Sometimes I joke about growing up in a town that seemed 80 percent Catholic, 19.999 percent Jewish and .001 percent me. Those were the days when suspicions were raised when anyone got too close to those with different beliefs. But, if I didn’t talk to those who were different, there wasn’t anyone else to talk to. I don’t remember anyone in my school that was from my church.

At the National Association of Evangelicals, we welcome opportunities to dialogue with those who do not share our beliefs and practices. That includes the broad spectrum of political persuasions and the vast array of religious expressions. We dialogue for a variety of reasons: 1. To listen and learn from those who differ and disagree; 2. To find common ground on issues where we can work together; 3. To represent biblical evangelicalism to those who otherwise wouldn’t hear or know. And, the good news is that we have a continuous stream of opportunities for dialogue with those who are different.

Does this dialogue come with challenges? Absolutely! Sometimes we are criticized by those who think that communication means consent. Sometimes we risk being used by those who have less than noble motives. Sometimes we are simply misunderstood.

All this brings me back to the Bible where God met and talked with Satan (Job 1) — obviously not consenting or compromising but obviously communicating, to Jesus who was famous for hanging out with sinners (Matthew 9:10-11), and to Paul who dialogued with Greek philosophers and quoted from their pagan poets (Acts 17). Since 1942, NAE has followed the biblical examples of dialoguing with modern saints and sinners, Pharisees and Sadducees, Jews and Gentiles, Romans and Greeks and all others in the Name and for the cause of Jesus Christ.

This article originally appeared in the NAE Insight.

Leith Anderson is president emeritus of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor emeritus of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He served as NAE president from 2007-2019, after twice serving as interim president. He served as senior pastor of Wooddale Church for 35 years before retiring in 2011. He has been published in many periodicals and has written over 20 books. Anderson has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Bradley University and Denver Seminary.