The Gospel for Muslims
In 2005, I make my first trip to the Middle East. I was there to engage in a Christian-Muslim dialogue sponsored by a local university’s Muslim and Christian student associations. As far as we knew, it would be the first such public dialogue in this country’s history. It would be, for many of the Muslim students, the first time they’d ever heard a Christian proclaim the gospel in person.
The Frequently Asked Question and Rarely Given Answer
Through out our time in the Middle East, both students and adults repeatedly asked, “How do we share the gospel with Muslims?” It’s a question I’m frequently asked. Beneath the question usually lie one or two deeper concerns. Either the thought of “Muslim evangelism” scares the questioner, or the questioner wants a special method for sharing the gospel, revealing a lack of confidence in the gospel itself.
I’ve come to this settled conclusion about Muslim evangelism: What we most need is confidence in the power of the gospel itself. In Romans 1:16, Paul gives this explanation for his eagerness to preach the gospel to the church at Rome: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The apostle might well add “and to the Muslim, too.” But we seldom hear “gospel confidence” offered as the need of the hour when it comes to sharing the faith with Muslims; rather, we hear a lot about techniques, apologetics, contextualization, and even politics.
However important contextualization, apologetics, and techniques are, we cannot place our confidence in such things. “We are not the reason the gospel works; the gospel is the reason the gospel works” (Ligon Duncan, Feed My Sheep, p. xi). The news about the sinless Son of God — incarnated, crucified, buried, and resurrected in the place of sinners to deliver them from the judgment of God into the loving fellowship of God — produces the salvation we long for our Muslim neighbors and friends to experience. The gospel alone does this. And we who bear this news may safely put our confidence in it.
Some Things to Remember
While our confidence must be in the gospel itself, and we should primarily be concerned with being faithful in sharing the message, there are a few things to remember that will aid us in our efforts to evangelize Muslims:
Be Filled with the Spirit. A survey of the book of Acts reveals that when the disciples were “filled with the Spirit,” the most frequently observed result was bold proclamation of the gospel (for example, Acts 2:1–41; 4:13, 29; 6:10; 13:9–10). Christians are peculiar creatures controlled by God from within — not from without — through the indwelling Spirit of God. As the Spirit controls us, pouring the love of God into our hearts, we may renounce our fear and witness boldly.
Trust the Bible. Too many evangelistic conversations with Muslim neighbors take place without reference to the Bible. All the while, most Muslims reject the Bible as distorted or misunderstood. Christians should demonstrate our trust in the inerrancy, authority, and power of the Word of God by simply using our Bibles in evangelism. Patiently open the Book, read key passages in context, explain the meaning, then press the point home by calling for understanding and response. You’ll find that the Bible itself skillfully answers most common objections. More than a few unbelievers and skeptics have been wrestled to the ground and brought into the faith by the simple reading of Scripture.
Practice Hospitality. Besides being a New Testament command (Rom. 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9), hospitality provides strategic opportunities to deepen friendships and share the gospel. There’s something about opening our homes that results in open hearts. Our dining tables, living rooms, family celebrations, and community outings can all be used to advance the gospel. But most immigrants to the United States will never be invited into American homes. That’s to our shame — especially as Christians. By failing to be hospitable, we disobey our Lord and fail to tangibly communicate His care and concern.
Use Your Local Church. God intends the local church to make visible to the watching world the reality of His love (John 13:34–35). The community of God’s people demonstrates the gospel’s reconciling power in a way that our individual walks cannot (Eph. 2:13–16). Invite your Muslim friends to your church. Let them see something of Christianity from inside the community and gathered worship of God’s people. Among the many fellow saints you’ll find help in presenting the claims of Christ.
Suffer for the Name. We serve a suffering Messiah who calls us daily to carry our crosses (Luke 9:23). There may be rejection, embarrassment, offense, and, from time to time, a cross word. Physical persecution may await us on the mission field. But let us take the attitude of the first disciples, who rejoiced when they were counted worthy to suffer for the Name (Acts 5:41). Should we suffer, let us remember Jesus’ suffering (1 Peter 2:22–23). Let us remember God’s promises to deliver and comfort us (2 Cor. 1:5, 9–10). And let us remember the great reward God has reserved for those who suffer for Christ (Matt. 5:10). Suffering is no deterrent; it is the path to glory.