To even engage in discussion with someone with another religious/faith position is, to some Christians, akin to unleashing a Frankenstein's monster of compromise and syncretism. But is dialogue necessarily a bad thing?
Tomorrow I meet with a representative of the Baptist Union of NSW to discuss the church plant idea and making it a reality. As I have been reflecting on the vision in readiness for the meeting I have been wrestling with the desire to introduce people to Jesus but without forcing an agenda onto seekers too soon and, thus, alienating them.
A couple of weeks ago I met with three unchurched friends and they all affirmed and supported the idea of a faith community and a place for discussion and searching. They were aged between 19 and 26 and I asked what advice they had as far as presenting topics to unchurched people. They said they didn't want to be preached at and they wanted their views to be respected and affirmed. This, by the way, was precisely their problem with institutional Christianity as they saw it; it preached dogmatically and was unwilling to allow people to hold their own views whilst journeying towards faith in God as Christians understand it.
If I talk openly with a Buddhist and even learn things from her own faith journey am I already building the monster that will turn on its creator or am I laying the path towards truth? Can I listen, humbly and sincerely, to a New Age believer and welcome them regularly into a faith community and still hold firm to my own faith position while supporting them in their journey?
I told my friends that, by virtue of my position and integrity, I had to confess to having an agenda. To give them the idea that all faith positions were valid and the discussions were merely a study of religions would have been a false starting point. I did say, though, that if someone can for months and didn't convert to Christianity I would still welcome them and affirm them as an integral part of the faith community.
As I continue on this journey I'd appreciate input. The regular readers of this blog are a consistent source of love, encouragment and challenge. I welcome and embrace your thoughts.