“Don’t talk about love: Show me!”
He walked to the front of the church with his distinctive walrus moustache and a twinkle in his eye.
His accent was strong but everyone understood the basics. “I am a Muslim but I have been attending this church every week since I came to Canada because of the love that I experience here.”
“Don’t talk of love, show me!” Eliza Doolittle sang in My Fair Lady. Love is a verb. It needs to be demonstrated.
How was love shown to our Muslim friend? Love was providing housing while he went through the legal process of applying for asylum in Canada. Love was meals out at local Halal restaurants. Love was invitations to church meals, Bible studies, special events and homes. Love was listening to his jokes as he giggled while telling them. Love was friendship and praying together. Yes, praying together with Muslims! Carl Medaeris, author of Christians, Muslims and Jesus says that in all his 27 years in the Middle East he has never had a Muslim refuse his offer to pray for him / her. Our leadership team is putting this quotation to the test. As yet, like Medaeris, we have had no refusals.
One might think that having a Muslim giving his testimony in a Fellowship Baptist church is unique. Maybe it is not common but neither is it unique for Faith Baptist Church in Vancouver where people from many different cultures and religions interface.
Twice in the fall session of our Leadership Development classes we hosted a contingent of folks from the local Mosque along with their Imam. In the first session we dialogued about the Christian and Islamic understanding of Testimony and in the second, the topic was Jesus. Christian men and women from Faith Baptist and other Fellowship churches were able to explore another worldview while sharing the significance of Jesus in their lives. Afterwards, relationships were further developed over a wonderful meal of biryani, naan and mango lassi.
Love is made practical as well through feeding up to 200 homeless people in downtown Eastside. Once a month a multi-cultural team open to folks from a variety of churches, engages in this ministry opportunity. In addition to the homemade soup or chili, patrons are greeted, engaged, and even invited to go out for coffee and conversation after the food is all gone. This opportunity is especially significant for church youth who see first-hand the challenging lives of those facing addictions and homelessness.
One ministry that has been the gateway for a number of folks into Faith Baptist is our weekly Food Bank. Run jointly with our Spanish sister church, El Redentor, a team of volunteers engage the clients of the Vancouver Food Bank who come to our church’s distribution site. Conversation, friendship, invitation for meals, practical acts of love, home visitation, inclusion in our church meals and special events have seen a significant number of folks calling Faith Baptist their church home.
Love needs to permeate the environment outside the church as well as inside the church.
John 17:20-23 says that our unity will be the distinctive that demonstrates to the world that God sent Jesus into the world. If we are to effectively integrate people from every tribe and tongue and nation into our churches then they must see a loving unified congregation whose unity demands a Gospel explanation.
A quotation often credited to Tertullian says of those outside the church, “See how [these Christians] love one another” reflecting the truth of John 13:34-35 which says “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
We encourage this through a multi-ethnic leadership team, a multi-ethnic praise team, through fellowship meals that showcase ethnic foods, through training seminars centered on removing barriers and building bridges and through several intentionally multi-cultural Bible studies.
While the first two years of this ministry involved mainly Faith Baptist adherents, an intentional effort is now in place to involve folks from many other Fellowship churches. I have spoken at a number of Vancouver Island churches as well as some in the interior and have extended an invitation for folks to come to Vancouver for cultural exposure trips or intentional multi-cultural internships where they can experience the rich diversity of culture which is Vancouver, My Fair City.
—Mark Buhler ministers to internationals in the greater Vancouver area in partnership with Fellowship International and the Fellowship Pacific Region. He also does training events to help the local church reach out more effectively to internationals.