What is Rethinking Forum? Reflections from a Past RF

(Editor’s Note:  The annual Rethinking Forum conference is happening in fifteen days!!!  Sign up now before the prices rise on July 3rd, 2023.  A few things to note:

  • Both in-person (overnight lodging and commuter) and digital (Zoom) registrations are available.  
  • Everyone who registers (both digital and in-person) will have access to recordings of the sessions after the conference.
  • A number of fun things are planned this year, including a catered Indian food buffet and a optional trip to a Major League Cricket game!

We hope you will decide to join us at the 2023 Rethinking Forum!)

I recently attended a Rethinking Forum (RF).  For those who are new to the MARG Network, the Rethinking Forum is a gathering for those people who love Hindus and Jesus.  Although RF is much better experienced in person than from a written summary, I would like to do my best to describe the experience of attending an RF.

What is RF?  It is a multi-day collaboration and conference for believers who are humbly trying to ‘rethink’ how they come alongside their Hindu friends.  The schedule includes sessions on a wide-ranging assortment of topics, including theological and biblical study, Hindu culture study, histories of former faith leaders, contemporary issues, and gospel approaches.  The topics are often selected based on the particular interest and background of the speakers.  Another element of the gathering is the opportunity to hear from one or more Hindu Yeshu bhaktas (Hindus who are following Jesus exclusively), who share their faith experiences and give a valuable perspective to those who are not born into a Hindu familiy.  Although the sessions are informative and relevant, in my opinion, the greatest value comes from the dialogue time with others at the conference, including both the other attendees and the Hindu Yeshu bhaktas at mealtimes or chai breaks.

I attended my first RF in 2016.  As a relative newcomer to alongsiding and the Hindu world, I learned many things about Hindu culture.  Attending RF helped me begin the process of valuing many of the Hindu cultural practices that I witnessed within India and Hindu families that, though unfamiliar to me, spoke deeply about family function and traditional values.  The influence of RF convinced me to approach relationships with curiosity and a willingness to learn.  And quite surprisingly to me, it even set me on a new spiritual journey of seeking powerful symbols in the Hindu culture that strengthen my devotion to the Lord Jesus and his commands.

My favorite session from that first RF was hearing a Hindu Yeshu bhakta share his own faith story.  As a Hindu young man, he had an encounter with God’s word while in college and thought he should visit with a pastor in his small town in India.  Unfortunately, this pastor counseled him to leave his home, his parents, and his entire village due to the idol worship that was prevalent amongst his people.  This Hindu man, years after these events, shared with tears in his eyes that he had cut off all close relationships in his life in accordance with the pastor’s advice.  He had believed at that time that he could not be a faithful disciple to Jesus while remaining connected to his family, heritage, and culture.  He eventually came to regret his decision to willfully separate from his family.  As a follower of Jesus, he has since reconciled with his family and relatives, but still division and distance remained.  Hearing this story of friction between a Hindu man and his family caused me to develop greater empathy and gentleness in my life as an alongsider.

As followers of the Lord Jesus, we can explore with our Hindu friends what it may look like for them to follow Jesus and remain faithful to the culture God sovereignly placed them in.  RF is for people to learn about how we can be alongsiders who love Jesus and Hindu people well.  It is also a place to hear more about the many challenges our Hindu friends may face as they encounter and consider following our Lord.

If you have never attended an RF, I recommend that you join the next one.  You will be challenged, encouraged, and spurred on.  You are guaranteed to learn from the presenters during the sessions and from personal conversations with other attendees.  All of us have much to learn, and RF is a great place to begin the journey!

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