesus was truly God and truly man

___ Believes Jesus had the power to work miracles

___ Believes Jesus came back to life from being dead

___ All stories in the Bible are true

___ The Bible is from God

___ Can pray to God ( in English or own in first language)

___ Eager to tell others what they know about Jesus and the Bible

___ Believes Jesus is the only way for all people

IX.  Spiritual Battle

Don't feel guilty that you're not as good as Buddhists - we're not telling them how to be good people - we're telling them how to have a relationship with God Almighty.

X.  Bibliography

Chang, Lit-Sen. Asia's Religions:  Christianity's Momemtous Encounter with Paganism. San Gabriel, CA: China Horizon.  1999. ISBN  1-892-63203-9

Corduan, Winfried. Neighboring Faiths. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998.   ISBN  0-8308-1524-4

Elmer, Duane. Cross-Cultural Connections. Downers Grove, IL:  InverVarsity Press. 2002  ISBN  0-8308-2309-3..

Halverson, Dean C.. ed. The Compact Guide to World Religions. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers. 1996. ISBN  1-55661-704-6

Hesselgrave, David J.. Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally.  Zondervan Publishing House - excerpts used with permission by International Students, Inc.  Colorado Springs, CO.  1987.

How To Speak To Our Elders About Christ;. Singapore: OMF Books (Overseas Missionary Fellowship). 1986. ISBN  9971-972-50-6

Lewis, David C. The Unseen Face of Japan. Turnbridge Wells, Kent, England: Monarch Publications. 1993. ISBN  1-85424-150-8

Lingenfelter, Sherwood G. and Mayers, Marvin K. Ministering Cross-Culturally. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker House Books. 1986. ISBN  0-8010-5632-2

McDowell, Josh and Stewart, Don. Understanding Non-Christian Religions. San Bernadino, CA: Here's Life Publishers, Inc. 1982. ISBN  0-86605-092-2

Ministry to Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Hindus.  Upper Darby,  PA :  InterServe/USA  1995, 1996, 1997.

Seamands, John T. Tell It Well. Kansas City, Missouri:  Beacon Hill Press. 1981.  ISBN  083-410-6841


Many of these books and scriptures available in English and other languages at  Multilanguage Media, Inc.

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