Christian and Muslim: A Dialogue
I was able to share with the folks at our church yesterday the details of an exciting “event” that we will be hosting on Sunday, April 11th, the week after Easter. A good friend of mine, and Christian apologist, James Walker will be coming to GABC to preach for me during our morning service on the topic of Islam. James is the president of Watchman Fellowship based out of the D/FW metroplex. James was a fourth generation Mormon until he converted to Christianity. He has given his life, through Watchman Fellowship, to defending the faith and teaching the truth about cults and world religions.
But Sunday afternoon, in addition to James Walker, we will also be hosting Khalil Meek, a Muslim apologist. Khalil is the president and CEO of the Muslim Legal Fund of America, a non-profit group dedicated to defending the civil rights of Muslims in America. Khalil, too, has an interesting story. He was raised in a Baptist home and was preparing to enter the ministry and attend seminary in Fort Worth, Texas when he converted to Islam.
For two hours, on April 11th, James Walker and Khalil Meek will go head-to-head, each sharing their story and then engaging in a point-counter point dialogue over the topic: Jesus, the Cross, and the Resurrection (remember, this is the week AFTER Easter.) We have already received word from groups within an hours driving radius that are interested in coming to this event. We will be inviting the congregations of both Islamic Centers in Fort Smith as well as the Mormon community. Needless to say, I am extremely excited that Grand will be hosting this unique event where the clear message of Jesus Christ will be proclaimed.
In thinking through the planning of this event I was fully aware that there would be some people / Christians who would not see this as a good thing at all. There could be all sorts of reasons to NOT host this event, I suppose, and here are a few that I could see coming from some people:
1. We should not open the doors of our “worship center” to Muslims. And we certainly should not allow them a forum to air their beliefs and teachings.
2. IF we think we need to do this, we should do it at a neutral site.
3. Sunday is a “holy” day. This should be done on another day of the week.
4. This just “feels” wrong.
You can evaluate the above “reasons” yourself, but after looking at what I considered to be the BEST “excuses” to not host a dialogue between a Christian and Muslim on a Sunday, at church, I then thought of all the reasons that this would be not just a good thing, but possibly a great thing.
1. Islam is a religion that has come to our town. All three of my children walk the halls with Muslims at their schools. My worship pastor lives next door to a Muslim family. There is a Muslim Islamic Center right outside my neighborhood. As a Christian, I NEED to understand Islam. Didn’t Jesus say to “love my neighbor?”
2. And speaking of loving my neighbor, wouldn’t my church be the perfect place to invite someone of another faith to come to talk about faith? Or I suppose I could spend a lot of money to go rent a “neutral” location. From my reading of the Bible, buildings aren’t holy, people are holy, because of Jesus. So if the church goes down the road to a “neutral” building, isn’t the church still in the presence this “foreign” element? Besides, there’s nothing like “home field advantage.”
3. Am I really worried about a Muslim sharing his beliefs publically at an event our church is hosting? How strong is my faith anyway? Do I believe the claims of Christ as expressed in the Bible are strong enough to stand against the teachings of Islam? If not, I have a MUCH bigger problem on my hands than merely letting an outsider speak on our campus.
4. Like it or not, America is not a Christian nation any longer (and I suppose it can be debated whether or not it ever was). Many church folks still think everyone in America is a Christian. This kind of thinking will kill the church. We’d better wake up and understand the culture we are living in and learn how to interact with it for the cause of Christ. This event is an exercise in cultural interaction.
5. Christians need to learn about Islam. It is a fast growing, WORLD wide religion. Muslims claim to worship the same God as Christians. So we can either learn about Islam by having a Christian tell us about what Muslims believe or we can learn by having Muslim tell us what he believes. It’s not any different than having a Muslim friend tell you one-on-one what he believes. Somehow that’s OK, but a public presentation is threatening. Plus we get the benefit of a Christian apologist to respond and react to our Muslim guest, and to present the biblical Jesus.
6. This just “feels” wrong? Yeh, a lot of things Jesus commanded his followers to do just “feels” wrong. It feels wrong to witness. It feels wrong to go on a mission trip to another country. It feels wrong to wash the feet of another. It feels wrong to be last in order to be first. It feels wrong to be poor in order to be rich. It feels wrong to turn the other cheek. It feels wrong to love my neighbor, even if he is my enemy. It feels wrong to believe that a man can die, be dead for three days, and then come to life. If your looking for a religion that “feels” right, then don’t consider Christianity.
So, April 11th will be an interesting day for sure. Sometimes it is nice NOT to know exactly what is going to happen. If you’re in the area, come join us and we’ll experience it together.