Sharing your Christian faith with Muslims (2)
Islam is a familiar presence in most Western countries today and, like Christians, Muslims carry a responsibility to share their faith. There are now some 3,000,000 Muslims and over 200 mosques in the UK, while 2,000,000 copies of Muslim newspapers are published here daily.
All this is good news for Muslims and a sign of good health in a pluralistic, multi-cultural society. For most Christians, however, it is a challenge to examine our own lives and missionary efforts.
There is a real need for us to understand what these new members of our society believe, and how we can present the truth of the gospel both to them, and to our neighbours generally. Last month I considered some questions and answers on this subject. Here are a few more.
How do I tell the Good News to Muslims?
There is no fixed pattern. Each person is different, and each must be approached in the way most appropriate for him. As a result of friendship and conversation with a Christian, or the reading of Christian literature, or something else that God has used to influence him, a Muslim may express a desire to understand Christianity better.
Then the most important thing to do is to help him to read and understand the Bible. Because of cultural attitudes, it is preferable that Muslim women be assisted in such study by Christian women, and men by men.
Most evangelists begin the study with one of the Gospels (I personally start with Luke’s Gospel) so that the inquirer will learn who Jesus really is and claimed to be. If there is a class in which his need will be met, he should be encouraged to join it and have fellowship with other seekers.
But there is another approach that I strongly recommend – chronological Bible story telling. What are we talking about? Simply this – start with creation and present God’s story chronologically from creation to Christ. This is proving to be one of the most exciting and productive soul-winning and discipleship methods available. It works well with people of all ages, cultures and classes.
Why is this method important? Most people only hear bits and pieces of the Bible and never really understand how it all fits together. No wonder so many are confused about what the Bible and the gospel are about. They have simply never had the whole story clearly explained from the beginning.
Does this chronological method work? Yes, it has been the difference between night and day for New Tribes Mission, for example, who have enthusiastically adopted it throughout their ministry. The success is spreading to other missions, churches and evangelists as well.
If you are serious about reaching out to those who don’t have a clear understanding of the Bible and salvation, I highly recommend chronological Bible story telling.
Should I avoid saying that Jesus is the Son of God?
Never be ashamed to declare Jesus as the Son of God when you need to. I feel frustrated when I hear evangelists advising Christians not to mention to Muslims that Jesus is the Son of God.
It is true that Muslims understand this term biologically, and to them for God to have a Son is pure blasphemy. But how can we overcome this error of understanding amongst our Muslim friends?
Incredibly, some advocates of ‘contextualisation’ have opted for radical surgery followed by a linguistic transplant. Just remove ‘Son of God’, they say, and insert ‘Issa-al-Masih’. This is a clear compromise and a denial of the Word of God. Where are we going? Are we willing to twist the Word of God to avoid upsetting Muslims? Are we seeking to please Muslims rather than to honour the eternal Son of God?
Yes, the title ‘Son of God’ is repugnant to Muslims, but so is it also to Jews. What upset the Jewish leaders at the time of Jesus? Was it not the fact that he declared himself to be the Son of God?
After his ascension, Christians continued to claim that Jesus is the Son of God and were persecuted because of it. Saul arrested and imprisoned them for the same reason. But when Saul was converted, what did he preach? We are told that ‘immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God’ (Acts 9:20).
He preached the very thing that would upset them. He didn’t compromise. He could have spoken of Jesus in other ways, but he didn’t and neither should we. Never be ashamed or apologise for saying that Jesus is the Son of God. However, we do need to explain what we mean by calling Jesus the ‘Son of God’.
A Muslim I am talking with has been raising a lot of alleged Bible contradictions. What should I do?
This is a favourite tactic of Muslim apologists. Your friend may have encountered such an apologist who has provided him with a litany of alleged Bible contradictions. Work through these and help him to see that they do not in fact involve actual contradictions.
There are books to help you do that. Among them are John Gilchrist’s Facing the Muslim challenge: a handbook of Christian-Muslim apologetics, and John Haley’s Alleged discrepancies in the Bible. There are also free online materials you can consult, such as www.answering-islam.organd www.word-of-hope.net.
As you work through these supposed contradictions with the Muslim, point out that Christians have been aware of the alleged contradictions for a long time and that the ways of reconciling them are well worked out. Usually, in order to generate a contradiction, the Muslim apologist is forced to take a Bible passage with only one narrow interpretation, where in fact it can be taken in several senses due to the flexibility of language.
I work with a Muslim. I want to share the gospel with him, but I am not sure how to start. What should I do?
Use whatever expressions of openness he shows toward Christianity as a starting point. Find out what language other than English he speaks. Use his mother language as an excuse to give him some Christian literature to read.
You could say, ‘I found this DVD/tract/booklet written in your mother language and thought you might be interested to watch or read it’. Ask him to dinner. Here I would strongly advise that men invite men and women invite women.
Just be sure that you serve things that your Muslim friend can eat and drink! Muslims are not allowed to eat pork or drink alcoholic beverages. Do not offer these to him. Cook hallal meat. Many refrain from answering their Christian friends’ invitations for fear of embarrassment. They don’t dare ask for hallal food and their solution is to politely refuse the invitation.
So emphasise to your Muslim friend that there will be hallal food. Once at the table, give thanks for the food. Never think you would provoke your friend by praying in Jesus’ name. On the contrary, he might know for the first time that Christians do thank God for the food they eat. Very few Muslims will object when a Christian says grace before a meal, as this is common in Islam as well.
As you spend time with him, do not hide your faith. As things come up that you normally would comment on from a faith perspective, do so. Do not be pushy; just be yourself – as he sees Christ working in your life he will become curious.
Be sensitive to his needs. One thing that many Muslims worry about, especially in a post-September 11 and 7/7 environment, is that Christians are being nice to them because they are afraid of them. Make sure that your friend understands that you are being nice to him not because you fear him but because you want him to know that love of Christ.
As Christians, we need to pray for these needy and bound people. Communism was once a great hindrance to the spread of the gospel in some lands, but today it is being dismantled. I believe that God wants to do the same with Islam, so that the gospel message can indeed be preached to the ends of the earth.
So ‘let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up’ (Galatians 6:9). We have a fantastic message to deliver, so let’s deliver it with joy – mindful of the new life we have as a result of the gospel of our glorious Saviour Jesus Christ.
E. M. Hicham
E. M. Hicham is an assistant pastor and author of Your questions answered: a reply to Muslim friends, published by EP Books. He is also a founder member of MEC Word of Hope Ministries – a non-profit-making literature ministry producing literature for Muslim evangelism. For more details visit: http://www.word-of-hope.net.