Like many of the participants that posted before me, and what was mentioned by our lecturer, the best way to learn is to sit down with someone from a different background and get to know them. Take initiative to start conversation, ask questions, and share my own experiences. Whether they grew up in a different culture, religion or denomination, I think approaching the subject by getting to know them as a person helps me understand more of their beliefs. I now attend a non-denominational church, but I grew up Methodist. Many of my friends in my current church grew up in different denominations, so when we are talking about their faith journeys I like hearing about the teachings they received. From the way they recite the Lord’s prayer, to how they offer communion, to their church’s process for baptism – I find it interesting. One of the traditions that has been on my mind recently is baptism, and the different processes and requirements each denomination has. Baptism is a key moment in the life of a Christian, and as a person who is wanting to understand God better I think hearing about the different baptism traditions from various churches is helping me weed out what I believe – and gives me the ability to understand more of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
One way to improve my relationship with Christians from other traditions is to ask questions in a safe, non-judgmental place. For example, I am a Roman Catholic, and I interviewed three Chaldean students at my university for a class. It was amazing! Conversing with each of them was very easy. We found that we had so much in common. As it was an interview, I typically asked questions of interest, and I was surprised to see how eager my interviewees were to respond. When I finished one interview, one student asked, “Is that it?” It was, but the student offered to help me with anything I may need for my class project.
A second way to improve my relationship with Christian traditions is to travel right where the many traditions are! For example, when I was in the Holy Land and visited the Holy Sepulcher, there were several different Christian traditions. I loved listening to the Byzantines chant and as our professor said, I love incense!
A third way to improve my relationship with other Christians from other traditions is to pray. I am a very strong believer in the power of prayer. I actually have an Orthodox icon in my room and candles, an oil lamp, and incense to get myself into a disposition of prayer. I firmly believe that we cannot improve our relationships without praying to God–the same God of many other Christian rites.
You said it right by mentioning that one needs “to travel right where the many traditions are” in an attempt to improving one relationships with other Christians. I believe this can really help in understanding their culture as I mention. I believe that what makes this “Philos Project” unique and different from other leadership course is, the path-it-finds (“Pathfinder”) into other faith and traditions making it clearer for others to appreciate and cherish. I think there where the crafters of “Pathfinder” got everything right – to travel in to other’s territories (traditions). I do hope I can be a part of the learning experience to the Near East soon!
I agree with all your approaches. It is important to din a middle ground in order for your to establish a relationship with an individual. In my opinion and as we were taught, there is no better way to succeed than communicating. Not only that but communicating in a wise manner. This includes being non-judgemental and so on. As you stated, I began learning about these topics to the point that I went to the Middle East to strengthen my belief and also empower myself. These are really good approaches to building relationships.
There are many ways in which I can personally improve my relationships with Christians from other traditions. However, three of the many ways are: 1) By living with that Christian groups from other traditions. By that, I mean, understanding their culture, belief and value system, and creating a sense of belonging with such people group. In short, I need to be enculturated. 2) By valuing their faith and traditions. In other words, being appreciative of their faith and traditions helps people of other faith open up to you – it creates an inroad to their faith which will give one a broader perspective. And 3) Listening plays a very key role if I should improve my relationships with other Christians. James 1:19 (ESV) says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Listening carefully to people makes them feel accepted and have some sense of belonging. In fact, this is one of the pillars on which an improved relationship is built.
Kenneth, I really resonate to what you said about listening to each other so we create acceptance and a sense of belonging. No one learns by doing all the talking themselves. Where I live, the majority of churches are non-denominational. However, my church is different in practice from others. We celebrate Advent, have a very solemn Good Friday service, and have one of our services at a non-traditional time. I would not say we are a typical non-denominational church and I’m sure there are more churches like ours, but in my experience churches do not really listen to those with different traditions.
I really like what you said about living with people from other denominations. I wonder, though, what overarching frameworks should be in place? I think difficulties may quickly arise when Christians from different denominations live together. I think to answer, the ecumenical movement is a good place to look for answers. I myself have been living in such a setting and have enjoyed the richness of inter-denominational life, but it is important to be on guard to make sure that the spirit of unity is reigning!
In the past few years I have had to do this, and in the light of my recent experiences and the lectures, a few things come to mind. First, really sitting down and learning some of the differences and similarities in a way which can be stated. This is often overlooked because some people have interacted superficially with other Christian traditions, but the differences are sometimes still unclear. Having clear lines of disagreement is good, so long as we are all committed to respect one another. Second, avoiding cliché characterizations of other traditions. Things like accusing catholics of being idolators or accusing protestants of being “a church of one” can be wounding or exasperating. Avoiding the clichés can really help to disarm tensions. And last but not least, know the weak spots in your own traditions. My catholic friends are very clear that they are uncomfortable with the protestant church’s lack of clear leadership. My orthodox friends are very clear that protestant’s inability to trace apostolic succession makes them uncomfortable. Acknowledging the difficulties my tradition must carry is both humbling and disarming when interacting with persons outside of my tradition.
Love your post here, Jordan! I think you’re absolutely right that respect can go a long ways. I think that learning to listening to people from other traditions and forming relationships can help break down those cliché characterizations that you are talking about. It does take intentional humility but it’s so worth it.
Thanks for your thoughts!
Three tangible ways I can personally improve my relationships with other believers in the Christian faith from other traditions are the following: 1) Reach out and begin to establish a personal relationship built on trust and understanding; 2) Extend an invitation for an open dialogue about our faith; 3) Visit worship service with them and extend invitation for dialogue after. I have recently come into contact with a lot of Christians who have attended predominantly African descent of black churches. I would not place all of these churches into Pentecostalism tradition. I was able to have a great dialogue with someone recently who has never seen expressive forms of worship. By expressive, I am referring to dancing, clapping, use of various instruments. I informed this person that black American Christians often have expressive worship due to our African descent as well as the use of spiritual hymns sung in slavery times. Our dialogue consisted of learning the importance of cultural context behind worship and traditions before jumping to assumptions. Needless to say, honest dialogue is key to improving relationships with one another.
I agree with your approach. Many people kept coming back to these three ways and they are no further from the truth. As I said above, these three ways are very crucial in creating great relationships, in Business, Politics, and so on. Everything that we have is based on communication. Furthermore, communication is known to be the best weapon. Today, wars are seen as cheap methods of finding success and they often produce negative results. However, communication has proven to be very effective. In this case, it seems that using this method in all its forms will guarantee success.
Three tangible ways that I can personally improve my relationship with Christians from other traditions are serving together, talking about what we believe, and visiting their churches. On my Passages trip this past summer, I learned a lot about other traditions that I would not have otherwise. Serving together gives us something in common and a place to begin conversation. Instead of jumping in awkwardly to questioning each other, we could first converse about a service project. Second is having a conversation about the finer points of what we believe. The diversity of belief among Christians is something that has surprised me. I have grown up in the Midwest with most of my exposer to traditions being Baptist and Non-denominational. I would love to have a discussion about what an Eastern or older Protestant tradition is like in practice. Finally, visiting houses of worships from other traditions could help me improve my relationship with Christians more broadly. I am on staff at my church and seldom am I in another house of worship. When I was in the Holy Sepulcher, I was caught off-guard with the church because of how it was decorated. The icons are something I am not used too and visiting a church with these would help me learn about them.
I like what you said about serving together. I wonder what ways there are to do this more often, especially in the Western context, where Christians are becoming more and more of a minority and we don’t have the luxury to be disunited.
The reason why I like your emphasis on serving together is that there are already a bunch of ecumenical spiritual initiatives, there should perhaps be more of an emphasis on the practical in bringing Christians together. When we are in the trenches together, we will get to know and trust each other better.
I must confess that this is a tough question for me in that I’ve found it difficult to relate to Christians from different denominations. The Catholic Church, for example, doesn’t administer their communion to people of different faith, and the Deeper Life Bible Church doesn’t allow women to wear trouser, make-up, plait wig, etc.
So three ways I think I can workout my relationship with Christians from other tradition are: ask questions of curiosity, visit their regular Bible study to understand their tradition, and establish partnership with them.
With these three basic concepts, I believe I can easily navigate my way through and have a better understanding on why they do what they do. Hosting Biblical conversation can be one of the most effective ways to share my faith with them, keeping Jesus at the center of all our discussions because he’s the foundation of the church no matter the differences.
1. Experience their orthopraxy. 2. Ask honest questions and listen carefully with the intent to understand. 3. Question the ultimatums and combative theology within your own Christian tradition – with an openness to accept fault and a desire to change your opinion.
I think it starts with #1. Without the actually experience of being with fellow believers who practice prayer and liturgy in a way different than what you’re used to, you can’t really begin to ask honest questions. Or at least those questions which you will ask will be rooted only in book knowledge and not in experience.
Then, with that newfound experiential appreciation for their tradition, you can begin asking questions. My grandfather was a MSynod Lutheran minister who worked with Fulton Sheen. My mother and her extended family was Baptist. I was raised in the PCA reformed tradition but went to AWANA weekly at the Baptist church and went to my grandparent’s Lutheran church periodically. Later I joined an ACNA Anglican Church then the Catholic Church. Today I’ll spend as much time worshiping and praying in Eastern Orthodox churches as anywhere else. I also routinely at Christ Covenant in Charlotte.
These experiences have opened my eyes to be able to ask the right questions. Without them, questions would be devoid of understanding. They also have allowed me to get to stage #3 – questioning the traditions I grew up with and the traditions I currently find myself in.
Hi John! I love what you have written, specifically about being able to have “an openness to accept fault and a desire to change your opinion.” The second we as Christians believe that every single little detail of theology we hold is correct against another Christian’s viewpoint is when we start to struggle with pride and have more head knowledge. Having more head knowledge can definitely take two directions: one that completely misses the Gospel, the love of Jesus, and the cross or one that allows their knowledge to take them deeper into the Word.
First and foremost if they understand the basics, one God in 3 persons, salvation through grace alone, and the Bible is the word of God. We can argue all day about the other nuances. And to start that would be to ask questions. Understand what they are reading and how they are defining what they read. Then going back to see what scripture says and maybe their is multiple ways to understand something. From there again keeping it civil never rising to anger because we can argue how many angels fit on the head of a pin but without true salvation it means nothing.
Three tangible ways that I can personally take in planning on improving my relationships with Christians of other traditions are submerging myself in the practice of the other tradition by attending their service or practicing their tradition which I have done as part of my experiential learning for one of my religious course that taken during my early years as an undergraduate student. Also, another way is to ask questions which will give me the opportunity and the ability to have an open-minded attitude toward learning about Christians of other traditions. Additionally, I can start by engaging in meaningful discussions with Christians of other traditions allowing room to create those relationships. In going about this way I’ll begin to form relationships with Christians of other traditions and also, be able to break down barriers especially when it comes to conversing with those from different traditions. Breaking down those barriers will allow room for meaningful relationships with others.
Hi Marieliana! I absolutely love your response, and specifically about asking questions with a curious heart. Asking questions can have so much beauty within it, as it allows people to open up about what they believe and gives space for assumptions to not be made. I love how you explained being able to break down barriers as well, since sometimes we tend to not talk to others due to the walls that we have set before the relationship.
One tangible way that I can personally improve my relationship with other Christians is to talk to them and understand their traditions. It sounds simple, but I believe the key to actually improving a relationship is to know people better and to understand why people do things the way that they do.
Another tangible way is to research about what Christians are like in Eastern cultures versus in Western cultures, and how denominations can actually bring us together, united as one in Christ, rather than seen as a divisive theological difference with others around us.
The third tangible way is to go to churches of different denominations, as this can truly grow your faith and allow your mindset to be opened to how others praise God. Being able to witness His beauty in other environments, as long as Scripture is still being preached can be an incredible way to connect with others.
The understanding and respect of people of other faith traditions are important. Therefore, three tangible ways I can personally improve relationships with people of other faith backgrounds are as follows: First, read books about other faith traditions. For example, right now I am reading a book entitled This Is Our Faith: A Catholic Catechism For Adults. This has given me a greater understanding of the importance of respecting tradition and symbolism in the Catholic faith. The role Blessed Mother Mary plays in being an example of piety and devotion to Christ. Second, listen to people of other faith backgrounds, and be friends with them. This example is what brings other people’s views to life when you can listen to someone talk about their experiences in another faith denomination. For example, I have a friend who is Catholic, and hearing him talk about experiences he has had during Mass and praying to God is remarkable. His devotion looks different than mine, but I did not doubt Christ’s work throughout his life.
Third, incorporate practices of other faith traditions that resonate with you. For example, I have found myself attending Mass periodically and enjoying it. The reverence and ancient liturgy in Catholic Mass is beautiful. Lastly, I incorporated using saint’s prayers or prayer books in my own personal time with God as a way to focus my attention on Him.
The three tangible ways I have identified to personally improve my relationships with Christians from other traditions are:
-Respectfully engage in dialogue and conversation. Not with the aim to convince but to understand the conversation partner. A difficulty with this is that theological debates often tend to revolve into fierce arguments, where love is lacking. In practice, it is challenging to act in an ecumenical spirit when others firmly believe you are wrong and sometimes even want you to change you opinions.
-Visit an Orthodox service. I have attended quite a few Catholic services as a Protestant but have not yet attended a full Orthodox service yet.
-Present a “mere Christian” position to the outside world, leaving doctrinal debates within the confines of internal discussion. If someone is interested, you can of course engage on the different strands of Christianity. But in principle, I think it is good to show non-believers what the faith is essentially about: the acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
As many have stated and as the professor stated, one way would be by listening and asking questions. This has proven to be positive in many ways. It is also among the main sought approaches that can be applied to business, and other things in life. Taking initiative and sparking up a conversation will create great outcomes. For instance, this method can help you find common grounds which can help you have a positive connection. Also, visiting another person’s place of worship, and overall being, approachable with a good character will help build great relationships. In other words, being authentic to yourself and having values that are right will also be of help. Most often, it is difficult to change a person’s philosophy. You’ll also find that even your sibling will have a different philosophy from you. However, having the right approach with the intent of understanding and not a judgemental one will ease your way of building a relationship with an individual.
Hi Olivia, I agree that churches can be click-y and sadly look down on one another. Human nature gets to us even inside the church. But just as you stated about wanting to be part of the solution to that problem – if we are able to humble ourselves and get to know each other, that will help solve it. We have to continue reminding ourselves that people who practice other tradition or religions are in fact loved and valued by God, and that we are called to love them, too. Because after all, that’s what we were out on earth to do – and how funny that it’s one of the things that’s the HARDEST to do, because the enemy is constantly tempting us to put ourselves first. He tells us to put our comfortability first, but God wants us to care for one another – no matter if it makes us uncomfortable or not. Thanks for sharing!
You last point is very key. Someone has said, “The one who asks many questions will never miss the road.” Jesus said in John 8:32 (ESV), “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The question now is, how can we know the truth? By asking questions! By asking friendly critical questions open the doors for learning and increase in knowledge. This why Peter Abelard points, “The master key of knowledge is, indeed, a persistent and frequent questioning.” And that is the mark of a good leader. John C. Maxwell alluded to this by saying, “Good leaders ask great questions.” In fact, asking questions is the key to acquiring knowledge on those traditions that you were novice to. I strongly believe that asking question greatly helps improve our relationships with other Christian brothers and sisters.
I appreciate this because I also experienced the shock of finding out that catholics are *actually* Christians and not a different religion entirely! I was brought up to believe that other Christian sects merely paid lip-service to Christ, while protestants are the only truly saved group. This has since been remedied, and while I still remain convinced of my own tradition, I hope one day soon we can be reconciled to one another in Christ.
Thanks for the contribution Olivia!
I really dislike the division amongst believers, especially the pride that can come from it. I often think about what unbelievers may think when they observe this. I feel that Christians as a whole have lost sight of the church of Acts and how the unity in Christ was exemplified. I have not taken Church History yet, but I am looking forward to the dialogue that course will bring. In regard to your statement about the South, I have found this to be happening now in the Midwest.
Hi Katelyn, you and I had similar a thought to the discussion question: start by building a friendship foundation in order to understand their traditions. Humans are by nature drawn to relationships and wanting community, and God wants us to have that. By building a community that is humble, kind, and compassionate, we can learn so much about another person including the practices they use on their faith journey. Reading about other traditions is one idea I hadn’t thought of, especially since I don’t read near as often as I can, but it’s a very tangible way to keep yourself on track as you learn. Appreciate your insight!
Thank you so much for sharing this information. I think it is important for us to remember that just because we were raised with a certain tradition it does not mean our viewpoints are 100% correct. There is strength in diversity of thought and witnessing God‘s love for all of his children. I love the perspective of asking questions. Sometimes when we mingle with other denominations we think we must debate. Asking questions out of curiosity and love is far more productive
I like your approach here. While I feel that Learning about traditions from college courses and other seminars is good, I think direct engagement with other traditions is the best source of learning. I have taken several biblical college courses learning “about“ other traditions. However, it wasn’t until I directly engaged with diverse believers that I began to truly understand my friend’s faith. I felt that the college courses made me judge my friends while the direct engagement developed empathy for them.
I agree that humility is so important. I think we need to have the disposition of a student whose interaction with another Christian tradition is on the first day of class. We can ask questions in humility by showing interest and an obvious listening ear. If we disagree on a point, we can still be humble by accepting that that is their viewpoint. When necessary and well-timed, we can then speak of our own point of view which hopefully leads to peaceful dialogue.
Taylor, this has also been my favorite course in the Pathfinder program. I think it is because I am a Christian whose world has just expanded by exploring other Christian traditions. For example, I loved watching the interview of Robert Nicholson with a Maronite Christian bishop. Though I am Roman Catholic and not Maronite, I found myself agreeing with many of what the bishop said and he inspired me! This course also sparked my interest in Lebanon, to my surprise, and I now have a desire to learn about Christians in Lebanon.
//People’s beliefs cannot be totally summed up by the name of their denomination or Christian belief structure. Also, we should not assume that they believe something in particular just because they are associated with a certain denomination.//
These 2 points are so important! I have a few friends outside of my tradition and sometimes our conversations get lively. In those conversations I have learned it is always wrong to assume someone’s position from their tradition. We are called to debate firmly but with gentleness and respect and it can be easy to straw man your opponent rather than really trying to understand them. This quote will help me to remember what not to assume.
By reading your response, I can tell you are someone who seeks to be understanding and respectful of others. That is the perfect posture to have in talking with people of other faith backgrounds. I liked how you pointed out, that one needs not always have a conclusion about a certain person just because they are a part of a certain denomination. For example, thinking that all Pentecostal people think one needs to manifest tongues in order to prove commitment to Christ is not always accurate.
We have similar tangible ways listed. I find it to be rewarding to share about my personal background and faith. I too once held back, because of that old adage. However, people are curious and more importantly, our faith calls us to share the Gospel. Thankfully, the Lord has opened up so many opportunities of amazing dialogue in the ER, airports, grocery stores, studying at school, etc. I find that as long as one is confident in their faith, they will have no need to fear this adage. Yes, we are to use wisdom when discussing sensitive topics, however, having honest and sometimes uncomfortable dialogue is needed.
I think you could also be well served if you speak to your friends that do not have strong convictions and see where that conversation leads. Some of my friends that are not strong spiritually, will sometimes spark a conversation that leads to us getting into very deep conversations that give both of us points that make us think. I know the prompt addresses Christian’s from other traditions but we shouldn’t limit ourselves there.
Cristina, I think that learning more about your own tradition is a great way to improve your relationship with Christians from other traditions. I gather from your post that you were born into the Catholic tradition. I was born into the non-denominational tradition and have always been apart of independent churches. Knowing why my Dad decided to join our church when he was raised Lutheran really helped me to understand about the differences of different traditions in a really respectful way.
I agree strongly with your third point of reflection, study, and conversation. I think the key part of that would be the reflection aspect. For us to improve personal relationships with other Christian’s we must know our own traditions and what our own personal opinions on those are before we can truly converse with others about their own tradition. Going into a conversation about traditions with others, while not knowing our own tradition, is not a good way to lead to productive conversation.
Great thoughts here! Very similar to what I wrote. If you get the opportunity, go visit these churches in DC:
Capital Hill Baptist – their hymns on Sunday morning at amazing.
Holy Comforter Catholic Church – a vibrant African-American Catholic Church on the Hill.
The Crypt Church below the Catholic Basilica – underground, mysterious, solemn.
Falls Church Anglican – VP Pence’s church and an interesting mix of Modern Protestantism and traditional liturgy.
The Dominican House of Studies – amazing Easter services.
St Peter and St Paul Coptic Church in Arlington area – I’m good friends with the priest’s brother, and have been there a few times. An amazing opportunity to step into Egyptian Christian traditions.
Great response to this discussion question. I agree that it starts with a dialogue, having those conversations and addressing questions about the other traditions. It is from those ongoing dialogue that we are able to break down those barriers that are present in connecting with those of other traditions. Also, I’m a huge advocate of experiential learning, is through actively participating in other traditions one can learn to improve relationships with those of other traditions.
I think they is take away from all denominations if they have the basics of salvation. We all come from different experiences and God made of independent thinks. I believe knowing we would find different ways to honor him. Whether it be outgoing or stern, whether we believe in the gifts or not.
I enjoyed reading your post and one of the things that you mentioned about ways in which you can improve your relationships with Christians of other traditions is reading books by authors of those traditions. Personally, love reading and find that reading books is another way of educating yourself about those other traditions. And building friendship is also, a great way of improving your relationship with those of other traditions.
Thank you for your insights in your response. I agree with you when we have friends from other faith backgrounds it can strengthen both of us when discussions are done in love. I have found this the case in my life, talking to people who think differently than me on certain theological issues. Lastly, I love your idea about participating in an inter-denominational organization that will help you rub shoulders with people who think differently than you.