You happen to be spirit-filled, but have you really experienced everything you believe? Do you demonstrate – healing? Deliverance? Can’t you find room to grow spiritually yourself? In adjusting your attitude, put yourself in your friend’s place. Understand that you are trying to a fellow believer grow in Christ.
By Jim H. Yohe
I confess that I’ve made many mistakes in my witnessing efforts to reach the lost. I grew up with the mind-set that people who didn’t share my religious convictions were straight to Hell! It didn’t matter whether they were agnostic, Baptist preacher, Catholic pope, Episcopal priest or any other minister or church member from the branches of Christianity; they were all in the same headed south. I was convinced that all the other Christian denominations really knew that we spirit-filled Christians were right, but because they didn’t want to “pay the price” of being different from everyone else, they deliberately taught false doctrine. In other words, I believed everyone was being dishonest about God except me and my little group. So, consequently, I didn’t respect the experience of anyone else.
Religious or atheistic, they were all fair game to me. Instead of seeking out any common ground of belief, I immediately went for the differences in doctrine that were sure to ignite a heated debate. After watching me street witness, one my friends commented dryly, “Jim, it’s a good thing you’re 6’3 and weigh 240 pounds! Otherwise, he would have decked you!” Motivated by deep convictions and religious zeal, I invaded the outreach crusades of other Christian groups, took over their microphones, and was once arrested and jailed. All the time thinking that I was on the side of truth fighting man’s false religious tradition. I always had this Old Testament model of a prophet calling down judgment in my mind!
That was almost thirty years ago. I was taken aback recently when I learned that the pastor of one of the largest churches that we had consistently attacked, now teaches my doctrinal position to his congregation. Why did he finally change? Because some other spirit-filled Christian took a different approach than I did. He approached him as a friend who had common ground in believing that the Bible is the Word of God. Observing that, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar!” he was able to accomplish what our “bold” methods couldn’t. As time passed, this denominational pastor was convinced of the spirit-filled experience along many of his church members!
As Christians, we must learn to respect truth, nothing but the truth, and acknowledge truth no matter who affirms it! Carl Sagan once contrasted the varying degrees of commitment that science and the church world have regarding truth. “This is one of the reasons that organized religions do not inspire me with confidence. Which leaders major faiths acknowledge that their beliefs might be incomplete or erroneous and establish institutions to uncover possible doctrinal deficiencies? Science is forever whispering in our ears, ‘Remember, you’re very new at this. You might be mistaken. You’ve been wrong before.’ Despite talk of humility, show me something comparable in religion!” More truth is what we all seek even if we discover it outside of our own current religious experience! One religious sage proclaimed, “If a thousand old beliefs are shattered in our march towards truth, we must still on!”
Think about it; if you want to be someone’s friend, you find what you have in common with that person and then discuss subjects or participate in those activities in the friendship’s infancy. No one builds a friendship by focusing on differences of opinion!