Preparing to Share the Gospel with Muslims
This is the ninth in a series of posts about Islam. For more articles in this series, click on the links at the end of this article.
The ultimate goal of this series is not to increase our knowledge of Islam but to share the life-giving gospel of the one and only Savior Jesus Christ. We want to effectively invite others to share in the joy of our Master. Many are shy or unwilling to share the gospel with those they know, let alone with foreigners or those from other religions. It can surely be a daunting task, but is our Lord not worthy of us worshiping him by proclaiming him to those who are perishing without him?
There are innumerable differences between the Bible and the Quran, the Triune God of Christians and the Allah of Muslims. We can run the risk of easily delving into these in our conversations, playing a ping-pong game of back and forth arguments. I have found that the best approach to proclaim the true faith is not to indicate why I am not a Muslim but to give the reasons for which I am a believer in Jesus Christ. As I do so, I will surely tackle subjects that will point out differences between the two deities. When I proclaim God and his true gospel, I will speak of him as a God of love, as a heavenly Father, as a personal being and a friend, as one who gives forgiveness and full assurance of salvation. All of these are concepts that are foreign to Islam, yet surely appeal to weary souls.
Conversations and Questions
To get to this point, we begin simply by talking to people. We will benefit much by seeking to know people by asking them questions such as who they are, where they come from, and what they like. We can then begin to ask them about what people in their town, family, or country believe, or even what they or their relatives think happens after death, where they find hope, what their greatest fears are, and how people go about finding answers to the problem of evil. All of this will probably take time and more than one encounter, but we must be genuinely interested in getting to know people as individuals (rather than grouping them into categories), putting aside many of the concepts we might attribute to all Muslim people groups.
Every person has a story, and they’ll probably share it if we ask them. This gives us grounds to know them better and weave our own presentation of the gospel into our story and into our conversation with them and our answers to their questions. After all, they will likely reciprocate by asking us questions about ourselves, our background, and our beliefs. None of our stories should be without a clear—even if concise—presentation of the gospel. It is the gospel that matters, not the tale.
Some of these questions may tackle hard-to-grasp topics, so it benefits us to be prepared beforehand. It is quite likely we will be asked to explain the Trinity. Many Muslims in fact think that the Trinity means God had a sexual relationship with Mary who then bore Jesus. This is an understanding that is appalling to Muslims, and it should be even more appalling to Christians, for this is not what we believe. Hence, readiness to explain our belief in the Trinity and the absolute eternality and holiness of God is paramount. In fact, we will likely spend a good amount of time in our conversations correcting misconceptions Muslims have about Christianity. Besides the Trinity, we will probably need to explain that grace does not mean freedom to sin, what the role of works is, and how Jesus could be the Son of God.
Hospitality and Meals
Hospitality is a concept that is different from the entertainment most Americans are used to. The latter is when you invite people to a determined location (e.g. house) for a predetermined length of time, ensuring you have enough food for everyone and your house is in order (think: Super Bowl party or Thanksgiving). This is not hospitality as most Muslims would know it. You may have had the privilege of being invited to such a home or the opportunity to be in the Middle East and you know hospitality is different. There you may be invited to someone’s house on the spot, have a meal cooked for you, and be offered whichever food is available (and you will likely be given the best and largest portion). You will be treated very honorably, and without a particular concept of time in a “warm culture” setting.
While we are surrounded by people from foreign lands, more than 80% of them will leave the USA after years without ever stepping into an American home. Therefore, as servants of Christ, let us take our queue from the church in Acts and be hospitable to the body of Christ and to the foreigner among us over a meal, tea, coffee, or dessert. As an Arab, I find it to be a very high honor whenever I am invited to another’s home. I find sharing bread with another a deep sign of trust. It shatters barriers and opens doors, allowing us to engage in a more personal way and to build trust. People in the Middle East may often share food by dipping bread morsels in the same plate, indicating that they trust one another. This is why Jesus indicated Judas’s betrayal by saying, “he who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me” (John 13:18, citing from Psalm 41:9). Therefore, let us be hospitable and do so in a manner that honors the individual person we are reaching out to. Let us cook food a Muslim eats (Halal). A vegetarian choice would be best. It takes time to make friendships and effort to build trust. Let us take both the time and the effort, because our Lord is worthy.
For more articles in this series on Islam, click on the links below: