I came back pretty late last night. Kelvin and Kia Meng joined me last night for this invitation to facilitate at MMU Christian Fellowship (I’m really happy that what I desire very often like Bangsar Lutheran Church members coming with me in CF engagements came true to some extent yesterday – most of the time its hard because of timing).
I didn’t know what to fully expect apart from perhaps there would be newcomers even those from other faiths as well as perhaps even friends who would see themselves as non-religious. I found it very helpful that some of the committee members actually met up with me earlier last Friday to give me some context on what is the climate and direction of the CF and their members. I found it interesting and noteworthy that for some and it seems many are beginning to ask more “questions” and moving in and out of re-examining their faith.
This may be unsettling for some, and downright scary for others … and yet, deep down I was happy that they are “working through” rather than “evading” the questions. Now the promo invitation card looks very “apologetics” and I was quite tickled when I was invited (because I’m NOT known to be an “apologetics” expert). But what they wanted me to do was to facilitate “conversations” and more of a “dialogue” (as opposed to debate) .. ah .. that I can do! So, I was pretty excited about last night.
During our pre-meeting last friday, they past me a list of questions “itching” their members. I actually re-catergorized them yesterday and saw some interesting patterns … I’ll just post up the one under the catergory of Christ as a sample:
“1. So, all other religions go to hell? Why doesn’t all good people go to heaven?
2. There is Heaven & Hell and Jesus is the only way to Heaven, why is God so cruel to let those unsaved go to Hell? Why Christian is the only way? Why not other religion?
3. If you believe in God, but do not believe in Jesus is the only way then how? How about people who believe in God generally but not particularly Jesus?
4. Do babies/kids who do not know Jesus go to heaven?5. Is it once you believe in Jesus, you can go to heaven? But after that, didn’t do anything as Christian cans still go to Heaven?
6. What is the significance of the cross? Are Christians praying to the cross?
7. What distinguish Christianity from other religions?”
For me it wasn’t just that these questions were asked. I digged deeper and am trying to understand why these questions were asked and what is the story behind these questions. Seems to me that the Gospel is presented in a way that the questions are framed in these ways. so, apart from taking these honest questions as it is, I was also thinking about how new questions could be introduced. I was also thinking about introducing ways of understanding the Christian life beyond the limiting “heaven/hell” approach. Well, we didn’t manage to talk i detail about the above questions in the session (because it was not raised) but we did at some point after the meeting during supper 🙂 isn’t that typical Malaysian (or perhaps it’s the same worldwide or it’s just human)?
Back to the meeting … after a little intro sharing that we are here to gather questions people have and then give space for everyone to contribute (especially the Christians to share their answers) I was delighted to see the non-CF members/friends/guests also participating.
Basically, we broke out into 5 groups – under the topics: Christ, Church, Ethics, Bible & any other questions. After gathering the questions, we exchanged the questions with another group and then they would share their responses and answers to the questions given and present them to everyone. After each presentation, I’d chip in my comments and suggest further thought/questions.
I tried my best to respect the “others” amongst us … and present and facilitate the sessions “humbly” because even though there were differences (and some points interesting similarities) we need to model how to honor the “other” person unlike us and prayefully IMHO allow the Spirit to do his work. It felt like “inter-religious” dialogue at a very grass-root & informal level for me last night, and to see how the “good news” can be presented without any pressure to “convert” people prematurely (and definately not manipulatively).
We just shared our story … our concerns .. our values … even our struggles … our limitations … who we are, what we are called to do .. where we have failed, where we need to move on etc,… and in all this authentically trusting in Jesus’ presence with us to guide us and lead us. It was awesome for me and very heart-warming (of course, due to minimal air-con physically it was warm too). At a deeper level, it was more than a change in style … like it wasn’t a lecture and more participatibe .. it’s was actually a change in our attitudes, or in other words, a more intentional way to listen, share, and interact in the way of Jesus.
I was reminded yesterday when we were driving to the meeting of something I shared at a camp recently – that We are learning to Converse with the REAL people before us rather than the IMAGINARY stereo-types which may or may not exist. There’s more to apologetics than giving well argued answers. and we need to consciously integrate our mediums with our message and allow space for mystery and model maturity.