10 Surprisingly Simple Tips for Talking with Cult Members – Part 2

Spiritual Talk at Your Door?

Last week, I shared two surprisingly simple tips for talking with cult members: Ask, “How much time do you have” and Pray, pray, pray. But many of these aren’t just for talking with cult members. A lot of it’s great for everyday spiritual conversations with just about anyone.

Again, I’m using Alan Gomes’ theological definition of a cult from Unmasking the Cults: A cult of Christianity is basically a group of people who say they’re Christians, but reject essential doctrines of the faith taught in the Bible.

Today, I’ll share 4 more surprisingly simple ideas you can use when the cults come-a-knockin’.

Tip #3: Ask, “What Do You Mean By That?”

This one’s my go-to question. I first learned this strategic question from Greg Koukl. Questions like this are engaging, charitable and give the other person a chance to really explain where they’re coming from. They also help you confirm things you think the other person is saying.

For example, I was at a park talking to a couple of Mormon missionaries one day. One of them kept saying, “We believe we were sent down here for a reason.” I asked, “You keep saying you guys were sent down here. What do you mean by sent down here?”

This invited him to clearly explain the unbiblical Mormon teaching that our spirits are the product of God the Father having celestial sex with His wife in heaven and producing spirit babies that get infused into our bodies on earth (Mormon Doctrine p.516).

Ask what they mean by familiar-sounding words like, “God,” “Jesus,” or “salvation.” They might mean something totally different than what you’re thinking! For example, the Mormon church teaches that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones (Doctrine and Covenants, 130.22) and Jesus is the spirit-brother of the Satan (The Gospel Through the Ages, p.15). As Kevin Lewis in the M.A. Christian Apologetics Progam at Biola University often reminded our class:

Failing to define terms will either result in a miscommunication or a lack of communication in your witnessing.

Very true. So I’m a big fan of using questions, especially with cult members. Questions also help you avoid being tagged as an opposer by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Plus, it might actually help them begin to think about these issues for themselves. Throughout my ministry, I’ve found that asking “What do you mean by that?” is a great conversational technique.

Tip #4: Ask, “Can You Read This Out Loud?”

Why is this helpful? Because if you’re reading a passage of Scripture to a cult member, they might not be listening to you. Instead of thinking about what the passage means, they might actually be thinking about what to say next. But here’s the thing: If they’re reading the Scripture out loud, it’s tough for them to think of anything else except what the verse is actually saying.

Another way to make this tip extra-powerful is by borrowing their Bible. Look up the verse you want to talk about and just make sure it says the same thing as your Bible (You should know this ahead of time, but it doesn’t hurt to check). After finding the passage, face the Bible towards the cult member and ask him or her, “Can you read this out loud?” This also helps them honor their time commitment. Why? Because it’s tougher to ditch the conversation and leave when you’re still holding their Bible!

But what kinds of Scripture passages should you have them read? Passages that seem to contradict what their cult has been telling them about God. This leads us into tip number five.

Tip #5. Ask, “Can You Explain That to Me?”

Treat the cult member who knocks on your door like a teacher and ask the tough questions. This is actually the position they assume right from the get-go, so it won’t be weird for them at all. Ask them to explain specific problems with their church’s teachings from Scripture.

For example, ask a Jehovah’s Witness if their church teaches that only 144,000 people are born again and can join God’s family. They do (Reasoning From the Scriptures, p.76). Then ask them to read 1 John 5:1 out loud and explain to you how their church can teach this when the Bible seems to say that everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born again and has in fact already joined God’s family. You can even use their New World Translation of the Bible for this one!

Finally, don’t forget cult members are people, too. Many of them are just like you and me. You might actually have something common!

Tip #6. Find Common Ground

The cult member probably agrees with you on a bunch of ethical, political and theological things: Religious freedom, no new taxes, the existence of God, etc… Find those similarities and and build bridges where you can.

Kevin told me about some great conversations he had that started out with a discussion on crime, the economy, or family values. When one cult member found out that they actually had something in common, they didn’t see him primarily as someone who disagreed with their church. Rather, he seemed to be like them in some ways. One cult member even told Kevin that he would vote for him if he ever ran for congress!’After finding that common ground, you might find it a lot easier to start talking about the true Gospel of grace.

Next Time

I’ll finish up this series by sharing 4 more surprisingly simple tips for talking with cult members. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your experiences in sharing the gospel with cult members. Feel free to add your own helpful tips in the comments section!

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5 Responses to “10 Surprisingly Simple Tips for Talking with Cult Members – Part 2”

  1. A. M. Hempe October 26, 2011 5:04 PM
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    I think tip 6 is a key thing to do when conversing with cult members. This is the “technique” that Paul did with the pagans on Mars Hill. To find common ground lets them know that you’re willing to work WITH them, and that you’re trying to see their perspective as well. Many of these members are so used to hearing the typical proof text “infobombs” that are [unwisely] lobbed at them from Christians. If we could just come down to their level and “hear them out”, we’ll likely earn their respect, and hey, they might even consider our hermeneutics after such a display of being relatable.

  2. Apologetics Guy October 27, 2011 12:43 AM
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    Totally agree. That’s why we’ve got to go into this with the mindset of loving God and loving people. We can’t see the other person as a “project.” They’re real people who are just like you and me. Here are some people who know God is real and that they need Him. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Dan Rodger October 30, 2011 9:56 AM
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    Great points Mikel! Like you said its important to remember that cultists are people as-well..created in the image of God as we are and worthy of respect even if we disagree with them.

  4. Apologetics Guy October 30, 2011 2:27 PM
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    Amen. That’s what true tolerance is all about: Being respectful of people we disagree with. And it’s what God would have us do. Thanks for your comments, Dan.

  5. Lisa October 31, 2011 8:33 AM
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    Great series Mikel – I have so much to learn!