By Tyson Thorne

February 15, 2019

Cross faith evangelism large

There are two great stories of evangelism in the New Testament. Okay, there are more than two, but two that stand out to me above the others. The first is an oft quoted passage, Paul at the Acropolis. He debates the Greek philosophers and wins about half the audience over to at least being curious about Jesus. Taking a cue from Greek culture, an altar to "an unknown god", he proceeds to tell them about the God they do not know. The second is Jesus at the well of Jacob and how he introduces himself as the Messiah to a Samaritan woman.

What these two passages have in common is that they are both examples of not only cross-cultural evangelism, but of cross-faith evangelism as well. It is important for Christians to share Jesus with people of all religions, creeds, nations and cultures. The Bible is very clear on this point; some of the greatest people of faith in both Testaments are not considered people of God. Abraham existed long before there was a Jewish race. God called him out of Ur and his former faith to be his chosen instrument and the father of the Jewish people. Rahab and Ruth were both from other nations and other religions but became women of faith in the God. Even Timothy in the New Testament had a Greek father and was influenced toward Greek pantheism before his mother and Paul taught him about the Christ.

With all this evidence for cross-faith evangelism I wonder, how is it that 47% of millennial's believe it is wrong to share their faith with someone who holds a different religious belief?

In a new report by Barna, we get a peek at the future of Christians in America. In most cases, millennials are on track with their Gen X, Baby Boomer and Greatest Generation counterparts. Nearly 100% believe that evangelism is a crucial part of the Christian faith and that the best thing a person can do is have faith in Jesus. Millennial's even have a higher confidence in their ability to share their faith than any generation before them (72% as opposed to roughly 60% of older generations). All of this is commendable and paints an appealing picture for our future. Until we get to the statistic quoted above — that 47% believe it is wrong to reach out to someone of another faith.

With all their right teaching and confidence, what persuades millennials that cross-faith evangelism is wrong? Not a waste of time, not a bad idea, but immoral and wrong. How did that happen?

I believe the reason is two forces, one pushing and the other pulling. The force that pushes is based on a societal pressure, one that says that people should do what makes them happy and that disagreement with their lifestyle — or faith choices — is judgmental and ugly. In fact, 40% of millennials believe that disagreement is a form of judging. The pulling force is the "you do you" movement. Unlike the ugly face of judgment, "you do you" is affirming like "just be yourself." Old Testament writers say the same thing in less flattering words, "everyone did what was right in their own eyes." Regardless of the Bible's take, the culture of media, of Hollywood, and our public schools and universities all conduct these two forces and they are having an influence. How do we overcome these pressures?

David Kinnaman is the president of Barna Group, and his take is that we need to teach the younger generation that "evangelism isn’t just about saving the unsaved, but reminding ourselves that this stuff matters, that the Bible is trustworthy and that Jesus changes everything.” Kinnaman is close. I think that if Barna had included questions like "is the Bible trustworthy" and "does Jesus change everything in a person's life" the vast majority of millennial Christians would answer in the affirmative. What needs to be communicated is that not all judgment is bad or ugly and that cross-faith evangelism has always been a part of the identity of God's people. It matter, certainly, but it matters because the kingdom of God is so much better than the destination all other religions lead one to. It isn't merely important, it is eternally important and therefore worth the ostracism of peers. Only a strong, Biblical faith can successfully oppose the forces of our culture.

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