A few days ago I attended an interfaith lecture at a local university. Former Congressman Mark Siljander spoke about his efforts to bridge the Muslim/Christian divide. Interfaith events usually reduce all beliefs to the fantasy of the lowest common denominator (“we all worship the same God”). This lecture was no different.
Fundamentalist Christians shy away from such events, but this is a mistake. We can achieve productive goals if we participate with specific, Biblical purposes and a Christ like attitude. Often, unexpected opportunities arise.
One such opportunity came during the reception that followed the lecture. A lady from another fundamentalist church introduced herself and her friend to me. I was thrilled to learn that her friend is also her Muslim neighbor. It is very unusual for Christian ladies to reach out to Muslim ladies, but the door is often open. I was able to encourage this sister and supply her with some helpful resources for her witness.
This is the second such event I have attended in recent months. In both cases, they turned out better than expected. These experiences reinforced two lessons.
First, good preparation will make us more effective. Preparation includes prayer, study of Scripture, and seeking better understanding of those we wish to reach. As we pray, God refines our motives and goals, and brings our attitudes in line with the Savior, Who came in humility to seek the lost.
Second, rather than merely criticizing religiously correct interfaith events, we should be taking advantage of them as opportunities to engage unbelievers in Gospel conversations. The most fruitful encounters often occur in the most unlikely circumstances. Sometimes these encounters come about because we looked for them. Other times they are presented by the arrangement of God simply because we made ourselves available to His service.
In his lecture and at the reception afterwards, Siljander emphasized his evangelical identity, but there was little or no Gospel in his remarks. In his perhaps well-intentioned but decidedly misguided way of finding common ground among Christians, Muslims and Jews he made the bizarre claim that the shahada, or Muslim confession of faith, can be found in Mark 12:29. I gently pointed out to him that his version of the Gospel fell far short of Jesus’ version. Sadly but not surprisingly, he was not interested.
No matter. While Siljander was spinning his tales of human bridge building, I was reconnecting with a Muslim friend, building a bridge with the Cross for continued witness. In future events I will be looking for Buddhists, neo-pagans, Hindus and others to befriend.
Do we really trust the power that works in us? Do we believe that the Gospel is the power of God? Do you still feel unsure about doing this? In future posts I will offer conversational approaches that can help us navigate with confidence through common objections to the Gospel. With God’s power and preparation, we can succeed.