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.
Does the Global Faith Forum point to a trend for the future of evangelicalism? Does the evangelical church need to undertake more efforts like this?
I believe that it does. We are on the front end of a fantastic time for conversation, dialogue, and collaboration. The evangelical church must undertake more things like this. When were Jesus or Paul ever speaking in us-against-them terms? It was us-for-them and us-with-them. Islam is not going away, and neither are the global conflicts. It's hard to fight and vilify a people when they have become your friends -- and it's also hard to tell them the good news you bear when you are afraid of them or angry with them.
Please finish this sentence: "At the end of the Global Faith Forum, I will be happy if . . ."
. . . if dozens of people in the Dallas area commit to work with multifaith projects.
. . . if dozens of pastors and faith leaders build relationships and begin to spend time with one another, or return to their cities and find people of other faiths to build relationsthips with.
. . . if everyone is convicted by the Holy Spirit that anger, hate, and fear of others are not consistent with our faith.
. . . if everyone believes that there is hope for the future, and is willing to work for peace by building relationships and serving their cities together.
Do you believe this is this is your special vocation? Has God called and anointed you for this ministry?
No, I don't. I've been called an "expert" in church planting. I am not. I've been called an "expert" in global engagement. I am not. I've been called an "expert" in interfaith or multifaith work. I am not.
I am nothing more than a kingdom pilgrim. Opportunities arise along life's way, and I go where Jesus directs me. That's all.
Bob Roberts Jr. is the founding pastor of NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas. NorthWood has planted 130 churches in the United States. Bob frequently teaches courses on church planting, church growth, church multiplication, community transformation, and international development at seminaries and universities around the globe. He is a graduate of Baylor University (BA), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div), and Fuller Seminary (D.Min). Bob has published several books, including Transformation: How Global Churches Transform Lives and the World, Glocalization: How Followers of Jesus Engage a Flat World, and Real-Time Connections: Linking Your Work with God's Global Work.