Thursday, August 4, 2016

Muslims and Christians Gather to Hear the Story of Mark and Nancy Siljander

On Saturday, July 23, Apex Mosque (Apex, NC) graciously hosted Mark and Nancy Siljander and built an event around them. Although my friends at the mosque expressed disappointment that there were not more Muslims present, I thought a nice crowd (maybe 80?) of Muslims and Christians turned out to here Mark's message. Mark spoke for about 90 minutes formally, and then after the Muslims' evening prayer (Maghrib) he answered questions informally for another 75 minutes (until 10pm).

Unfortunately, there is no recording of Mark's talk at the mosque. The good news, however, is that Mark and Nancy delivered the sermon at our church (Fellowship of Christ) the following morning, and we did manage to capture that message. 

Mark covers most of the sermon, but Nancy comes in quite powerfully for the last seven or so minutes. I believe you'll be significantly challenged and encouraged by their story, which includes a stint as a US Congressman, traveling the world to share peacemaking ways of Jesus in the most troubled of locales, and a year as an inmate in a maximum-security US federal prison (in which Mark brought Jesus' love and peace to violent gangs). 

At our church, the response to the Siljanders' message was overwhelmingly positive. For example, one older man came to me in tears after the service and said that he was being set free by Mark and Nancy's words. A younger man confided that God used their message to convict him of a harsh attitude toward those with whom he has differences, and he already had a list of people he would approach to seek forgiveness. Very good stuff! 

Carrie and I have love and gratitude in our hearts for each of you! And thanks to all of you who prayed for this event at the mosque. It was a success, and we ask you to join us in praying that this gathering will lead directly to more and deeper friendships between Muslims and Christians.

Trying to follow Jesus and wage peace,

PS: Here are a few images from the Apex Mosque gathering with the Siljanders.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Muslim-Christian Dinner Club: You Can Do It, Too!!!

In our metro area, we wanted to create a partnership between a mosque and a church around one simple idea—finding a way to get people together who have reason to remain isolated from one another.

Thus, we formed the Apex Mosque-Fellowship of Christ Dinner Club.

In May, we Davises hosted the Muslim-Christian Dinner Club! With children,
our gathering numbered about 30. We always start with a potluck meal.

Muslim and Christian friends find spots around our home to eat and chat.

The kids--Muslim and Christian--hurry through the meal so they can get to the
important stuff--playing together!

Often, we finish with a big group discussion. In this scene, our friend Jihad
 has us captive with his hilarious humor (usually jokes about his name) and
his passionate, moving appeals to love one another.

Here I'm getting in my two cents as little Omar wonders where my hair went!

What Is the 
Apex Mosque-Fellowship of Christ Dinner Club?

The Dinner Club started 18 months ago with eight families--four each from the mosque and the church--meeting monthly for a potluck meal. While our monthly gatherings have since grown in size, we have kept the same basic format.

Our Dinner Club meets in a home one Saturday per month from 5pm-8pm. Typically, we alternate between Muslim homes and Christian homes. We always have two main components--lots of delicious, diverse food (potluck style) and an evening full of wonderful conversation and fellowship. Our ONLY agenda is building friendship, because we have discovered that real friendship between real people with real differences leads to all sorts of beautiful places!

Spreading the Love to Other Muslims and Christians

Since we have stayed at this for awhile now with most of the original families still involved, our friendships have grown quite deep. All of us acknowledge how much our lives have been enriched (and at times our perspectives challenged) by these multi-faith gatherings, and we want to spread the love to others.

To that end, we are attempting to host a larger gathering several times per year. For these bigger events, we extend an open invitation to Muslims and Christians in our community. Because these open events are too big for a home, we host them in the mosque and church facilities, alternating between the two. 

It's always good for our group to spend time together in our respective houses of worship, as doing so helps us grow in our understanding of one another. 

In addition, we have three goals in mind for the Muslims and Christians who are participating in our gatherings for the first time.

1. We simply want to give folks an opportunity to connect relationally over a meal with someone from the other faith perspective.

2. We encourage new Muslim and Christian participants to exchange contact info with one another and to meet for coffee or a meal.

3. We challenge them to consider starting their own Muslim-Christian Dinner Club gatherings. It only takes two families/individuals to get started!

Let Us Help You Start a Muslim-Christian Dinner Club 

If you'd like to begin a Muslim-Christian Dinner Club in your area but are not sure where to begin, feel free to message me below. Our group would be happy to share our ideas, experiences, and coaching!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Fruit of Peacemaking: Real Friendship with Real People with Whom We Have Real Differences

A recent gathering in the Davis home of the Apex Mosque-Fellowship of Christ
Dinner Club. We gather monthly for a halal (permissible for Muslims) potluck
meal, lots of laughter and friendship-building, and occasional serious talk as
well. At present, we are exploring ways we can work together as Muslims and
Christians to serve refugees moving into our area.  
It is my privilege to serve as a Global Peacemaking Coach with Peace Catalyst International, a vibrant, growing movement of ragtag Jesus followers committed to promoting peace in the way of Jesus and reaching out in love to those whose backgrounds and perspectives are different than our own.
Our work is not rocket science. Rather, it’s simply a matter of opening our hearts (and often our homes) to meet people where they are, to build genuine friendship, and to share with these friends the little things in life—like pancake suppers, play dates with our children, golf outings, coffee shop pow wows, and three-hour potluck meals. This is loving others in the way of Jesus. And it’s how I want to live my life—because it is the way of Jesus, because it’s a liberating way to live, and because real friendship always leads to deep discussions and often new understandings about life and love and the most important matters of the heart.

Jesus—Friend of Sinners and Respecter of Those from the Other Side of the Religious Tracks
This is the kids' table at the Mosque-Church Dinner Club! In the past, I have
said that we will know we are succeeding in our peacemaking work when
Muslim and Christian children are playing together. In reality, however, our
kids will lead the way for us if we let them!!!
Notoriously, Jesus was friendly with all the “wrong” people—oppressors, partiers, prostitutes, women in general, and even those from the other monotheistic religion. He gave dignity and respect to all manner of outcasts and outsiders, and He invites us to do the same—to build real friendship with real people with whom we have real differences.
Jesus’ call is not to a politely-tolerate-one-another sort of “friendship,” because in Jesus’ economy tolerance is a bar set too low and He instructs us to actively love others, even those whom we might think of as enemies. In Luke 6:27-28, Jesus compels us to love, do good to, bless, and pray for our enemies and those who mistreat us. Essentially, he says, “If you want to follow me, then treat enemies the way you would treat a beloved friend.”
Of course, Jesus modeled this in an ultimate way by dying for us while we were still sinners and enemies of God so that we might become friends of God (Romans 5:8), and He invites us to follow His example by living sacrificially for others (1 Peter 2:21).

Real Friendship, Real Differences
Occasionally, we move our Dinner Club from homes and into the mosque or the
church building, allowing more Muslims and Christians to join the fun. There
is something significant about getting into one another's places of worship, as
doing so answers questions and dispels fears and myths from both sides.
Real friends enjoy one another’s company. Real friends play together and help one another. Real friends make scheduling and financial sacrifices so they can spend time together. Real friends talk openly and respectfully about deep matters of the heart. They share their convictions about faith and family and politics, eager to learn and persuade all at once. And real friends do all this with an abiding confidence that their friendship is bigger than their differences and that love (a commitment to pursue good for someone) covers a multitude of sins and disagreements.

You Can Do It!
Christians, will you join us in following Jesus into real friendships with Muslims? Muslims, will you follow the example of Jesus by building real friendships with Christians?
If you would like some tips to help you get started, feel free to post a comment below so that we can dialogue. I will be happy to share ideas, but keep in mind that it’s not rocket science and it might be as simple as smiling and saying hello to someone next time you’re out shopping!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Jesus -- Messiah, Feminist, Friend of Outsiders, Savior of the World (Pondering John 4)

Today is International Women's Day, and I thought it appropriate to share my sermon from February 28.

In this message, we read through the story of Jesus encountering the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well in Samaria (John 4) and then consider some of the cultural background along with some implications for us as Jesus followers in 2016. 

We conclude with these six attention-grabbing observations from the passage: 

1. Jesus embraced risk and leaned into conflict.

2. Jesus bucked cultural norms to dignify women.

3. Jesus went out of his way to love the outsider / the OTHER (in this case a woman adhering to the rival monotheistic religion).

4. Jesus seems far less concerned with the outer label (Samaritan, Jew) and far more concerned with the heart. 

5. Jesus’ message was not "my religion can beat up your religion." Jesus' message was Jesus. He is the Messiah King who came to rescue mankind in a way that religion never could.

6. Jesus is for everyone — “Savior of the world.”

Sunday, January 31, 2016

ISIS, Fear, and Jesus -- A Very Personal Message

I recently visited Indonesia, where some of my hosts were key Muslim leaders who are concerned about ISIS. They fear that their young people are susceptible to being radicalized, and they keep bringing me in to speak as an example of an American Christian who does not hate Muslims (which combats the rhetoric put forth by extremists that all Western Christians hate and want to oppress Muslims). 

Our time together in Indonesia was wonderful and fruitful. Sadly, however, less than 48 hours after my return to the US, ISIS successfully bombed a Starbucks in Jakarta. 

While it appears that the vast majority of Indonesians condemned the attack and strengthened their resolve to love and respect all people, this bombing was a stark reminder of the troubling times in which we live and of the importance of our efforts to promote peace in the way of Jesus.

Just before Christmas, I preached a very personal sermon on "ISIS, Fear, and Jesus." I thought now might be an appropriate time to share this message with you. Thus, I invite you to give it a listen now or to download for later.

Monday, December 7, 2015

An Open Letter to My Muslim Friends—Including Those I Have Yet to Meet (For Christians and Others, Too)

Dear Muslim Friends,

I hope it's okay with you if I share a bit from my heart.

The State of My Heart

I am troubled. And discouraged.

The world seems to be falling apart before our very eyes. All around the globe, nations rage against nations, races battle with one another, adherents of different religions are pitted against one another. The rhetoric of hate and fear is so loud that we begin to buy in, not because the arguments are convincing but simply because its obnoxious drumbeat reverberates in our heads non-stop.

I am troubled. And discouraged. But you give me hope.

Sharing Life with You Is Good for My Soul

When I am with you, my Muslim friends, I am reminded that we can respect one another and even love one another and share real friendship. And we must. Jesus taught that the way to overcome evil is with good, and I am convinced that getting together with you regularly is one of the best things I can do for my own soul and for the cause of peace in the world.

It seems that all the misguided talking heads on TV, all the fear-mongering keyboardists with internet access, and all the hate-filled ideologues and terrorists do not want us to come together, because peace and love seem not to suit their agenda. Their agenda must not prevail, however, and therefore we must stay resolute in our commitment to real friendship with one another. 

So, what I am saying is this: I need you. I need each of you sharing this journey of life with me, and I need us to stay persistent in spending time together. Sometimes, like the present, I start to get worn down by the voices screaming at me and telling me you're my enemies. You are NOT my enemies, and I refuse to give in to hate. Instead, I choose love. And I choose you--as my friends and my sisters and my brothers. And I choose to follow Jesus, whose life and teachings compel me to treat everyone with love and respect and kindness.

Merry Christmas and An Invitation

As you know, Christmas is the time when we Christians celebrate the coming of the Messiah and His miraculous, virgin birth. I know that many Christians and Muslims have real differences in their thoughts about Jesus (and in the right moments we can talk about those differences in the context of real friendship), but there is significant common ground as well.

One of my own convictions about Jesus is that, when we embrace his ways and words, then he leads us into real friendships with very diverse people from very diverse backgrounds. Thus, I am hopeful that you will not be offended by my invitation to a Christmas party, but rather that you will see it as I do--an opportunity to stand together on common ground and thus walk in the way of Jesus, who himself was severely ridiculed for being friendly with all the wrong people. : )

Thus, in this spirit, I wish you Christmas blessings, and I want you to know that this Christmas I will be giving thanks to God for each of you and for the gift of your friendship. 

And if ANY of you (Muslim, Christian, etc.) are in the Raleigh area this Saturday (December 12), I would love for you to join some of my Muslim and Christian friends and perhaps others for a special Christmas gathering to celebrate our friendship. If you are available and interested, please email me at so that I can send you more details. We’d be delighted to welcome you!

Trying to follow Jesus and wage peace,

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Table Talk: My Life is Falling to Pieces???

In this 6-minute Table Talk, I read from Romans 8 and then share my thoughts about the passage and struggles related to it . . . and ultimately my hope in Jesus!