God calls us to be Christ’s Church together and not neglect the fellowship of believers. Meeting as a church is fairly easy, but the real challenge is following God into a world full of diverse beliefs, opinions, and views.
For over a decade, I have worked with people of other faiths in interfaith ministry. Although God does not call everyone to this task, God calls all of us to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. How do we minister to people of other faiths or no faith at all? How might you take a step towards bold mission to reach others who don’t think or look like you? Here are some tips:
First, reflect on God’s work in the world. Although many Christians find the world frightening, the Holy Spirit is present in the world. The Bible gives us an example when Paul ministers in Athens, Greece, in Acts 17:16-33.
Paul began his mission in a familiar place, the synagogue (Acts 17:17), and then went to the public market in Athens. Paul did not berate the beliefs of others, but complimented them on their great faith (v. 22). He then focused on their doubts and a statue to “an unknown god”. He took the opportunity to preach about Jesus. Paul’s ministry was relational because he believed God was already at work among unbelievers, and he did not have an “Us vs. Them” attitude.
Second, ask God to give you a passion for people who don’t know Jesus. Paul was “deeply distressed” (Acts 17:16) when he saw people in Athens who did not know the Lord. His heart broke for others, and his passion drove him into the streets, even in the face of criticism (v. 18) and persecution. Interfaith work requires unyielding patience, fervent prayer, a deep abiding trust in the Holy Spirit, and a heart for people.
Third, pray for friendships across cultural and religious lines. Before you can stand up for your faith, spend time on your knees before God asking for opportunities to meet new people. Humble yourself and remember that you are not called to judge others, but be an eye-witness of your personal relationship with the living God. Pray that God will place new friends in your life that need to hear your testimony.
Fourth, be present, seek understanding, and listen. Many Christians ask me why I do interfaith dialogue and ministry, and my response is always the same: You cannot be the presence of Christ if you’re not present. Being present sometimes means listening, seeking understanding, and then asking God to help you witness. Every month in Vero Beach, an interfaith group meets for lunch and facilitate dialogues to learn about one another. I am often discouraged, however, that there are not more evangelical Christians represented. I pray for more volunteers in this work.