Are Muslims Reachable?

Islam

I consider myself to be a novice, not an authority, on the subject of Islam or of Muslim evangelism. My experience with Muslims has been mainly in Ghana. But my heart does burn with an affection for the Muslim people that I cannot describe. The great Missionary Himself, who left us a beautiful pattern to follow, has kindled it: “Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him . . .”

Much of what follows in this article has been gleaned by carefully listening to people who share this “strange” affection for the Muslim people. Some of them cannot be mentioned here for their own safety. I want to give thankful recognition to Brother William J. Sall, author of Reaching Muslims for Christ, and the staff at Arab World Ministries for their help and encouragement. This article is partly a book review of Reaching Muslims for Christ. I do heartily recommend this book for further study into this vast subject. —Brother Wes

In the last mission newsletter, I mentioned that an article would follow on reaching Muslims for Christ. I wonder what your first thought was. Does bringing a Muslim to worship the Son of God sound like moving a mountain? Maybe you consider it next to impossible. I agree. But God moved a mountain in my life. He delivered me from a whole array of vain pursuits, foolish self-centered dreams, and a life of miserable sin. I have full confidence that He yearns to do the same in the hearts of countless thousands of the children of Islam. His adopting Father heart knows no impossibilities.

Even now God is doing a great work in the Muslim world. There are dedicated servants of God who are sacrificing their careers and at times risking their lives because they dare to love. At times they must disguise their missionary identities and live as “tentmakers.” In other places, a new secular trend in Muslim countries is allowing unprecedented opportunities for open gospel witness.

Here in the States, the Muslim population grows daily by leaps and bounds. Daily, Islam receives numbers of converts from “Christianity.” The yearly influx of refugees and immigrants from places like Iran, Somalia, and Bosnia brings ethnic Muslim communities to our towns and cities. Are they reachable?

Absolutely.

Your Approach

How do you view a Muslim person—as an enemy to be conquered, or as a friend to be led to the cross? Depending on how you view him, your approach will be very different. The “knock-it-down” approach is an all-too-familiar one among many Christians. The strategy goes like this: “Prove the Trinity to him! Show him the heresy of Islam! Tell him he is an idolater and that his religion is just a violent political movement!” Whether those are true statements or not is beside the point. That kind of attitude will make you an enemy in a hurry. The war of the Crusades will be resurrected in his mind, but his soul will certainly be driven further from Calvary.

So let us consider a Muslim man as your friend. How shall we reach him with Christ’s gospel?

Though we will get into some specific problem areas in working with your Muslim friend, and attempt to learn about Islam’s objections to the gospel, keep in mind that knowledge about his religion is not enough. It is critical to know the Muslim in front of you. As with any individual, every Muslim is different. For instance, some may believe the Qur’anic teaching that sin is an unavoidable situation that God can easily forgive. However, your Muslim friend may be pressed down with guilt. Take a personal interest in him and his feelings. Premeditated answers to presupposed issues will not go nearly as far as addressing his personal heart concerns, needs, or confusion.

Most experienced Christian workers agree that there is one word that is a key to a Muslim’s heart: hospitality. This is a Christian grace and a New Testament command, but to our shame, Muslims are often much better at it than we are. Remember that most Muslims come from a community-minded setting. Relationships are extremely important to them. They are people-oriented, not time-oriented. Make time for your Muslim friend in your “busy” schedule. Then he will feel you are genuinely interested in him as a person, not just in proving your point. Invite him for a meal; take him out for a pizza. You just might be the first American to build a relationship with him. You will be amazed at the depth of the level you will be able to share with him as he learns to trust you.

Your heart is to share the matchless story of Christ’s offer at Calvary. Let’s look at some problem areas or roadblocks that you will encounter as you share with him, and then we’ll discuss how you can reach his heart.

His Objections

• Trinity
• Inspiration of the Bible
• Person of Christ
• Death of Christ

Trinity

One of the first questions you will be asked is, “Why do you worship three gods?” Remember that your friend has probably never heard the Trinity clearly explained. The Qur’an strictly warns against calling God “three” (Qur’an 4:171). In fact, your friend’s entire religion is based on confessing and submitting to the “oneness” of God.

First of all, make sure you understand the Trinity! On a recent trip, I heard a conservative preacher recounting his idea of the Trinity. In his message, he told of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit sitting in heaven after the fall of Adam, discussing varying ideas of how to redeem man. Finally, the Son proposed going to earth to die on the cross, and the Father and Spirit agreed. I was shocked—and very glad I didn’t have any Muslim friends with me. God is one, and while He expresses Himself in three distinct forms, the idea of the Trinity discussing different ideas rings of polytheism.

So how shall you answer your Muslim friend’s objection? First, emphatically state that you believe in only one God. Read Deut. 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:” or Is. 43:11: “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.” Then gently remind your friend that God’s ways are “past finding out.” The fact that He can reveal Himself in three dimensions and yet be one proves His majesty. We worship Him because He is beyond comprehension. Explain that by three distinct revelations of Himself, God reveals Himself to us in a way that inspires awe and love in our hearts. Read together the Great Commission from Matthew or Luke’s account of Christ’s baptism. Both of these specify all three revelations of the Trinity.

Please do not attempt to use an inadequate illustration (e.g., egg shell, white, and yoke). Use the virgin birth (with which your friend will agree) to illustrate how God operates in a way beyond finite minds, and gently point out the arrogance of refusing to accept a fact about God because we cannot understand it.

Inspiration of the Bible

The Bible also presents a roadblock to your Muslim friend. According to the Qur’an itself, the Bible and the Qur’an are both from God. “Those unto whom we gave the Scripture (aforetime) know that it is revealed from the Lord in truth…” (Qur’an 6:115). Yet the two books give very different messages. Why? The Qur’an remains in its unaltered form and original language, Arabic. Your friend will probably assume that the Bible text has been corrupted. “After all, how many times can you translate something without changing the original?” He may even believe that at one point in history, all copies of the Bible were purposely corrupted and perverted, thus explaining the obvious discrepancy between the two “holy books.”

Never forget that the key testimony to the Bible’s authenticity is your personal story of life-transformation. Who can argue with reality? Some study and logical reasoning will also help to answer the corruption accusation. Consider this train of thought. The Qur’an endorses our original Scriptures. Copies of these early manuscripts are still available today in their original languages to read and compare with today’s Bible. They date long before Mohammed’s time of 600A.D. Could someone really have scoured the whole planet and changed all these manuscripts? One unchanged manuscript would have foiled the plan! On top of this logic stands the incredible congruency in a book written over thousands of years by dozens of authors. Your friend may still argue that there are discrepancies within the Bible. Invite your friend to join you and search for the answer! Do not be afraid of studying with him, even if he wants to compare the Qur’an and the Bible. Allow God’s Word to speak for itself.

Person of Christ

The third great Muslim objection is found in the person of Jesus. Who was He? Your friend views Jesus as a great prophet and teacher, but not as the Son of God.

It is interesting to note that your friend will agree with you on two points:

1. Jesus was born of a virgin
2. Jesus was sent as a “word” from God

Begin sowing questions into the heart of your Muslim friend. “Why is Jesus’ birth so significant and without parallel among other prophets?” “What do His titles in the Qur’an mean (e.g., Word, Spirit from God, a sign to all creatures)?” “Why is it necessary for Muslims to pray for God’s mercy on Mohammed, but not on Jesus?”

The Sonship of Christ will be the hardest thing for your friend to accept. The commentator Al Baidawi states, “There is no sonship in Qur’anic thinking save reproductive sonship.” Explain that Christ is the Son of God by eternal relationship, not by an act of creation. He “was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16), not created.

Death of Christ

And finally, we come to the death of Jesus. It is important to understand that to the Muslim mind, the account of Jesus’ death seems sudden and tragic, as if God were unable to rescue His prophet. The Qur’an teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross, but that God snatched Him away while someone else died in His place (Qur’an 4:157).

It is vital that you show your friend that Christ’s death is the fulfillment of the eternal counsel of God. Christ set His face to go to Jerusalem. He told His disciples what would happen ahead of time. He was clearly in control during the arrest in the garden. He had power to lay His life down; no one took it from Him. (See John 18:6 and 19:11.) The cross is a symbol—not of defeat, but of victory, to the point of consternation among the hordes of evil! (See I Cor. 2:8.) Again, stress the effect of the cross in your life, and live out the sacrificial reality of the cross in front of your friend.

Your Mindset

Perhaps by now you are again discouraged into thinking there are just too many hindrances to witnessing to Muslims. Wait just a minute! I have a few more thoughts for you.

First, present the central gospel story directly and positively. Avoid simply discussing “religion.” Discussing or arguing over your differences is usually not a sign of progress. Avoid building an adversarial relationship. Learn to watch for changes in your friend’s mood. When you sense he has changed his posture from one of interest to one of defense, back off. Be willing to lose the argument. Always leave the fragrance of Christ’s love as the strongest memory in his mind.

If you are not careful, you can spend a great deal of time discussing side issues. Beware of talking about truth in general without letting it penetrate personally.

Avoid criticizing Islam. When asked for my opinion of Mohammed, I often reply: “I don’t know very much about Mohammed’s life. What I do know is that God has revealed through Holy Scripture that Jesus Christ has been given a name greater than any other.” Keep it personal. Avoid broad sweeping statements about his religion.

Remember that you want your friend’s introduction to Christ to give him a thirst for more.

Your Strategy

The Bible is truly a fountain of truth, joy, and delight. You must bring your friend along to discover it with you. Be excited about God’s Word! What will your friend make of you when he finds that although you are familiar with the Qur’an, you are delighted by the Bible?

Your first goal will to be getting your friend started on a search through Christ’s life. William Saal recommends the Gospel of Luke, and I strongly agree. The Gospel of Mark opens with Jesus as the “Son of God”; John presents Him in chapter one as God Himself. Both of these truths may cause your friend to slam the Book closed and quit. Matthew’s genealogy in the opening chapter can be discouraging to a new reader. But Luke’s account of Christ’s virgin birth will likely fascinate your Muslim friend. This is familiar ground to him. As he is further intrigued by Christ’s deeds and parables, he will be more open for the deep truths about Christ’s deity and Person.

The Qur’an is full of eloquent doctrine and forceful, poetic preaching. But it lacks the personal touch of the Bible. Though this new graceful style may be strange to your friend at first, it will probably grow on him. He may still have some objections or doctrinal issues. Encourage him that as he reads he will find answers, just as the disciples had to wait to have all their questions answered.

Reaching Muslims for Christ has an excellent chapter entitled “A Model for Using the Bible with Muslims.” Passages are laid out with thought-provoking questions for discussion.

Study with your friend, just short portions at a time. Again, try not to get into long conversations about his objections. You and he are now searching the Scriptures together for answers. He may want to compare what he reads to the Qur’an. Don’t be timid. The truth will speak for itself.

Aim for the heart. Look for response-inviting passages where love is demonstrated, demands are made, and needs are met. Study the prodigal son, the rich young ruler, Mary washing Jesus’ feet with tears of repentance, etc.

As you approach the arrest and crucifixion, point out fulfillment of prophecy from the Old Testament. Be amazed with him at how Christ, through apparent failure, rises in triumph.

And may the reasonableness of Christ’s atoning offer so overwhelm your friend’s heart that he too may come to worship God through His Son, our only Lord and Savior.

The book, Reaching Muslims for Christ, is available from:

Arab World Ministries
PO Box 96, Upper Darby, PA 19082
1-800-447-3566
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