One of the outreach projects in which I participate each year is the annual World Religion Day event conducted in Shreveport, Louisiana. For the past few years, I have attended this event as part of a team of apologists led by Chan Hearron, a Christian school teacher.
The mission statement of World Religion Day is to “seek to foster greater peace, harmony, and understanding through education and celebration, sharing beliefs and practices in an atmosphere of mutual respect, without intent to proselytize or convert.” The organizers do this through what is, for all intents and purposes, a religion fair, in which each group has a table which explains their religious perspective through displays and discussion. Some of the group members participate in panel discussions on various topics throughout the event.
Each year, our group has titled ourselves “Followers of Jesus of Nazareth.” We chose this title to eschew denominational baggage and to move to the heart of our faith: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we have explained through the minimal facts argument. This year, however, we allowed Chan’s advanced apologetics students to man the table. The students made their own displays and opened up discussions with those individuals who came to the table. My role was a resource person and an encouragement to the young men and women from Chan’s class.
I was able to engage in personal conversations with individuals. At a nearby table was a woman from the LDS church. My conversation with her centered around objectivity. “How do you know that the Book of Mormon is objectively true?” I asked. The woman responded with “burning in the bosom” and the “inner witness of the Spirit.” I have engage Mormons in this manner before and received the same answer. Another conversation took place with a college student from Egypt who was genuinely curious about who we were. I was able to begin the conversation with the idea that every group in the room was making claims about truth, but that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead to vindicate His claims to be God in human flesh and the answer to man’s sin problem. I pray that I was able to plant seeds that others can water or harvest later.
Chan Hearron spoke in the last panel discussion, which centered on whether there were core beliefs in our faith tradition and how we might handle dissent. Chan was able to explain that there are core beliefs in Christianity concerning the deity of Jesus and salvation by grace through faith. He was able to do this by using a tactic from Greg Koukl which uses Jesus’s own words rather than our own. Someone who might oppose Christianity is, thus, not arguing against an apologist, but against Jesus Himself.
World Religion Day is an important annual event in that it allows us to plant seeds of the gospel in those who come by our display. We have also made it a unique training opportunity for the young people who have manned our table to really engage with people with opposing perspectives.