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Topic: How to convert someone

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Subject: How to convert someone
Date Posted: 5/8/2008 5:36 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
Posts: 5,091
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After all the discussions on how not to convert someone, I thought it might be interesting to turn it around.  If someone belongs to a religion that tries to convert others, how should they go about it?  What would be a good tack to take?  I mean this all quite sincerely, and I am putting myself into the shoes of someone who truly believes that they are doing a service by converting somone.  Of course, everything I say is just my opinion and, as with all my opinions, I could be totally wrong.  Feel free to tell me if I am, or share if you have a better idea:

The first example I can think of is negative:  My husband was doing some yardwork and a Jehovah's Witness who was going through the neighborhood came up to him and asked "What do you think of hellfire?"  After a moment of stunned silence, he said "I dunno.  Will it kill my crabgrass?"  While this approach does have the merit of brevity, it's still a bad way to start.  If you walk up to someone and interrupt what they are doing, they are probably not in a particularly receptive mood to your message.  And if you start by talking about damnation, most people are going to tune you out.  Try starting with salvation instead.  The positive message is usually the stronger starting point.

Other suggestions I would make are:

We have lived at least 18 years on this planet.  We have all, at some time, given some thought to what will happen to our souls, if we have them.  We have pondered the great question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.  Give us credit for having considered the question before.

Remember that most of us have lived in a predominately Christian country all our lives.  We are familiar with Christianity's general teachings.  Chances are very good that at some point, we have considered whether or not we believe in Christianity and have made up our minds as seemed correct to us.  Christianity is not virgin territory to us.

If you're really serious about it, learn about other religions and why they appeal to certain people.  If someone says "I'm a Buddhist" you should know that they believe in reincarnation, so you shouldn't need to ask what they think will happen to them after they die.  This is just simple respect.  Why should they listen to you talk about your religion if you haven't taken the time to learn about theirs?



Last Edited on: 5/9/08 1:03 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 5/8/2008 5:59 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2007
Posts: 2,690
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Was going to post a response but, thought before I did I would ask a question for clarification purposes, don't want to offend giving a response if it is not desired.  So, my question is this do you want a response to your post or was it kind of like an infomercial or a statement where a response is not desired?

Date Posted: 5/8/2008 6:17 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
Posts: 5,091
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It was intended as a dialogue - feel free to post any kind of response that you wish.

Date Posted: 5/8/2008 6:27 PM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2005
Posts: 6,143
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Interest post, Kari!  I've thought about some of your points quite often.  In the Bible, there is the great commission to go and spread Christ's teachings to all of the world.  But I think, at this point, most everyone we come in contact with has heard the Christian message.  As you said, it's not unfamiliar or new.  That's why I, personally, don't see a need to talk to people as if they have never heard it.  So at that point, is a person really spreading Christ's teachings, or are they just becoming an annoyance, thereby pushing people further away?  Definitely something to think about.  I'm interested to hear other responses.

I would also like to add that as a Christian, the first thought in my head when I meet someone isn't "how can I convert them?"  It's not really even on my radar (I'm sure that goes against a lot of the typical Christian thought).  I think caring about and loving people, regardless of what religion they are, is what's important, for me.  Not trying to change them.  God will do that, if He wants to.



Last Edited on: 5/8/08 6:28 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/8/2008 8:35 PM ET
Member Since: 4/20/2006
Posts: 5,678
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I don't know how you could convert someone that wasn't intrerested in conversion.  I mean, you're basically trying to sell someone on your way of life, and not just that, but a belief system.  As a Secular Humanist (aka non-believer), I could explain my beliefs to someone, but really, they would have to agree with that line of thinking before they would be "converted".  I don't think any amount of cajoling, foot-stamping, preaching, teaching, etc. could make them believe what I do, although perhaps they may understand my beliefs a little better.  If they decided that my beliefs make sense to them, and that they actually share those beliefs too, then that would come from them, not from me.  I don't believe our beliefs can be shaped by a conversation or two, but rather by a lifetime of experiences and personal knowledge.  No wonder there's so much diversity in the world!

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 5/8/2008 8:36 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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If someone belongs to a religion that tries to convert others, how should they go about it?

I don't think it's anyone's place to convert anyone else.  It's completely against what we UUs believe in.  On a personal level, I don't care if their religion thinks it's ok or not - it's just downright rude.

That being said, I have had a couple friends become UUs because they were interested in it, looked into it, and visited their local churces.  It's all about free will and personal choice, IMO.

 

 

 



Last Edited on: 5/8/08 8:38 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 5/8/2008 8:40 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Brenda asked: So at that point, is a person really spreading Christ's teachings, or are they just becoming an annoyance, thereby pushing people further away?

I find it a complete annoyance.

Date Posted: 5/8/2008 8:47 PM ET
Member Since: 5/7/2006
Posts: 5,295
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Wait and see if there is potential interest first. No attacking, just wait for questions and dialouge.

Date Posted: 5/8/2008 10:24 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2007
Posts: 2,690
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Thanks Kari for answering my question...I was going to post a response but, after reading the responses thus far I'm majorly hesitant to stick my neck out....I wasn't gonna quote scripture or preach or anything but, scared to post.  Thanks though for your OP.

Date Posted: 5/8/2008 10:32 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,930
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I think the first step is all about respect. Giving it to the other person and deserving it yourself.  Two examples, today I told a very devout Jewish friend of mine that I don't believe in God.  She was, I think, saddened since she feels that I'm missing a wonderful supportive presence in my life, but she listened, responded intelligently and was respectful of my opinions.  Of course that doesn't mean I plan to convert to Judaisim but I was not turned off of Judaism in general by her reaction. 

Example two, a few years ago my sister became a vegatarian, a very vocal vegetarian.  At times she was very hurtful because although I supported her decision to stop eating meat, she was constantly bringing up the horrific conditions of the meat industry, the horrible treatement of the animals and eventually after so much harping all you hear is white noise.  I know this is a different kind of conversion, but still it shows how badgering someone with your view point, however noble you think it is, automatically puts people on the defensive and makes them tune you out.

So that's what I think.  My opinions are reasonably well thought out, so I don't think there's a lot anyone could do to convert me to anything, but giving and deserving respect is the first requirement for any kind of connection that has any kind of real effect on a person.

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 5/9/2008 12:34 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Vanessa you bring up some really great points.

It's different if someone if someone is  seeking info about religions and wants input.  It's completely different if it's a stranger or someone who has their own beliefs already.  All in context. :)

ETA: Sheesh - disappearing words



Last Edited on: 5/9/08 1:10 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/9/2008 12:57 AM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
Posts: 5,091
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Obviously the people who have posted so far aren't going to be converted.  :)

But I do understand that in some religions, seeking converts is considered good.  Looking at it from the point of view of a Christian, I think it would be ... searching for words... incredibly unfeeling not to at least feel someone out to find out if they are open to hearing more.  After all if you truly believe that Christ is the way to eternal life, you would want to bring as many people to Christ as you could.

So I can't say that I agree that it's downright rude to at least ask questions to find out if someone might be ready to hear your message.  Quite the opposite.  Of course, it can be done in a rude way, but that's true of everything.

Date Posted: 5/9/2008 3:09 AM ET
Member Since: 3/6/2008
Posts: 67
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I am currently a Christian and former long-time atheist. I don't believe in converting anybody but will gladly discuss my faith if someone is interested. I think it is better to practice what I believe instead of just talking about it. This is certainly the case with my son: he is 17 and an atheist, like my ex-husband, but he is entitled to his beliefs. I do my best every day to serve as a role model for him by being a compassionate and loving Christian, but I do not try to convert him. And it's not just with my son, I try to be a caring person with everyone I meet. I don't say to them, "Well, Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself," instead I practice it as best I can every day. Sometimes I will mention my church in conversations, but the San Francisco Bay Area is very secular, so if I see a look of horror at the mention of "church," then I quickly change the subject. If someone is not open to a discussion of religion or faith, then I don't pursue it. Forcing someone to talk about religion is simply not hospitable and I believe that my faith should be welcoming, not annoying.
Date Posted: 5/9/2008 8:06 AM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2006
Posts: 2,246
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I would like to hear Christy's thoughts on the subject. Christy, no one is going to come to your house and kneecap you, you know. :-) <-- said in a teasing voice

It's hard for those of us who do not actively evangelize to understand where folks who do feel called to do so are coming from. Is it something you can explain to us? You're a nurse (my wife is a nurse), can you explain or describe the procedure, so to speak?

It's unfortunate that typed words can't convey tone of voice. All of the above is said in a friendly voice, a curious voice, a voice that's trying not to offend or to be offended or defensive. Honestly, it's something I've never understood fully. To give you a frame of reference for me, I'm a Methodist, from Iowa, and I'm 81 years old. 

If you don't feel comfortable doing this in a post, then PM me, please. 

Best wishes, and Happy Nurses' Week to someone I'm sure makes a difference every day. 

Les 

Date Posted: 5/9/2008 10:16 AM ET
Member Since: 4/20/2006
Posts: 5,678
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I guess another way to look at the question is, what would it take to convert you?  I guess that's my whole problem with the evangelical part of religion....if you aren't willing to be converted, why would you try to convert someone else?  I'm not talking about someone who is on the fence, seeking information.  I'm talking about a person who already has secure beliefs, not unlike yourself, just different beliefs.  You have to admit it takes a certain level of arrogance to attempt to do that.

Date Posted: 5/9/2008 11:47 AM ET
Member Since: 11/27/2006
Posts: 4,840
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Great post, Kari.

I don't get why evangelism offends so many people.  It is a large part of Christianity, so don't they have the right to practice it?   Those on the receiving end certainly have the right to politely decline hearing "the message" and if they do...well then, it's only appropriate at that point for the Christian to back off.   But to offer their message in the first place is absolutely no reason for offense IMO.

However, how the Christian decides to go about sharing their message is very important!  Being pushy and/or threatening people with eternal damnation never works.  Also, the condescending attitude of "if you understood there is no way you would NOT be a Christian" displayed by so many is very offensive.  It assumes that you are right and everyone else is wrong and that the person you are talking to can't possibly be as confident in their beliefs as you are in yours.

Think of it this way.  There is a knock at your door, and a homosexual man is standing on your porch.  He says to you  "Hi!  I'm a homosexual, and I'd like a few minutes of your time to share with you my beliefs. "  You let him in, and he proceeds to sit on your couch and tell you why being a homosexual is far superior to being heterosexual.  Now what would you be thinking?  Probably something along the lines of "But....but.....I'm a heterosexual.  It's just who I am!"  (Please note this is just an analogy, as homosexuality is not a "choice" nor something to which someone can be "converted").    You will (hopefully) listen politely but there is no chance that you are going to convert.  You're not!  So what did either of you gain from this dialogue?   Hopefully, a better understanding of each other and respect for each other as individuals.   But that's probably likely to be it.

 

Date Posted: 5/9/2008 12:45 PM ET
Member Since: 10/20/2007
Posts: 5,297
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You choose your religion, not your sexuality, so I'm not sure that's a very good example.

Christians have a right to spread the word or whatever, and I have a right to not listen to it - or disagree. 

I think a far more effective way of "converting" people would be to do things to show how your religion is working for you.  I'm not a Christian, but I know a good Christian when I meet one.  Telling people they are going to hell or chastizing them for their sinful life is not going to get someone to convert to Christianity.

That's all I got.  Interesting discussion :)

Date Posted: 5/9/2008 1:09 PM ET
Member Since: 11/27/2006
Posts: 4,840
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You choose your religion, not your sexuality, so I'm not sure that's a very good example.

Um, yeah.  I believe I said that in my post.

My point is that one's beliefs (or lack thereof) are as intrinsic to a person's identity as their sexuality.  Assuming that anyone can be "converted" is to assume that their beliefs can be shucked off like last year's coat.  Yes...you can choose your religion but you cannot CHOOSE your beliefs.   If you believe something, you just do.  You can't just decide not to believe it anymore, or to believe something else.

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 5/9/2008 1:20 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Kari wrote: So I can't say that I agree that it's downright rude to at least ask questions to find out if someone might be ready to hear your message.  Quite the opposite.  Of course, it can be done in a rude way, but that's true of everything.

But you have to understand that for people of some faiths it's the "rudest" or "most disrespectful" (for lack of better words) thing you could do.  Like I said in another post it's a matter of religious belief as well as principle.  You  may not understand why it could be or is considered rude to others, because you don't belong to those faiths.

 

Date Posted: 5/9/2008 1:30 PM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2005
Posts: 6,143
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You can't just decide not to believe it anymore, or to believe something else.

Sure you can, it's a pretty big part of life, I would think.  It's part of the learning and growing process.  Why else would someone go from being an atheist to a Christian, or a Christian to a Buddhist, etc?  I'm not saying that everyone will change their beliefs at some point, but I do think the more people learn about each other, the more their beliefs aren't quite so set in stone. 

ETA:  That's one of the things I find appealing about the UU churches.  I love the Christian church I go to, and will stay there.  I'm quite happy and at peace with my Christian beliefs.  But as I learn things about what other people believe, through every day conversation (and not attempts at conversion), that's where I find I grow the most.  That's when there may be a small shift in my beliefs, or in the way I see life.  Then little by little, I find that I look back, and I'm not at all the same person I was 10 years ago, and what I believe reflects that. 



Last Edited on: 5/9/08 1:37 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 5/9/2008 1:40 PM ET
Member Since: 11/27/2006
Posts: 4,840
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Yes Brenda, people "become".   But generally it is because they sought information and as they did, their beliefs changed.  It's not an overnight thing.   And I doubt it often occurs because they were handed a religious tract at the airport.

L.G. believes that George W. is the Worst. President. Ever.    Do you think there is anything a Bush supporter could say to change her belief about him?   That's what I meant.

 

Date Posted: 5/9/2008 3:18 PM ET
Member Since: 3/10/2006
Posts: 2,819
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The vegetarian metaphor is interesting to me, because for many it is like a religion.  When I became veggie 20 years ago, I made it a point NOT to either flaunt it or incite family or friends over the topic.  I would simply inform them I was now a vegetarian, and leave it that.  But the funniest thing happened - so many people close to me tried to incite me, and draw me into long conversations about animal cruelty and such.  It was a reverse-conversion of sorts.

But I still stand by my basic beliefs -  be it a big lifestyle choice or religious affiliation - don't flaunt it, don't pitch it, don't incite.   I guess perhaps by other Christians' perspectives, I might be a bad example of a Christian, but I don't care.  I know what gives me peace, and talking to other people about Jesus's love is not one of them.

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 5/9/2008 3:29 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Well Beth, there may come a time when the country elects a President that I think is worse than W.  I sure hope not, but it's a possibility! ;)

That's different that religious belief or theology though.  Some people naturally question and seek to learn about different religions - and those encounters may or may not influence their belief system.  Others take what they are given - whether by their parents or a church or what have you - hook, line, and sinker, and never have any desire to learn about anything else or to question.  I suspect most people fall someplace in the middle - starting out with a "inherited" religion and seek to find answers on their own.  And you're right - it doesn't happen overnight.

But I do suspect that most adults over the age of 30 or so have a pretty good grasp of what they feel is "right" in terms of religious belief or theology.  It's not like I'm going to magically convert to Chrsitianity or strict Hinduism simply because some stranger decides it's their duty to come up and tell me how wonderful their experiences are in that religion.  I'm quite comfortable where I am now, though I see religious belief (for me) to be a ever-changing element.  It's not likely any person - or anything they do - will change my belief system.

 

 



Last Edited on: 5/9/08 3:32 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/9/2008 4:02 PM ET
Member Since: 1/29/2006
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Christians can't convert anybody. Only God can do that (John 3:3). But we can sow the seed of the gospel (Matt. 28:18, Mark 16:15).

Here's how I learned to show people their need of the Savior... listen to both these sermons...

Hell's Best Kept Secret and True and False Conversion:

http://www.spiritualthirst.com/listen

 

And you can see one of the MySpace pages I did for evangelism:

http://www.MySpace.com/seedsower333

My other one:

http://www.MySpace.com/seedsower777

 

We have to present the Law of God (allowing a person's conscience to kick in - hopefully it's not already seared from so much sin and rejection of the Truth) and allow the Holy Spirit to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment. If we do any more than present the Law of God to lost folks and give the gospel of Jesus Christ, then we are trying to do God's work.

I used to think I was responsible for people ending up in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8) because maybe I didn't say something right or act right or whatever... but Chrisitans are just the tools God uses (our mouths) to present the gospel. BUT... it makes no sense to a person why they would end up on hell if they don't hear the bad news that they are condemned by Jesus Christ already (John 3:18) unless we tell them WHY they are condemned - they (like ALL Christians) are criminals in God's eyes. For all have sinned and come short of His glory. We all have a sin debt to pay. Either we pay it in hell for eternity or receive the gift of life from Christ through repentance and faith in Him. That latter part makes no sense to someone dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians) unless they see themselves in the true light of God's holy Law first. Anyway, listen to those two sermons above... it's explained a lot better than I can  :)

Resting in Him,

Tamara

Date Posted: 5/9/2008 4:04 PM ET
Member Since: 11/27/2006
Posts: 4,840
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Well Beth, there may come a time when the country elects a President that I think is worse than W.  I sure hope not, but it's a possibility! ;)

Oh please don't say that L !   What if  fate is real and you're tempting it?!???!  

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