Would you be interested in discussing Jesus and the Bible with seven or eight non-Christians who wanted to listen to what you had to say? If your answer is yes, then keep reading.
Interfaith Dinner Dialogue is a good opportunity to speak Gospel truth to others. This event is coming to Greenville, SC on November 14. (For a listing of locations of similar events in other states visit http://www.amazingfaithsproject.org/index.cfm?fa=contentGeneric.ffzjvusjmkgbekyn). I had an unusually good experience at last year’s event that I will share a little later.
First, here’s an overview of how a Dinner Dialogue goes. After registering, you will be assigned to a home in your area, along with about eight others of various faiths. The evening begins as guests gather and mingle informally in the host home. Then they share a simple meal. Near the end of the meal, a pre-appointed person explains the moderated discussion to follow.
Each guest receives and answers a question on the role of faith and spirituality in her or his life. Participants listen respectfully to each other and refrain from criticizing beliefs and practices of the others. I happen to believe that this kind of dialogue is conducive to Christian witness. Suspending judgment and listening does not force us to compromise the truth. It focuses our minds on understanding, which is valuable preparation for genuinely engaging others with truth. Furthermore, if the Bible is, as we believe, the true description of reality, then an open exchange of ideas does not threaten Christianity, but rather allows it to thrive.
Last year at this time I attended my first Interfaith Dialogue Dinner. I had almost cancelled because my sister Ruth had died earlier that week, and we would be headed out-of-state for her funeral the next morning. But I realized that the Holy Spirit might use the circumstances in Jesus’ favor by my going. He did.
I enjoyed meeting the other people at the dinner. There was a Catholic couple, a Unitarian, a Jewish man, a Bahai, a member of a liberal Protestant church, and a “none,” (someone with no particular affiliation). The first question, drawn by the Unitarian was, “what is faith, and what role does it play in your life?” Her answer: “I really don’t know what faith is, so I’m not sure what role it plays.” When my turn came I noticed that my question was related, so I told a little of Ruth’s story to illustrate the meaning of faith. I explained that Ruth knew from reliance on Scripture that her suffering was not meaningless, but that God was bringing greater good from it. (Read more of her story here). Then I offered copies of her printed testimony. Every person was eager to receive one.
The door opened wider when another person fielded a question about forgiveness. That very person still harbored bitterness about an offense from the past, and couldn’t find a satisfying answer to his question. This was an excellent opportunity to share Jon Hagen’s analogy of personal offenses as relational debt, and forgiveness occurring when the offended person absorbs the cost of the offense himself. Pressing on, I explained that by dying in our place, Jesus accepted the cost of all our wrongs against Himself. I quoted the Scripture, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.” (I Peter 3:18, NASV). By receiving His forgiveness, we are enriched by the “currency of grace” with which we can accept the cost of wrongs done to us. The other guests seemed intrigued by this concept, new to them.
Christians often enjoy hearing about Paul’s conversation with the skeptics in Athens. But it’s much more fun when we become part of the story. Are you afraid to do that? Ask the Holy Spirit for boldness, as in Acts 4:31. Not sure what to say? Use tools such as Meet the Skeptic, an ideal resource for navigating conversations in settings such as interfaith dialogues.
There is no cost to attend a Dinner Dialogue. Visit interfaithforum-sc.org org or call (864) 346-3107 to sign up (deadline: November 7). Who knows what door the Holy Spirit might choose to open for you?