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Getting Ready for a Unique Event
by Tom Goodman
January 28, 2010

In April I will lead a project called "The Neighboring Faiths Interviews."  On four different evenings at the Hillcrest campus I will interview an imam, a rabbi, a Hindu priest, and a Buddhist monk.

The point?  The connections the Hillcrest Family makes at work, at school, and in our neighborhoods likely include people from other faith backgrounds.  This likelihood increases the younger you are.  And real relationships cannot develop from these connections without understanding and respect.  "The Neighboring Faiths Interviews" will contribute to this.

I've been planning the event for some time, and have already held several meetings with the men I will be interviewing.  But today I read about an evangelical pastor who has already completed a similar project.

Last weekend Bob Roberts of NorthWood Church in Keller held what he called a "trialogue" with Muslims and Jews.  On Friday, members of NorthWood and the Islamic Center of Irving attended the worship service of Dallas' Temple Shalom.  On Saturday afternoon, the Christian and Jewish congregations visited the mosque.  And on Sunday morning, the Jews and the Muslims attended NorthWood's worship service.  After each gathering, the three clergymen answered questions.

Roberts insisted that the event was not "interfaith" but rather "multifaith," since the former term tends to imply a kind of watered-down "we-all-serve-the-same-god" mindset.  In an interview on Ed Stetzer's weblog he said:

Interfaith is murky, it's more about feel-good.  It doesn't allow us to be honest about our differences....  How can we build relationships if we don't speak honestly to each other.  I'm tired of having to be religiously politically correct.  I'm also tired of the arrogance of some evangelicals who don't know how to disagree and treat others with respect.

Roberts is an evangelical who believes Jesus meant it when he said, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).  But he believes that conviction should compel those who believe it to respectful interaction, not to separation.  He told Stetzer:

I work with people of different religions all over the world -- I don't think we in the West know how to speak of faith and treat people with respect at the same time.  We can come across as arrogant, superior, and sometimes condescending because we have the truth.  If we have the truth, we should be the most humble of all and the most serving of all.  Keeping our young people and children isolated from other religions in an attempt to keep them in our faith is a dangerous move in the 21st century.  They will hear and know, we can help with that process and help them understand why we follow Jesus above all else, and send them out equipped, or ignore or worse vilify but never explain other religions and watch them turn from Jesus because we didn't live it or explain it.

Roberts acknowledged that, though he received a lot of affirmation from his church for the project, it was the younger crowd who understood the need for it right away:

An interesting note Ed, the younger people in our church below 30, were so excited.  Those over 40, several were nervous.  We all got to the same place.  I think the worldview has changed with the younger generation and it's up to us that are older to build the tracks for the next generation to be able to run on.  Isolation has never been a good strategy for the Gospel to spread.

My project, "The Neighboring Faiths Interviews," won't involve attending a synagogue or mosque (though I will be attending, so let me know if you want to come along).  But I'm looking forward to the hour-long discussion I'll have with the other religious leaders.

We won't start promoting "The Neighboring Faiths Interviews" for another month or two.  But as a Hillcrest leader, start praying for this event.


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