Multi-Faith Dialogue Part 3: Addressing Major Roadblocks

Multi-Faith Dialogue Part 3: Addressing Major Roadblocks

October 20, 2010 by

We’ve discussed why a multi-faith dialogue is important and we’ve covered lessons in communicating big ideas. Now we can talk about how to overcome the actual roadblocks to multi-faith dialogue.

Overcome Fear
First and foremost, be honest and address fears.

Many evangelicals are afraid to befriend people of other faiths because they fear that in some way it compromises their own faith. I’ve learned the power of new vocabulary and redefinition. I like the term multi-faith, not interfaith. To me interfaith leads to some kind of universalism that as an evangelical I don’t believe. Multi-faith creates a new platform—instead of having to say all roads lead to heaven, you are saying we are going to build our relationship on something different—respect and servanthood, because we will never agree theologically.

Another big fear for some in relating to other faiths is the fear of danger. What if this person is a radical and they don’t know it? What if the people who come to our event are radicals and try to physically harm us? That is a possibility, but very slight—the possibility of someone coming in who has been in counseling with a staff member and shooting the place up is far greater. You have to tie your communication to the over-arching message of Jesus Christ and to a larger body you are a part of. First, we have missionaries all over the world in dangerous places every day taking the good news without the kind of protections we have. Surely, we can risk a little compared to what they risk every day. Second, if we say we believe the truth and people must hear, how will people ever hear it if we live in fear of them and have no relationship in order to share with them the good news of Jesus? Third, we weren’t given a pass by Jesus on who gets to hear the good news and who doesn’t. The cross wasn’t just for Jesus—but in following him we are all on that cross. No man will live forever anyhow.

Connect on a Personal Level
It’s critical that you personally connect events to people’s everyday lives. We did a multi-faith weekend with a mosque and synagogue that is now being emulated across the country. At first some were afraid. I asked them, “How many of you go to school or work with a Muslim or Jew?” “How many of you have a Muslim or Jew that lives in your neighborhood?” “How many of you have seen a Muslim or a Jew in the mall.” By this time everyone was laughing but everyone had raised their hand.

The connection was made. The importance of being able to interact and connect with people of other faiths was suddenly not abstract, but very concrete and real.

A few weeks later there was the shooting at Fort Hood. That could have unraveled everything. Instead our response was: “It has never been more important than now to reach out so this doesn’t happen again.” After that weekend I couldn’t believe all the people who came up and said, “I get it. Where was my head?”

You just can’t tell them stories and challenge them with truth. Communication is creating experiences that engage.

We’re Global
Another key aspect is helping people realize everything is now global. We are connected. What happens in Iraq and Afghanistan can affect things here. As we saw with the threatened Quran burning episode and the “ground zero” mosque—all things are affected by and have huge implications for the work of missionaries around the world. We cannot merely see our decisions in light of our personal national view—there must be a global understanding.

It’s Possible
As people are able to overcome their fears, connect on a personal level and understand the global connections, multi-faith dialogue becomes possible.

We can’t hope to share Jesus with people we don’t understand and even protest. It’s vitally important that we overcome fears and stereotypes and be able to approach people of other faiths (or no faith) with respect and love.

It’s my hope that the Global Faith Forum is one step in that direction. I hope you’ll join us.

Post By:

Bob Roberts Jr.

Bob Roberts Jr. is founding and senior pastor of NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas. Roberts writes and speaks on global engagement and faith both to Christian and non-Christian groups around the world.
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