Evangelicals and Interfaith Dialogue

I read an article recently on Christianity Today’s website titled “Putting Evangelism on Hold.”

The article is about the Global Faith Forum recently organized by Bob Roberts, a pastor in Texas. I found the title of the article interesting and telling of a common belief that Evangelicals have about coming together with people of other faiths to discuss matters of faith and religion, also commonly known as “interfaith” dialogue or events (although, I like Bob’s term “multi-faith” better). Conservative Evangelicals historically have not been known for participating in such events and many make it a rule not to. Since the ultimate aim of these events is not to “convert” people of other faiths to Christianity or not calling people to “make a decision about Christ,” a common belief held by Evangelicals is that the events are just a waste of time.

I applaud Bob for his efforts and wish I could have been on the Global Faith Forum. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to participate and speak at a few events where Muslims and Christians have been in attendance. I want to call more Evangelicals to participate in these types of events and hope the feedback will encourage you to do so.

Here is some of my personal feedback from participating in these events:

  • I always learn something new about Islam and Muslims that teaches me how to love people of the Islamic faith better.
  • When the opportunity arises, I present the good news of Jesus with humility and boldness, using words that my Muslim friends can understand.
  • I meet new people of the Islamic faith and begin journeys of friendship that lead to deep spiritual conversations and opportunities to talk about my journey with Jesus.

Here is common feedback I receive from Evangelicals who have been at these same types of events:

  • Stereotypes and ignorant views about Islam and Muslims have been corrected.
  • God replaces their hate for Muslims with love for Muslims.
  • They did not know Muslims could be so kind and practice such amazing hospitality.
  • They begin to see Muslims not as enemies, but as people made in the image of God.
  • God renews their passion to talk about their faith with people of other faiths.
  • Christians leave with new Muslim friends.

Here is common feedback I receive from Muslims who have been at these types of events:

  • They were expecting to be verbally attacked, but instead met Christians who showed love and respect for them.
  • Some Muslims actually hear the Gospel for the first time in a way that they can understand.
  • They learn new things about the Christian faith that they did not know before.
  • Most are surprised at how many young people are involved in the church.
  • Muslims leave with new Christians friends.

So with this kind of feedback, why would an Evangelical not want to participate in an interfaith event with Muslims? My feedback and the feedback from Evangelicals and Muslims reveal that there really is value in these types of dialogues and events. What would it look for Evangelicals to create and host the best multi-faith events in the world? What difference would it make if Evangelicals followed the example of Bob Roberts and hosted a similar gathering in their own town? What if Evangelicals became known for valuing people of all faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds because we are all made in the image of God?  This is not about “putting evangelism on hold”, but about correcting and broadening our narrow definitions of what evangelism and faithful witness looks like in the 21st century.