Several years ago, I was privileged to serve on an interfaith panel in Washington, D.C., on the topic of why so few young adults were remaining in churches, mosques, and synagogues. The panel included an Episcopal bishop, an African Methodist Episcopal bishop, a Southern Baptist pastor, a Roman Catholic monsignor, two Jewish rabbis—one from the conservative tradition and one from the reform tradition, two Muslim imams, a Mormon leader, and me. I was more than a little intimidated.
The moderator skillfully led us through a series of questions. Some friends of mine were in the audience. During the first half of the conversation, I did not say a lot. At the break, one of my friends asked if I was okay. I assured them I was fine.
As I was making my way back to the stage, one of the imams greeted me. He said he had read my research about young adults and was glad to meet me. Then he asked me, “You are Christian, are you not?” I was a little startled and replied, “Yes, I am.” He smiled and said, “Interesting. If you are Christian, then why do you not speak as a Christian?” I stumbled through some meager response, and then he said, “It is hard to have a conversation with someone who is not speaking. My brother, Allah has placed you here to speak. Speak like a Christian.”
After the panel discussion was over, my friends told me that during the first half they were worried something was wrong with me because I spoke so little and did not contribute much. Then after the break, they said I was a totally different person. When they asked what happened, I told them that the word of the Lord came to me through a Muslim imam.
We are followers of Jesus Christ. And we are leaders in Christ’s church. We have something to say. We have a testimony to give. I worry that we Presbyterians too often stay silent because we do not want to impose our faith on others, or we do not want to be identified with those people who yell their faith at others. So, we make the mistake of keeping silent. The problem then is that the only “Christian voices” others may hear are mean-spirited and judgmental. People are yearning to hear about the love and grace of God.
My sibling, God has placed you here to speak. Leaders speak.
- Who is someone who has spoken their faith with you?
- When was a time you spoke your faith with others?
- To whom is the Holy Spirit calling you to speak your faith?
Rev. Dr. Rodger Nishioka serves as the senior associate pastor and director of adult faith formation at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas. Prior to joining the staff at Village Church, he served as a professor of Christian education at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
This article is the seventh in a 12-part series focusing on PC(USA) leader formation as a part of the Year of Leader Formation: Investing in Ruling Elders and Deacons. Additional resources are available at www.pcusa.org/leader-formation/.