Thursday, June 23, 2011

How can Christians witness effectively to Muslims?

Post 29:-- 

This post is my answer to the  last of the series of questions put to me by the editors of Christian Courier.  The previous one is in Post 27.  After this, we will have to move onto new territory.  If you have any subjects you’d like to see discussed, feel free to contact me either in the Comment section or via email to my

 Muslim Attitude to Christian Witness
Muslims are often offended and insulted when they hear Christians talk of witnessing to Muslims or mission to Muslims. Do they not have the ultimate religion? The perfect religion and the final Prophet?  That being the case, why should anyone consider missions to Muslims?  I ask my Muslim readers to think it through a bit more.  You are most likely living in a multi-religious community that embraces religions of all stripes.  You may think about your religion as the only absolutely true religion, but chances are great that your Hindu or Christian neighbour thinks the same of his/hers.  If you have the right to be absolutistic, so do the others and, in fact, they do, especially the secularists among them.  And while you claim the right to missionize your neighbour, your neighbour claims the same right.  Theologically, that is before God, they may not have that right, but politically you have to allow them that right in a multi-religious pluralistic setting.  I allow you to witness to me, but I also demand the right to witness to you.  The idealistic way is for both of us to do that not merely with an attitude of mere tolerance, but with mutual respect and appreciation, in an atmosphere of sharing rather than declaring.  Today our post constitutes advice to Christians how they can best share with you.  I invite you to tell me how you would like them to witness to you and why.

Look for the Best, not the Worst
As last week, a story of Nigerian wisdom to begin with, this time Christian.  Pastor Ezekiel Nyajo, a young pastor when I arrived in Nigeria in 1966, knew how to keep his audience spellbound, including me. His first call was to the CRC of Ibi, a Muslim town on the Benue River in Taraba State.. He enthusiastically began an evangelistic campaign in which he soon learnt a few important basics. One that he shared with me and I never forgot:  If you wish to evangelize people from another religion, discover the best things and the strengths of that religion and build on or relate to them, not on its worst and weakest aspects.  I want all you readers to remember that maxim when you approach Muslims.  Absolutely true and absolutely necessary to adhere to.   

Absolutism vs Openness
Secondly, you must be aware that most Muslims have from their earliest childhood on been indoctrinated to believe in the absolute superiority of their religion vis a vis all others, including Christianity.  Now that may have been true of my generation of Reformed Christians as well, but I sense that a certain degree of humility, true or false,  has crept into the hearts and minds of my generation and that is advancing among subsequent generations growing up in and living with the realities of multi-culturalism and multi-religion.  We tend not to be quite so absolutist about other religions anymore. Without necessarily having thought through the issues arising from such humility, we are slowly sliding into greater openness to them.  

 This, you must know, is not the case with Muslims, not even with non-practicing cultural Muslims. It is not a hopeless situation, but it seldom happens in response to direct evangelistic witness. They will hardly give you a chance; they will preach at you without stopping. It is not the way to go.

Some Recommendations
If your church wishes to engage in evangelism to Muslims, I recommend two simultaneous approaches, both communal and individual.  If possible, let your church involve a spiritually sensitive ex-Muslim who knows Islam well, continues to adhere to much of their culture and has retained his respect and love for Muslims.  Let him be your front runner. and resource person to whom you come for advice.  There may come a time you can invite a group of Muslims for a church or restaurant dinner and be prepared to have it reciprocated. As to Muslims in your neighbourhood, seek them out, get to know them, invite them into your social life, including your home.  Attend some of his/her events in order to get closer, show interest and, eventually have him attend some of yours.  Do not talk religion all the time, but have general conversations on a variety of topics.

(2) Befriend Muslims in your community and develop an active and trusting social relationship with them. Demonstrate your Christian way of life and answer any question they may pose, but do not overtly evangelize or witness to them. Feel free to ask them questions in a respectful way. This may encourage them to ask questions as well.  Go to a movie together, a meaningful movie. Play chess. Do a picnic. Invite them into your house for a breakfast or dinner. Whatever fits their social life. Remember, often women to women works best and men to men.  Keep asking your front runner for information and advice. 

Muslims Converting through Dreams
Throughout the Muslim world, thousands of Muslims have come to Christ through dreams that are remarkably similar. A white-robed figure tends to appear to them who identifies Himself as Christ and invites them to follow Him.  This is often the result of having heard about Christ through some channel—radio, TV, a book, a conversation that could have been with you.  You just sow the seed and leave the harvest to Him. Pray, but don’t worry about it.  He has His own ways. 

Mission and International Politics and Economics
There is also the global situation that has filled Muslims with mistrust and, often, hatred towards the West and its Christians. We must be aware of the imperialistic way in which the West has treated the Muslim world.  The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seen as mere continuations of a long imperialist tradition that sought to exploit them and impose secularism on them. Some writers, even in the CC, apparently want to ignore or deny the true impact of that history. However, we must acknowledge it not only, but also do all we can to transform our national governments and corporations into peaceful and just directions that are more in conformity with the way of Christ.  Christians must be seen and heard by Muslims to be doing so.  At least, if we are interested in correcting the image of Christ that Muslims everywhere have.  To Muslims, politics and economics are tools of mission. The Christian dualistic separation of these two is an unbelievably naïve and, pardon the expression, stupid approach.  You want to improve the image of Christ in the Muslim world? Then work hard at reforming/transforming our international politics and economics.  There is a great need for Christians to so contribute to the international politics and economics of their own nations quite apart from witnessing concerns.  It is simply the right thing to do.  Failure to do so will surely confirm the general  Muslim suspicion that Westerners are out to destroy and undermine Islam.  Witness and mission must go together with politics and economics on a global scale.  Their separation leads to trivializing the Gospel and our witness. Witness is no child’s play!

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