Using the Worldview Survey, Part II: Discovering your friend’s worldview

In Using the Worldview Survey, Part I: Sharing the gospel when time is short, we shared how the Worldview Survey questions can be used as a springboard to sharing the gospel when you only have a short time with an individual (perhaps in a waiting room, interacting with a door-to-door salesman, or in a street evangelism context). In this second article, we share more specifically on how you can use the questions to discover the beliefs of the individual before moving on to share the gospel.

The conversation was going so smoothly. The young woman in front of me seemed to be eagerly digesting each point I made as I walked her through the gospel message. She was nodding her head, agreeing with me when I’d ask her questions and assuring me she understood. Great! Next up, the sinner’s prayer, right? We’d been conversing for some time when she finally began to open up more about her own worldview, extinguishing my optimism. Apparently she was exploring a pagan religion. She worshipped the earth. She wasn’t terribly bothered by her sin. Surely God could be expressed in many forms and there were many ways to seek him.

It was surprising to me that she could both agree with what I’d been saying, while at the same time hold to these very opposing viewpoints. She was, by definition, a post-modern thinker.

As she walked away from me a little later, I realized that I’d spent a long time sharing the gospel to a woman who did not have the foundations in place to understand it. While I knew God could still bless and use my feeble efforts, surely I could be more effective if I’d had an idea of the worldview of my listener before I dove into sharing the Bible’s message.

I realized I needed a method of quickly determining one’s worldview and finding a way to discern their true understanding of the Bible’s message, so that I could know how to proceed with the truths of the gospel

The Worldview Survey (originally published in the book And Beginning with Moses), a list of nine simple and objective questions, is designed to give a person a good idea of what their student believes. It’s a helpful tool for many situations, but especially handy if you’re not sure how to approach sharing the gospel with an individual or what tool would suit them best.

Worldview Survey Questions

A. About God
i. When you hear the word “God,” what comes to mind?
ii. What would you say God is like?
iii. Where did you get your ideas about God?

B. About Man
i. Why does man die?
ii. What happens to man when he dies?
iii. Where did you get your ideas about man and his future?

C. About Right and Wrong (sin):
I. In life, what is right, and what is wrong (sin)? Name a few examples of each.
II. Are there any consequences for doing wrong (sin)? If so, what would those consequences be?
III. If someone says you are wrong about what is right and wrong—who decides who is right?

*Answers at the end of article.

How to use the questions

There may be a time in which it is very appropriate to simply ask your friend these questions one after the other, but more often that may be too formalised or pushy for the occasion. Instead, consider this list of questions as merely a tool to enable you to know how to steer the conversation—mental guideposts as you move the discussion along. Take note that the important thing is to know what the individual believes about God, themselves, and about sin (right and wrong). Personalize the questions for the situation.

An example could be, “So you mentioned you are a spiritual person. Would you mind telling me who you think God is? What’s your view of the Bible?” Or, “What is important to you? What do you think is our purpose for being here anyway?” Or perhaps a discussion about politics is underway. “You mentioned you find it very wrong that so-and-so made that decision. Have you ever wondered what makes something right or wrong in the first place?”

Often you will not need to go through all the questions before you’ll have a fairly clear idea of where the individual is at. Sometimes you’ll only need to ask one or two questions and your friend’s worldview will become obvious. There are other times you won’t even have to ask them the questions at all. If the individual is chatty, they may reveal many clues to their worldview as they visit with you. The point is for you to know what information is significant—and this is where the Worldview Survey questions can be helpful for you.

Once you have a better idea of the belief system and worldview of the individual, you will then be able to move on to sharing the gospel. You will be much better equipped to explain the Bible’s message because you’ll have a clearer idea of where they’re coming from and how they may understand (or misunderstand) key spiritual concepts. GoodSeed’s tools are specially designed with different worldviews in mind. Consider giving a book that is geared towards your friend’s worldview as the natural outflow of your conversation.

Three Common Worldviews

Keep in mind that any worldview may not be immediately apparent. Sometimes an individual may have been exposed to a certain belief system over a period of time in a home environment or cultural setting but has not taken personal ownership of those beliefs. Nevertheless because of that influence, you will probably discover that, as you interact with your friend and answers to the above questions come to light, an identifiable worldview will emerge.

In other instances, a person’s worldview can be more quickly determined. Such a person has personal convictions that will become evident in their responses to basic questions. In either instance, for purposes of our discussion here, most belief systems will fall into one of three categories:

The Post-Modern Worldview

This group is by far the most common. The following belief systems can all fall under this category: Eastern religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Shintoism; atheism and agnosticism; animism, generally characteristic of tribal cultures; so-called Christian cults, such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses; New Age, Wicca and other forms of spirituality.

It may seem to be a broad categorization to lump all these belief systems under one heading, but they are more similar than many might think. You’ll likely see a few key aspects emerge.

  1. A post-modern thinker will not hold up the Bible as the overriding authority that guides their life. They may believe in a collection of writings (including but not limited to the Bible), in their own personal moral compass or in science, but they will not hold up the Bible or God as their one source of truth.
  2. A post-modern thinker may believe in God, in a plethora of gods, or choose to not to believe in any higher power, but whatever his idea of “God,” it won’t match the biblical position. Often, a post-modern individual will view god as a force or a part of the creation, whether by existing in trees or lakes, or by believing humanity is more on par with the angels or a being just a little higher than ourselves.
  3. A post-modern thinker will often view sin as a relative idea of morals that no one else should pass judgement on. He will likely believe that any negative actions can be overcome by “good works,” such as in the case of karma.

If your friend identifies with any of the above ideas, the best GoodSeed tool to use with him is By This Name.

The Islamic Worldview

A growing number in our communities have been influenced by Islam, either culturally or by religious conviction, and would adhere to an Islamic worldview.

  1. They view the Quran as a holy book and an important source of truth.
  2. Muslims mean the Creator when they speak of Allah, but they view him as being an absolute unity, not a trinity.

If your friend is a Muslim, no matter the sect, or if he has been influenced by the teachings of Islam, then consider using All that the Prophets have Spoken to share the Bible’s message.

The Christianized Worldview

This worldview has certain foundational truths in place that are in keeping with a biblical worldview. You will usually hear correct answers to some of the questions you ask from the Worldview Survey. Many who have come from a “Christian” background will say that the Bible is their authority. They will believe in a God whose attributes closely resemble the God of the Bible. Often where their answers will differ is in their view of sin and the correct solution for mankind’s sin problem. Usually, their idea will involve “works” to some degree. Depending on their background, they will likely be confused on other issues as well, relating to God and what Christ did for us when dying on the cross. However, if their understanding of the Bible’s authority and who God is seems fairly biblical, then you know some foundations are in place to work with.

Those from a Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox background may fall into this category.

For a person with a Christianized worldview, we recommend using The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus. This books does assume some basic foundational knowledge of the Bible, so if you have any question about your student’s understanding, we encourage you to default to By This Name, which assumes nothing of one’s understanding.

Other Worldviews

There seems to be no end to the various mixes of worldviews and backgrounds out there. No one comes as a blank slate. However, if you have someone in mind who doesn’t really seem to fit neatly into any of the categories above and you’re not sure which tool to use, we recommend defaulting to By This Name. At worst, your student might hear some things they already know, but it’s better to have it work that way, than have a student confused because key Bible knowledge is missing.

The Biblical Worldview

The following answers would represent a Biblical worldview:

A. About God
i. When you hear the word “God,” what comes to mind? A spirit being set apart from creation; the “trinity,” a tri-unity comprised of Father, Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit; the Creator of the world; the holy, sovereign, eternal ruler of time and history.

ii. What would you say God is like? Loving, just, wants a relationship with mankind. Is involved in his creation.

iii. Where did you get your ideas about God? From the Bible.

B. About Man
i. Why does man die? It is a consequence of sin.

ii. What happens to man when he dies? If he has placed his faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, he will go to Heaven. If not, then to Hell.

iii. Where did you get your ideas about man and his future? From the Bible.

C. About Right and Wrong (sin):
I. In life, what is right and what is wrong (sin)? Name a few examples of each. The Bible is our authority for right/wrong. It is not all relative to man’s views.

II. Are there any consequences for doing wrong (sin)? If so, what would those consequences be? Yes. There are immediate, earthly consequences. There are eternal consequences. Romans 3:23: The wages of sin is death.

III. If someone says you are wrong about what is right and wrong, who decides who is right? The Bible is our final authority.

We hope the Worldview Survey can become another tool for your outreach toolbox and enable you to be just a little more effective as you reach those around you.

Author: Naomi Johnstone

Naomi is a staff writer and proofreader for the international office, wife to Troy and mother of three.