Christian Witness to Buddhists

Lausanne Occasional Paper 15

Report of the Consultation on World Evangelization

Mini-Consultation on Reaching Buddhists

held at Pattaya, Thailand from 16-27 June 1980

Sponsored by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization

Prefatory Note

This report, Christian Witness to Buddhists, is one of a series of Lausanne Occasional Papers (LOPs) emerging from the historic Consultation on World Evangelization (COWE) held in Pattaya, Thailand, in June 1980. The report was drafted by members of the “Mini-Consultation on Reaching Buddhists” under the chairmanship of Rev. Lakshman Peiris, who also served as International Co-ordinator of the pre-COWE study groups on Buddhists.

The major part of this report went through a draft and a revised draft, which involved all members of the mini-consultation. It was also submitted to a wider “sub-plenary” group for comment, but the responsibility for the final text rests with the mini-consultation and its chairman.

The report is released with the prayer and hope that it will stimulate the church and individual members in reaching this large segment of the population.

Copyright © 1980
Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization


1. The World of the Buddhist
A. Geographical Location of Buddhists
B. Historical Background
2. Theravada Buddhism
A. World Views of Theravada Buddhists
B. Crucial Theological Issues
C. Vital Communicational Issues
D. Some Principles for Practical Strategies
3. Mahayana Buddhism
A. The Mahayana World View
B. Mahayana Buddhism in Japanese Life
C. A Strategy for Reaching Mahayana Buddhists
4. Conclusion


This report deals with the two basic schools of Buddhist thought: Theravada (Hinayana, the Southern Schools) and Mahayana (the Northern Schools).

Representatives taking part in the study group came from Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Japan, and Korea, as well as from countries such as Brazil and the United States, where small communities of expatriate Buddhists and their converts are found.

The problem motivating the study was that, except in Korea where a strong indigenous concept of God (Hananim) similar to the Lord of the Bible existed, only comparatively small numbers of Buddhists have responded to the gospel of Christ. For example, Christians make up less than one per cent of the population in Japan and Thailand.

Christian encounter with Buddhists can be traced back to the Nestorian period. Despite continual Christian witness since that time, early Roman Catholic missions and later Protestant efforts produced only meager results in terms of church growth. In fact, some of the earlier missions to Buddhist peoples in Asia did not even survive.

Three main causes accounted for the lack of permanent self-perpetuating Christian communities among Buddhist peoples: persecution, syncretism, and the failure of the church to break through the social solidarity of Buddhist communities. These still pose basic problems facing Christian missiologists and evangelists today.

The goal of the study was to evaluate the task of reaching Buddhists and to determine principles which would foster the ongoing development of effective strategies to reach Buddhists in the above lands. Christ’s Great Commission gives Christians a mandate to take the gospel to every person, including the large number of Buddhist peoples. Since we understand that Buddhists are seeking truth, and because Jesus Christ is “the Truth,” we are doubly bound to declare the gospel to them.

A basic assumption of the study is that, while recognising the need to develop practical, effective strategies for reaching Buddhists, we acknowledge that this task of evangelism is ultimately God’s doing. We, therefore, affirm our dependence on God’s grace.

1. The World of the Buddhist

A. Geographical Location of Buddhists

Today, millions in Tibet, Japan, Korea, China, and Southeast and Southern Asia are adherents of some form of Buddhism, usually intermixed with animism and sometimes tempered by modern secularistic materialism.

Peoples influenced by Buddhistic thinking comprise one of the largest blocks of unreached peoples in 1980, claiming over a billion people—a quarter of the world’s population and a third of the unevangelized. This includes mainland Chinese as well as about, 400 million other Asians committed to some form of Buddhism. It is unlikely that, during the last three decades, centuries of Buddhistic philosophical thinking in China have been erased. Changes have occurred, but Buddhistic conceptualisations mixed with various spiritistic beliefs still permeate the thinking of that great nation today.

CLICK LINK to read more THAI MISSIONS info about Buddhism from Luasanne….


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