Opening Doors To Discipleship is a series of four courses in the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition to help teachers and leaders equip themselves to be faithful teachers and leaders. Once you register with the web site, you will have access to all four courses.

Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives,

while you use all your wisdom to teach and instruct each other.

Colossians 3:16a CEV

How can we be Christ-filled and instructive in talking to one another and our neighbors? Certainly there are many important personal and social justice issues on our minds and hearts for conversations.

We try to understand personal situations and make decisions in a world that is ever-changing and complex. The issues seem to come and go depending on relationships and stages of life. In today’s global village, we are often overwhelmed by images and reports from communities across the country and around the world. Their issues become entwined with our lives as we try to understand them and the implications for our future.

We juggle these concerns and challenges with our joys and hopes in the ebb and flow of busy lives. So, too, do our neighbors, though their lives may look different from ours in many ways. Many of our neighbors belong to other religions (11% of the population in 2011) or say they have no religion at all (24% of the population in 2011). In addition, a growing number of people are describing themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.”

The Rev. Dr. Ron Wallace, former Associate Secretary for International Ministries of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, speaks of “the dialogue of life.” By this phrase he refers to the informal conversations that he urges Christians to have with their neighbors. These are conversations between ordinary people that can break down prejudices; conversations where we show interest and concern and share perspectives about life issues; conversations that lay the foundation for mutual friendship and respect.

Affirmations 93–96 in The World Council of Churches 2012 document Together towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes appear under the sub-title “Evangelism, Interfaith Dialogue and Christian Presence.” They speak of the “plurality and complexity of today’s world,” the presence of God’s Spirit “in all cultures that affirm life,” that “our task is not to bring God along, but to witness to the God who is already there,” and that our encounters are not only about proclaiming, but “also listening to others, and being challenged and enriched by others (Acts 10).” Affirmation 94 begins, “Dialogue is a way of affirming our common life and goals in terms of the affirmation of life and the integrity of creation.” (The complete document, can be downloaded from http://presbyterian.ca/canadian-ministries/evangelism/.)

Although information abounds in this age of internet technology, it takes time and effort to be informed. Are we equipped to speak with knowledge and with faith to our neighbors? To equip ourselves adequately we might:

  • Critically listen to, read, and view media in its various forms.
  • Read and reflect on scripture, praying to discern God’s will.
  • Seek occasions to have conversations with neighbors.
  • Openly and honestly speak of and listen to the challenges posed by issues.
  • Openly and honestly speak of and listen to faith perspectives on issues.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC) has a useful resource to help people with these conversations: the Social Action Handbook, a summary of the reports and recommendations adopted by the annual General Assemblies of the PCC from 1954 to the present. Its three subdivisions—The Church Speaks, The Church Acts, The Church Reflects—provide statements, actions, and theological reflections on a range of local, national, and global justice issues. (To download the Social Action Handbook, go to http://presbyterian.ca/justice/.)

We have also begun an online educational series called Presbyterians Are Talking About with church statements, scripture references, and study resources to support conversations about 21st century issues from our faith perspective. (See http://presbyterian.ca/talking-about/ .)

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) offers an Interfaith Toolkit to support Christian disciples as they share their faith in our pluralist world. The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) provides guidance on social justice issues that impact our neighbors near and far, encouraging our members to address these issues in faithful dialogue. The office of Theology and Worship provides articles that reflect on social issues from a theological perspective and recently started a new initiative, Theological Conversations, to engage disciples in important conversations around tough issues.

Weekly worship, personal devotions, prayer, group Bible studies, and the courses offered by Opening Doors to Discipleship (ODtD) are all ways to “fill our lives with Christ.” ODtD courses can equip us to understand our faith better so we can articulate it and nurture faith in others.

Jesus and the apostles of the early church talked to people from all walks of life and from different cultures. We are called to continue the conversations.

Contact a Presbyterian Reformed Educational Partner (PREP) representative, listed under CONTACT US, for more information about this topic or other articles in the e-newsletter archives.

Article by Anne Saunders, Program Coordinator, Canadian Ministries, The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

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