I sometimes get email from Christians living outside of Thailand who want to know how to share the Gospel with a Thai friend, neighbor, relative, etc. It is easy to think that can Thai Buddhists are so different from the standard secular or Christian Westerner, that sharing the Gospel with them will be really difficult or will require a lot of special knowledge. The good news is that although there are differences, they are not so vast that it is impossible to share the Gospel effectively. In this short post, I want to give just a few pointers to get you started in sharing Christ with a Thai Buddhist that you know.
Although it is not absolutely necessary, if you want to share the Gospel with Thai Buddhists it is good to know a bit about Thai Buddhism. Alex Smith’s little book, "A Christian's Pocket Guide to Buddhism" is a good place to learn about Buddhism. But even before you go out and buy a book, just ask your Thai Buddhist friend about what they believe and what Buddhism means for them. Most people like to talk about themselves, and many Thai are open to talking about religion. Buddhism has a lot of diversity within it, so reading a book will only give you a general idea about Buddhism. No book can tell you what an individual person thinks about their religion. It is okay to talk about differences in beliefs, but if you can avoid saying things that sound like you are insulting Buddhism, that will go over better. And pointing out what you perceive as logical inconsistencies in Buddhism probably won’t further the conversation as much as you might hope. Asking about their faith with a real desire to know, however, may open the way for your Thai friend to ask about your faith as well.
But even more important than knowing about Buddhism is just opening up the Scriptures with your Thai friend, and inviting them into your church community. The Bible says that faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom 10:17). If they are open to going to church with you, that is great. Maybe they'll have questions about what they see and it will start a conversation. A small group Bible study or fellowship group where they can watch and observe and ask questions is also great. In personal conversation, if you know some Bible stories that relate to something you are talking about, you can share those stories. For example, if you are talking about a wedding, tell about the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11) and point to what it shows about Jesus. Or if you're talking about difficulties in life, share the story of Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4:35-41), pointing to Jesus’ power over nature and what that shows about Him. Pray for openings to talk about spiritual things and see where the conversation leads.
If you think your friend might read it, get them a Thai Bible or a Thai-English Bible. I’ve listed several places to get a Thai Bible in my article "Where to buy a Thai Bible?". There is also a movie called "God Story" that tells the story of the Bible from creation to Jesus in about 80-90 minutes. This is great for giving the big picture of what God is doing throughout Scripture, and fills in a lot of the background for understanding who Jesus is and why He is not just a good teacher or the founder of a religion. There is a Thai dubbed version of the “God’s Story” that you can buy online. Also, if your Thai friend is interested, they can do an online exploratory Bible study, with feedback from a mentor, at the website www.kwamjing.net (“kwamjing” is Thai for “truth”)
Most Thai Buddhists have little to no knowledge of the Gospel so it takes a long time to understand and come to faith. There is no secret key, other then simply loving them like you would anyone else, bringing them into the Christian community to experience the love of the body of Christ, and helping them to see Christ in the Scriptures. In Buddhism there is no God, so some Thai Christians say that they were impressed by the fact that there is a God who exists and wants to help them. That simple truth has made a great impact on many Thai who eventually come to Christ.
There’s lots more that could be said about the particulars of sharing Christ in a Thai Buddhist context, but I think the above pointers will get you going in the right direction if you want a Thai friend to come to know Christ. And to sum up, we could simply say:
Be a Friend.
Point to Christ.
Open the Scriptures.
Go to church.
Trust in God.