A Hindu, Muslim and a Christian walk into a school…

If you are the kind that prays – particularly if you’re the kind that prays specifically for me or Oldham Bethel Church – I would be grateful if you could put that into action right now.

I am writing this at 5:15pm on Monday evening. Mondays are (apparently) my day off. Nonetheless, I spent some of this morning dealing with a pastoral issue that seems to be rumbling on without abatement, drawing in an ever wider circle of people. I was on the phone for quite a while to somebody who, in reality, should have nothing to do with the matter at hand. Alas! Whilst pray would be welcome for this, that is not why I would like your prayers right now.

The reason I mention the time I am writing this on Monday is because, about half an hour before writing, I was phone up by a local imam with whom we have good contact. He has got some interfaith thing going on at the school up the top of the street from our church. We regularly hold monthly Muslim-Christian dialogues with this imam that we host alternately between that school and our church.

Anyhoo, he has just asked me to go and deliver a half hour presentation today at 9:30am. The topic is as vague as ‘introduction to Christianity’. I’ve got some presentations I have spliced together from previous Muslim-Christian dialogues. But half an evening to prep – not least the evening of my supposed day off – is, to say the least, sub-optimal.

What is more, I have no idea if the two things I have spliced together – a presentation on the means of salvation combined with another on conversion and the Christian approach to evangelism – in any way hit the mark of what they’re after. I’m not convinced either presentation was a great evangelistic talk when I first did them and I suspect the passage of time between original prep to now – given it is essentially just powerpoint notes – is not going to improve it any.

Talks are not like fine wines but close to bog-standard sliced bread. They are not necessarily that exciting but they generally fill you up and do you good. They are definitely better fresh and typically have a use-by-date. Delivering them after they have gone off will result in the disgust it deserves. I am, hoping, the two I have spliced together are still just about in date if a little stale.

Unfortunately, despite my penchant to plan, I have come to accept that our Pakistani Muslim friends simply do not work to the same schedules as us. We can never plan our Muslim-Christian dialogues more than a few days ahead of time (if we’re lucky). We always have to announce in faith that it’s happening to our church and any others involved. This is just the way it has to be. We praise God for the opportunity and do our best to make it work.

So, despite the surprise, it should come as no surprise that this has dropped in my lap. This is just the way these guys function. We simply praise God for the opportunity and give thanks that the effectiveness of anything we might say or do rests squarely in his hands, rather than ours. If the Lord can mightily use Paul even though he could write 2 Corinthians 10:10, which is incidentally what I suspect everyone who reads this blog thinks when they meet me, he can use my limited prep and stale talks for his glory too.

Whilst we’re on Paul:

Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel… Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should (Eph 6:19f)

Similarly, pray that ‘God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth’ (2 Tim 2:25b).

I’m not prepped, I’m not ready and what I have to offer seems very paltry indeed. Yet, the Lord is much bigger than all that. Please pray he would grant wisdom and winsomeness as I deliver it, clarity in the talk and appropriate responses in the Q&A. Pray that those listening would recognise the truth of the word and might want to respond to it.

I will be running straight down the other end of the street immediately afterwards to speak to the students in our English class about the importance of the incarnation. I’d be grateful for your prayers about that too. Thankfully, Co-Mission have provided a helpful video to which I need to add my minimal two-penneth.

Thanks for your partnership in the gospel.