Friends of All Faiths
I shared our experience with a group of people I meet with every six months, called the Nyon Process. It was started by the United Nations under the auspices of the Alliance of Civilizations, and it involves a host of people from different faiths and different nations to talk about how to guide religion, government, and humanitarian work in order to avoid a clash of civilizations. I shared it with them and they loved it. Some had visited my church, others have wanted to -- some even volunteered to come speak at my church. A couple of them decided they were going to come together. Then it hit me: I have some unusual friends for a pastor, so what if I could gather Muslims, Jews, Buddhist, communists, atheists, secularists, businessmen, government leaders, and educators all together for a Global Faith Forum!
Of course, I couldn't afford them. Some are used to giving speeches for tens of thousands of dollars. They were going to have to do it for nothing. And yet, they did. That's how we developed the Global Faith Forum. You can learn more at Globalfaithforum.org.
It will be held November 11-13, 2010 at NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas. As word continues to spread, numerous other leaders have decided to come. It's growing into something extraordinary. I can't wait.
Here's the reality -- all religions and all people are now scattered in all places. It used to be the case that faith was defined tribally and geographically, but not anymore. That isn't a bad thing. It's actually good, because it gives us a chance to speak honestly to one another and build new bridges. That's what this conference is all about. No one has to change their beliefs, but everyone will gain new relationships.
So you're not abandoning your theological convictions? You don't believe that "all religions are the same deep down"?
I definitely do not believe that our religions are the same. But if I truly believe that Jesus is who he said he is, then I should be the most humble servant of all. I should not be arrogant, but I should love people and care about them and want them -- whether they accept it or not -- at least to understand the message of the gospel. The great tragedy is that we no longer know how to speak in a civil manner with those who differ from us.
What does it mean to have a genuine multifaith conversation, then? What is the point?
To have a "multifaith conversation" means, first of all, that you develop a sincere friendship. You go to one another's homes and places of worship. You break bread together. You read one another's Holy Books. And no matter how hard it is, you are honest about what you believe.
It's about loving people, enjoying their company, speaking naturally about your faith, and listening as they speak about theirs. We can and should learn from one another.
Have you begun to see others follow your example?
I have. Young church planters we train are following this model. I mentor many pastors quietly across the country. Everyone knows that our current form of engagement across religious communities is broken.