This is an article from the November-December 2014 issue: The Fingerprints of God in Buddhism

What You Need to Know:

Ministering to Buddhists of the Theravada Tradition

What You Need to Know:

1. Befriending is key. Friendship in the Asian context always requires a willingness to go the extra mile or two without counting the cost. Such a relationship not only requires much time, effort, and resources but also a willingness to be used up in service to Christ.

2. Earn the right to share the gospel. Rather than imposing from a position of superiority, move with a servant heart. When your actions are loud enough they are going to want to know why you do what you do. 

3. Be patient. Do not think in terms of days but in months and years. First try to understand their beliefs and values with a sincere motive. Theological concepts like monotheism and the cross are completely alien to Buddhists. Put yourself in their shoes. 

4. Instill a sense of trust. Once your bonds reach a level of mutual trust and openness, you will be free to discuss anything from politics to religion. 

5. Understand their felt needs. Their felt needs are usually not what you see on the surface. Practice looking for and discerning that which is hidden and subtle.

6. Consider the community. Asian communities function much differently than Western communities. Rarely would a decision to follow Christ be made in isolation from the community in an Asian culture.

7. Wait for readiness. When they are ready to seek, then your role is to help find truth (not pounce). The Holy Spirit will gently accomplish his task. Remember you are just a vessel. 

8. Expect benevolence. Most Buddhists living in the US are peace-loving, hard working, law-abiding people. They can also be fun-loving and enjoy outdoor activities. Look for opportunities to organize or participate in community activities. For example, Buddhists often enthusiastically support blood donation campaigns.

9. Look for godly qualities. For example Buddhists would generally consider it below their dignity and a terrible evil to have their elderly parents placed in a nursing home. Much respect and consideration are shown to the elderly. This is one area where the Buddhist family truly demonstrates the sacrificial love Western Christians only speak about. 

10.  Do not assume a blank slate. You may find Buddhists have been exposed to the gospel in some form or shape. For example, Sri Lanka was under foreign rule for 450 years with the Portuguese, Dutch, and British being in control for nearly 150 years each. The impact of these influences, good and bad, cannot be discounted. 



A precise guide to apply in the mission field to Asians and Buddhist.

Min Thike

I must say very good and refreshing article on how to approach and reach out to those from a Buddhist background. I heartily agree with all 10 points. However, I would disagree with this statement that leads to the conclusion that putting elderly people in the Western World is not reflecting “sacrificial love Western Christians only speak about.” I am a missionary serving in the most thoroughly Buddhist country in the world - Thailand. I have served here over 15 years and think this article is very good. However, I think this comparison to the elderly is a horrible comparison. I love my mother very deeply She is 76 years old and has Alzheimers and a host of other ailments that lead me to believe that the best place for my mother is in a elderly home where she can have medical attention 24 hours a day. It would not be in my mother’s best interest to bring her to live with me in Thailand. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our elderly is to put them in a place where there is constant medical attention. When I explain the reasoning why I did what I did, not one Buddhist friend thinks that I do not love my mother. Maybe we need to think of a better way to explain things.

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