What Our Neighbors Believe
They were very nice guys and I had real sympathy for them. Their families had fled Iran when the Shah was overthrown by the revolutionary guard. They had assimilated into American life at Rice University and I called them my friends. They were also Muslims. I had no idea what they really believed about God, life and salvation and had no idea how to talk to them about my faith in Christ.
Rich and I worked together on a number of projects at Sandia. He was a good mentor, a good friend and would talk sports at any time. It was evident that Rich loved his family. Rich professed the Mormon faith. At one point I asked Rich if he accepted Jesus as his Savior and he said absolutely yes. I had no idea of what that statement meant to a Mormon.
If you are like me, you have friends and acquaintances with different belief systems than you. And, if you are captivated by the North Church mission to “go together making disciples of neighbors and nations”, you have a heart desire to love and talk to those of different faiths. The Apostle Paul had that heart desire. Probably the most famous incident of the outpouring of Paul’s desire is his speech on the Areopagus in Athens. Paul demonstrated he knew the beliefs of the people to whom he was speaking, saying “I see in every way you are very religious” (Acts 17:22). Knowing what our neighbors and those of other nations believe can help open up avenues of spiritual discussion.
For the last 6 months, Mark Fuentes, a fellow North Church member, has been called by God to befriend and reach out to Mormons. He approached a few of the North Church pastors with the burden God laid on his heart. Out of these discussions, the Comparative Religions class was conceived. The purpose of the class is to better inform North Church people about four of the major belief systems held by our neighbors. Those being Mormonism, Islam, Native American spirituality and nominal christianity (those who are christian in name, but not practice). The heart behind the classes is not to prepare people to debate apologetics on the street, but to know something about what our neighbors believe so that in conversations over dinner or at little league games or in our driveways we can have meaningful spiritual discussion.
The classes are structured in two sessions per belief system. The first session will be a teaching on what is authoritative in the belief system, what the view of God is, how salvation is achieved and good (and bad) questions and approaches for spiritual discussions. The second session will be a question and answer session with an invited guest(s) who either currently or in the past participated in the belief system. The classes begin tomorrow Wednesday, June 22nd at 6:30pm in the North Church auditorium and will continue on Wednesday nights through August 17th (skipping Wednesday, July 6th). Come learn what our neighbors believe so that you will have a better idea than I did on how to talk to those with different beliefs.