Mike, Rick, and Wally, thank you for your perspectives. I agree with each of you on my approach to residents – meeting each one where they are in their spirituality and helping to encourage them within their belief system. I have accepted that my call and gifts are in nurturing and encouraging folks in their faith rather than evangelism in the sense of sharing the gospel overtly with non-believers.
I think the tension I feel related to evangelism professionally comes from others’ expectations, particularly Christian residents and even staff members. For example, helping a zealous Christian resident understand why I’m not going to try to convince an agnostic resident of the truth of the gospel. And working with her to tone down her pushiness in inviting her neighbors to attend services and Bible studies. I know that her zeal includes a concern for her neighbors’ souls, according to her understanding of Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.
And honestly the tension I feel comes from the Bible itself! In our weekly Bible study right now, we are reading the book of Acts, and that book just doesn’t accept that other religions may be a path to God. It’s interesting to hold that together with our book discussion in which we are listening in on an interfaith dialogue.
So I think my struggle is less in practicing acceptance of others of different faiths, and more in how to handle the messages within evangelical Christianity. Knitter speaks to this in the article on p. 263, recognizing that many churches teach that Christianity is superior to other religions.