Why should American Christians study World Religions?

By Dr. Mike McQueen
While the United States was once a melting pot, it is now more of a multi-cultural/religious stew.  What was once unique to the various ethnic enclaves in major cities (like Chinatown, Little Tokyo, etc) and college towns is now making its way to even rural areas where adoptions, refugee resettlements, and new businesses are being established.  How can a Christian hope to reach out and be both a witness and sometimes a peace-maker during the mega-shifts that are taking place?
In order to help contemporary Christians negotiate this shift, this fall Urbana Theological Seminary will be offering a class called World Religions: Christian Missions and Evangelism that will seek to acquaint the student with the basic tenets of the major world religions in four ways.  First, classic textbook descriptions will be supplemented with readings from the sacred texts of each religion that will help to overcome common generalizations and stereotypes.  Second, the student will make contact with and interview practitioners of each religion and compare individual experience with text book understanding.  We will also make field trips to the worship venues of major religions that have meetings in the Champaign-Urbana area.  A third way will be to examine ways that missions have historically approached such groups and evaluate their effectiveness or lack thereof.  And finally the class will explore ways (and hopefully apply them!) in which the Gospel might be presented to the practitioner in ways that are effective and unique to each individual.  We hope you can join us–for registration information, contact Dr. Melody Green at mgreen@urbanatheologicalseminary.org.   
Text Books include:
Lewis, James F. and William G. Travis.  Religious Traditions of the World.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991.  
Smart, Ninian and Richard D. Hecht. Sacred Texts of the World, A Universal Anthology.  NewYork: Crossroads Publishing Company, 1982.