Over the past few years I have talked with a number of believers who wanted to engage with Hindu co-workers, neighbors, or students. Many of them get acquainted and then rush into a Bible study as soon as possible. Within a short time, the friendship diminishes and the relationship has no foundation. The urge to act on an agenda closed the door.
Oftentimes, this has nothing to do with someone’s willingness to learn about Jesus, but is rather an expression of being uncomfortable with the approach. Here are three suggestions to establish more genuine relationships that aren’t built on an agenda.
Hindus in India and globally are deeply troubled by Christian conversion practices, and they have every right to be skeptical when a Christian befriends them with the obvious motivation of getting them in a church as quickly as possible. Many Hindus who grew up in India studied in Christians schools and are well-versed with basic Christian stories.
Therefore, as anyone would, many feel let down or disappointed if they sense there is an ulterior motive. Many North American-style bible studies don’t address their questions and concerns and further confirm that Christianity is a religion of the West.
The first thing to do is to take a deep breath and slow waaaay down. Never put time pressure on yourself or your friend to force a conversation they aren’t ready for. That urgency will offend and alienate them. Get to know the person and let them truly get to know and trust you. 1 Peter 3:15 says that believer should be ready to give an answer, but that we should do so “when asked”. Let your spiritual life be apparent and don’t be afraid to have open conversations, but never force an issue. Prayerfully avoid any attempt to manipulate, force, or short-circuit your relationship. Follow God’s slow and patient urgency (2 Peter 3:9) rather than rushed American urgency.
This leads to an even more important principle. When Christians befriend Hindus as evangelistic targets, it does not take Hindus long to sense that the relationship has strings attached. Some ministries set quotas on how many “presentations of the gospel” a person must make in a given time. When people are subjected to such artificial, agenda-based relationships, Christians can be manipulative and deceptive.
Jumping quickly to an evangelistic agenda violates the relationship before it begins. A connection with Jesus should never start with a fake friendship.
If you engage a Hindu in friendship, you need to commit to a long-term, genuine friendship, no matter how the person responds. Fake or agenda-driven relationships will only offend and alienate.
If a Hindu senses that your friendship is conditional to their quick response, you’ve not only lost a good friend, but further distanced that person from a walk with Jesus, and all of their family and community as well. However, someone who is genuinely willing to be a friend with no deceptive strings attached will bring them surprise and honor to Jesus.