Evangelism in an Interfaith World
By Nick Price
July 6, 2012
Nick is a teaching pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle, Ill., and a student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield. He is the proud father of two kids and happily married to his wife of four years, Jenny. He writes regularly on his blog, Prodigal Preacher.
I remember the first time I attended an interfaith gathering. I was attending a conference on interfaith youth work in Chicago that was hosted by the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC). The conference began on an inspiring note as Dr. Eboo Patel, founder and president of the IFYC, articulated the need for interfaith cooperation in a post-9/11 world. His vision was to build a world where people of different faith communities served together and built bridges of understanding instead of bombs of destruction.
However, as the morning progressed, a problem arose. When discussing the challenges of interfaith work, a Christian participant shared that the biggest problem he faced was including the conservative members of his own tradition in the interfaith movement. The other participants quickly echoed this frustration, with words like "evangelicals" and "fundamentalists" punctuating their statements of exasperation and disdain. Eventually it was my turn to share, and I made the confession that brought the earlier concerns a little closer to home: "My name is Nick Price, and I am an evangelical Christian."
That little admission changed the tenor of the conversation for the rest of the week. Soon the question was no longer, "Why don't religious conservatives participate in interfaith dialogue?" but rather, "How can we set a place at the table for religious conservatives?" And over the years I have been delighted to discover that other evangelical Christians are becoming more and more engaged in interfaith work around the world. What began as a small cohort of evangelicals committed to interfaith engagement has grown to encompass writers and theologians, young activists and pastors.
Words like "evangelicals" and "fundamentalists" punctuating their statements of exasperation and disdain.
So, something I am wrestling with now is how to have a heart for reaching those of other faith traditions with the Gospel while also building bridges of understanding and partnership with these communities.
My hope is that evangelicals would have both a well-rounded understanding of interfaith work and its merits as well as a strong passion for evangelism and spreading the Gospel. These two values are not mutually exclusive, nor should they counteract each other as we engage in conversations with our neighbors of other faith traditions.
I've been delighted to discover other evangelical Christians becoming more and more engaged in interfaith work around the world.
I cannot promise that there won’t be disagreement, but in the end I hope that the framework I provide will be respectful of others while faithful to evangelical convictions. From time to time, I plan to share interviews with people I know from other faith traditions, too, so that we can learn from their perspective.
In closing, I want to say thank you in advance for taking this journey with me. My prayer is that what follows will be faithful to Jesus’ commandments to love our neighbors as ourselves and to make disciples of all nations. It is in Christ’s name that I offer up this prayer. Amen.