I knew it was eventually going to happen and so this week it did. A young man came into our church for the first time and like always I engaged him in a conversation to see where he might be spiritually. In the conversation he asked me whats the difference between churches. By this I knew that he meant, “why are there different churches and what makes the difference between them”. From here I introduce what we might consider mainstream Christianity–the broad scope of churches that believe Jesus is Jehovah God in human flesh who was born of a virgin destined to die on a cross and raise again the third day. But because of the many cults in Taiwan, I have since added an appendix to this conversation “but there are so called churches outside of fundamentals of faith that we might consider cults and heretical.” I used mormonism for an example.
Turns out this young man is a mormon initiate and has been associated with a local temple for the last two years. So what then? Is this an occasion where one should begin dismantling mormon doctrine bit by bit? This young man seemed keened enough to enter that discussion. He mentioned that he lost a job one the employer learned he was mormon and since then he’s has been curious to why some Christians are so hostile towards his brand of “Christianity”. But this where I believe my training kicked in as I remembered what my mentors in the faith have taught me:
- You might win the argument, but you’ll lose the person. This is actually what I told the young man, I said, “At this point we could present you with a lot of material and scriptural references that show you where mormon doctrine is wrong, but I fear in the process that we might lose you. I’m not interested in winning an argument, I’m interested in winning you.” During this conversation my son in the faith, Peyton, was sitting adjacent to this young mormon convert. Simply by being present with me, Peyton in many occasions served as an illustration for Christian love and an invitation to others to join our company. Through young men like Peyton, Josh and Austin, others can see what our mission in Taiwan is all about. In this case I believe the young mormon man saw “the church” in the relationship between Peyton and I, and it whetted his appetite.
- Recognize pitfalls that will waste your time. While talking to this young man, I invite him to ask me anything, anything at all that he has been curious about. At this point, I had no interest in getting right to setting this initiate mormon straight on Scriptures and Joseph Smith. Instead, I gauged his understanding by the kinds of questions he asked. Even though he introduced himself to me as a Mormon, but I had no idea how much of the mormon doctrine is him. Turns out he knew next to nothing about the Bible, and therefore I also assumed he really understood about the same amount of mormon doctrine. Though it might seem like an obvious route to take in responding to the claims of mormonism, it would have been a wasteful attempt with this young man.
- Leave the door open and don’t exhaust someone by covering too much too quickly. We spoke with this young man already for an hour and I could see unless we put the brakes on, the conversation would have went into the night without end. We covered a lot already in a hour’s time and we ended on what I thought was a very positive note. I found a reason to end the cove ration and left it open to continue it again at a later time. He thanked me then and thanked me again when we got home. He was made aware of the daily opportunities of bible study with Pex and I, and we told him it would please us very much to help him understand the bible and answer his questions. He found this agreeable and we parted ways.
This conversation would have gone much differently if we ran into a mormon missionary or someone more grounded in their doctrine. But I’m grateful that Peyton was able to see this conversation first hand. It will definitely serve as learning experience as he begins his ministry where mormonism is prevalent.