A few months ago, I signed up for the RZIM Academy, a twelve week course run by the ministry of Ravi Zacharias. The course is set up to train Christians how to engage “questioners” – people of various worldviews that may have questions about the Christian worldview. It also helps Christians to better understand their own worldview and several other prevailing worldviews.
Going into the course, I expected the focus to be on learning about Christianity through videos of RZIM speakers. Now, after the course is done, I realize that the focus wasn’t on the learning – it was on the application. The practical experience of engaging in conversations was the thing that challenged and changed me the most.
This experience came through assignments set up at various points during the course. Some assignments were reflection-based, like writing a summary of how morality is incorporated into my worldview. Those assignments were helpful as they challenged me to narrow down the components of my worldview that are most important.
Two other assignments involved setting up an interview with someone who had a different view than my own. During the interview, I asked the person I interviewed to explain his views on four topics that apply to basically every worldview. These topics were origin (where did everything come from?), meaning (What is the meaning of life?), morality (how do we determine what is good or evil?), and destiny (What happens to you after your death?). During the interview, I could not express my own views unless the other person specifically asked what my views were. I simply needed to listen and ask clarifying questions when I wasn’t clear about something the person said.
Listening to the person I interviewed helped me to get an in-depth understanding of what he believed about reality. The questions provided an opportunity for the person to open up more than he would have otherwise, sometimes diving into personal background about how he came to the conclusions he had. I was amazed at how natural these conversations were, and very surprised when one person asked me what my views were.
You might be wondering why all this stuff I’m talking about matters. Why do I care so much about talking to people about the things they believe? For one, I believe that as a follower of Jesus Christ, I have a responsibility to relay truth about reality to the people around me. But more specifically, God has given me a huge passion for learning about various worldviews and talking to people who hold those views. I cannot fully explain why I have this passion, but I know it’s there.
So yes, I have some knowledge about what different people believe and sure, I enjoy having deep conversations with people. But the RZIM Academy has made me realize that while knowledge and passion are important, they are not as important as my attitude and tone within a conversation.
Let me give a few contrasting examples to show you what I mean. I could either use my knowledge to spout out my views until the day’s end, or I could share that knowledge out of compassion for someone who is asking difficult, sincere questions. I could either use my passion by tearing down someone’s view in order to show them that I’m right, or by taking an opportunity to learn what someone believes and respond to them in a way they can identify with.
The first halves of the sentences above show scenarios where knowledge and passion are used in selfish ways. The second halves show scenarios where the person I am talking to is the focus. And for me, that is the big takeaway from the RZIM Academy. When engaging in conversations, the focus is on the other person, not myself. My goal isn’t to win an argument for the sake of winning. Instead, my goals are to listen to people, to respect who they are, and to extend love and compassion in a matter consistent with the God I follow.
I don’t know exactly how my knowledge and passion will be used in the future, but the RZIM Academy has helped me to understand the manner in which I should use them.