Engaging with Muslim People Groups
by "Franz Nelson," Champion for Muslim Ministries
27 October 2009
Every fifth person in the world is from an Islamic background. Islam is the second largest religion in the world—only Christianity has more adherents.
Muslims have a lot in common with Christians: they believe that there is only one God, who revealed his will to humankind throughout the ages; they believe that God created the world, that he sustains and directs it, and that we should live according to his will.
Muslims are against abortion, they want to protect marriage, and they are very zealous to win others to their faith. In fact, Muslims believe they are the best of people and that Islam offers the world a solution after Christianity failed.
There are also a lot of differences between the two major religions. Muslims have a different concept of major characteristics of God, of law and sin, of heaven and hell, and on how to enter the heavenly realms. In their practice they seem very devout. They pray five times a day, fast during the day for a whole month, do good deeds, and want to visit their holy places at least once in a lifetime. Christianity seems a much more internal spirituality that is not always seen from the outside, even though Jesus said love and unity are the marks of true disciples (John 13 and 17).
Some Christians don’t see any need to share Christ with Muslims. For them, Islam represents another way that will reach heaven. Other Christians see only the differences, and feel attacked by the Islamic polemic against Jesus as Son of God. They would like to fight back politically and with strong apologetics.
Most Christians I have encountered don’t care much about telling Muslims the good news about forgiveness of sin in Jesus. And yet, our loving Father cares so much for Muslims that he sent Jesus to die for them as well. The Bible teaches clearly that we have to tell them the Gospel: Muslims need our compassion and love, which is already poured out into our hearts. The great commission to make disciples of all nations includes all Muslim people groups.
How does SIM engage Muslims?
SIM has a long history of engaging Muslims. Right from the beginning, SIM missionaries saw Muslims as people who needed Jesus. Today we continue to place a high priority on Muslim ministries. Is any sacrifice too great when the result is seeing people called into the kingdom of God and discipled as sincere followers of Jesus Christ?
We participate in this important task in many ways. It is not without a lot of challenges. There are so many unreached Muslim people groups (see www.peoplegroups.org). There are so few workers to go and tell them of Jesus. “Who will go for me?” asks the Lord (Isaiah 6:8). “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14)
We engage with Muslims in many different ways. There are doctors and nurses that treat the sick in hospitals far away from any convenient urban center. Specialists in agriculture, water development, or animal husbandry help Muslim villages and nomadic tribes with their basic needs. In the cities, some missionaries help the poor with micro enterprises, feeding projects, orphanages, outreach to street children, HIV and AIDS ministries, and social work. This goes hand in hand with telling Muslim people of the hope that is in us. Social work provides the opportunity and the credibility necessary for effective conversations about the Gospel.
Out of our love for God and the lost, SIM missionaries plant churches and share the Good News through personal contacts, radio ministries, and many other media. We are creative in our approaches, focusing on Christ as Lord and Savior. The Bible is our textbook and measure of success.
Partnering with churches
It is not the numbers that count, but each individual Muslim, his or her family and eventually whole villages, suburbs, and ethnic groups that will love Jesus and follow him. We are committed to partnering with the local churches. In many places there is a church already. We mobilize and train church leaders and help them to establish further churches. We do so in culturally appropriate ways.
Although the Gospel message is the same, we need to contextualize it for the people so that they can understand it in their own situation. As cross-cultural workers, we cannot expect people from another background to understand us. We need to understand them first in order to present the Gospel in meaningful ways.
A lot of misunderstanding has come out of insensitivity on the part of Christian workers. As Muslims react harshly, our approach should show our love and respect: “In your heart set apart Christ as lord, be ready to defend (your faith) with gentleness and respect before anybody, who asks you for the reason of your hope …” (1 Peter 3:15). Even if we do all we can to share the Gospel in appropriate ways, we may still find Muslims rejecting us and Jesus. We may face persecution. Many Christians in Muslim countries face this daily, and Jesus did too.
The big question is: What will you do to help? Will you react to the challenges with sincere love and compassion for Muslims? Will you be ready to share your faith with them with gentleness and respect? Do you have enough knowledge to engage them?
Will you establish personal relationships with Muslims? Will you go to the unreached Muslim people groups and tell them about Jesus? Will you pray daily for missionaries to Muslims? Will you support projects that serve Muslims and show our love and concern for them?
There is something for each one of us to do in order to fulfill the great commission Jesus has given us to reach Muslims. Let’s do it now!
*Note:This article was originally published in Serving In Mission Together, issue 125.
Comment on this post: Email MMinChampion@sim.org
Champion: "Franz Nelson"
Our champion has been working in this area for over 10 years as part of Life Challenge Africa (LCA). He has published literature, conducted outreaches, and taught on Islamics and Apologetics. He hopes to focus especially on developing materials for equipping the Church to share the Gospel with Muslims.
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