I have just returned from an amazing conference in the far East! There were approximately 1000 people present. The most gripping moment was the simple testimony of a little woman (non-white), serving in what may be Central Asia’s dirtiest, darkest and most dangerous country. Dressed in the garb of a village Muslim woman (for security, only eyes showing), she told of a few converts who had believed, despite the cost. One day a friend and fellow worker wept, asking God how these people would ever know He loved them. Shortly thereafter, she and her family were martyred. This little woman was warned her family was next on this list, so she prayed: “God, if that’s your will, we are also willing to die.” One daughter (age 14) said, “Mom, we can’t leave; my best friend has not yet accepted Jesus.” It was a family decision to stay. She was on her way back and asked for more workers. Seven young people got up from their seats and went forward (5 women, 2 men)—all from the same city. By now many (myself included) were in tears.
This battle between fear and love was clearly demonstrated in several experiences when I visited churches wearing a headscarf. An older gentleman at the first church visited, who was a greeter at the church, was not able to recover from his fear after seeing a woman wearing a hijab approaching the church. As a result, he blatantly ignored me, which came across as very unloving. In this instance, fear drove out love. On the other hand, at the second church visited, a woman was hesitant at first and kept her distance. She was uncertain as to how to react, but eventually she made the decision to allow love to triumph over fear. Although she initially sat at a distance from me, she eventually moved down to sit directly beside me, engaged her in conversation, and hugged me before leaving. In this case, love drove out fear. In another scenario, I walked into a large lobby and was clearly confused as to which direction to go for the service. At least three greeters and volunteers stood around and watched me, clearly lost. Evidently the volunteers were scared or unsure of what to do, so they did not help, and instead let the me wander around. In contrast, at the fourth church visited, I was once again lost, but this time a greeter overcame fear and helped. He personally gave me a tour of the entire church so I would know how to find my way around. Lastly, at the first church, when instructed to greet those nearby, a woman half-turned toward the me, but upon seeing the the hijab she hesitated and almost turned back around. Fortunately, she managed to overcome fear and made the decision to greet the me despite her initial uncertainty.
The greeter at the door completely ignored her, as did others. Wandering around in an attempt to find her own way she felt like a leper and a pariah.
Wondering what would happen if a Muslim had a dream about Jesus and wandered into a church, she teamed up with a Muslim female friend for a scary experiment. (The Muslim friend said she would be terrified to try such a thing herself.) They decided to attend a church as first-time visitors. She wore a hijab (head covering), while her American-looking Muslim friend discreetly sat two rows back, and took notes. It didn’t go well. Someone (probably a plain clothes police officer) practically sat in her lap throughout the service! As Islamic radicals continue to carry out unspeakable acts of violence, Muslims will become increasingly feared, hated and shunned in Western society. Knowing how Jesus responded to Samaritans in his day tells us how he would want his followers to reach out to Muslims today.
Life Together: An Integrated Approach to Introducing Muslims to Jesus
Due to the incredible turmoil in the Middle East and elsewhere and the resulting mass migration of many Muslims to Europe and the Americas, the Church has an unparalleled opportunity to build relationships with Muslims and introduce them to Jesus. Many in the Church would like to respond to this opportunity but wonder how to go about connecting with Muslims. Responding to this growing need a number of ministries have stepped up their training efforts to help.
The ministries primarily involved in these training efforts advocate for one of three approaches: Polemics, Apologetics, or Building Bridges. In this post I will take a look at these three approaches and identify some strengths as well as some weaknesses. After doing so I will present a fourth alternative. Let’s call it Life Together….