I taught university courses for a few years and my favorite course to teach was Introduction to Philosophy. Introductory courses translate a subject’s ideas into common language, while in-depth courses teach you a new language to better develop these ideas. I liked the idea of taking what might literally be a lifetime of work and dedication and cutting it down to one hour’s worth of reading and one hour’s worth of lecture. You have to provide enough of a hook to each subject that it might grab the attention of a student, enough depth that it will show the worthiness of dedicating a career to its study, enough hints at future studies to give those students paths forward, but also enough of a structure and closure that the ninety-nine percent of students who listen and are not fascinated can still recall later in life, “Oh, yeah, Utilitarianism. It’s great for group decision making but I think it’s flawed as an individual moral system.”
I believe that the same structure ought to be applied to The Urantia Book. We are so enthused by these teachings that we want to treat every person as if they are the one person in one hundred who are going to latch onto it and fold it into her life’s pursuit. But we end up doing a disservice to the vast majority of people who we could leave with a vague positive notion about The Urantia Book such as, “Urantia? Yeah… Direct relationship between people and God, an organized universe. I’ve met some people who are into that. They’re normal.”
That should be the first goal for every outreach effort we have: Urantia Book students are normal. What “First, do no harm” is to the Hippocratic Oath, we should have a similar warning, “First, do not sound crazy.”
Every faith discussion is different. There is no value in outlining a step-by-step checklist. The audience is different if we are in front of a small group, a large classroom, a single stranger, or a couple of friends over dinner. I do, however, advocate that we can all have starting points, go-to phrases that help us get into the proper mindset for discussing Urantia teachings with non-Urantia students.
Advertisers tell us that an average person needs multiple positive interactions with a product before they are willing to buy it. It is the same with The Urantia Book. Most people need multiple positive interactions with the teachings of The Urantia Book before they are willing to read one for themselves. When we introduce someone to The Urantia Book, our success should not be judged by whether or not they buy a book and read it. Rather, it should be judged by whether you left that person with a positive memory of The Urantia Book, so the next time they hear about it they can recall, “Oh yes, Urantia. I’ve met one of those people. She was normal.”
You get seven seconds to make a good first impression. Do you have a good seven second introduction to The Urantia Book? If you are asked a second question, can you expand that seven seconds to 30 seconds?
This is basic outreach training that can and should be practiced in Associations and study groups as well as workshops at conferences: “Introduction to Urantia in seven seconds or less.” Perhaps we will see this course at the Association’s 10th International Conference in Amsterdam – April 12 – 15, 2018. I hope to see you there!
Urantia Association International