We met Mary (pseudonym) in an ESL class where we volunteer. She and her husband, Adam (pseudonym), moved from a country in the Middle East to Canada about two years ago in order to find ‘a better life’. Mary was eager to improve her English but also desiring to search for answers about God, Jesus and spiritual issues. She could not do that in her birth country because of governmental restrictions and she did not know any followers of Jesus there. During the many discussions she had with many believers here in Canada, God was busy drawing her and eventually Adam to Himself. They both came to saving faith and were baptised recently.
As the church of Jesus Christ in Canada, we have a unique opportunity to befriend Muslims in our own country, most of whom have never heard the Gospel or met a true follower of Christ before. Many of us pass up the opportunity to take part in this great Kingdom Call (Matt 28:19) because of fear, lack of knowledge, indifference or apathy.
But the vision of every tribe and people group represented before God’s throne (Rev 5:9) should inspire us to intentionally seek to engage with our Muslim neighbours and colleagues. We spent 12 years ministering to Muslims overseas and in that time we learned a number of important lessons about our Muslim neighbours. If you desire to share the gospel with Muslims in Canada, but don’t know where to begin, here are five things to keep in mind.
1. Build Bridges
Yes, there are very distinct differences in you and your Muslim friend’s understanding of God, Jesus, sin and salvation. But there are many instances of common ground where we need to seek to build bridges which can uphold the Gospel and make it understandable to them.
This is true whenever we share the gospel across cultural boundaries. We see how Paul did this in Athens when he shared the gospel with the Greeks in Acts 17:16-34. We’re not advocating that you first have to become an expert in everything Islam, but we would definitely advocate to be a learner and to understand their culture, understanding that their Islamic identity is intertwined with their culture and ethnic identity.
2. Tell a Story
So, what do we have in common and how to use that to start sharing? You and your Muslim friend share many stories of the prophets. For example, Muslims are familiar with Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, Jonah and Jesus. Furthermore, the Islamic culture is still very much an oral culture and has a deep tradition of storytelling. Using these common stories from Creation to Christ has been an effective tool to point to the thread of the Gospel, starting from Adam, right through to Jesus.
3. Don’t Hide Your Faith
But will they listen? For most of your Muslim friends, talking about God and spiritual issues is commonplace. You do not need to argue the existence of God. Most of your Muslim friends will also have a deep respect for someone that is truly spiritual, that lives a godly life and is not afraid to speak out on issues of faith and belief. When they do have a question about Jesus, they would know to come to you. So, introduce yourself as a follower of Jesus early, don’t be afraid to offend them by talking about God.
4. Keep the Focus on Jesus
Having an apologetic approach can work in selective cases, but keeping the conversation focused on Jesus has shown to be more fruitful. You and your Muslim friend share these facts about Jesus: Jesus was sinless, born of a virgin, called the Word of God, performed miracles including raising people from the dead, will come back again to judge the living and the dead and was lifted up to heaven. However, one of your Muslim friend’s main objections will be regarding Jesus’ death and resurrection. Muslims believe that Jesus did not die and therefore the resurrection is unnecessary. Starting with common ground can help set the context for explaining the true meaning of the atoning death and resurrection of our Lord.
Because the free gift of grace and Jesus’ atoning death in the Gospel are such foreign concepts, you will need to repeat the Gospel as often as possible. Redeeming discussions with Muslims can easily veer off into areas like politics or less important debates not directly related to Jesus and the Gospel. Do not let potential disagreements like this threaten to set fire to the bridge you have been building to your friend’s heart, but rather bring the discussion back to Jesus and the gospel.
5. Read the Bible and Pray Together
Another big objection you’ll most likely hear from your Muslim friend is that the Bible has been changed. This is likely why they don’t read it even though the Quran commands them to read the Torah, Zabur (Psalms) and Injil (Gospels). It is possible that your Muslim friend could be open to read it with you. There is not one method or strategy that is the key to reaching your Muslim friend but helping your friend to read the Bible and discover the truths for themselves is important. Having a simple and reproducible way to read the Bible is helpful. One example is Discovery Bible Studies where you teach your friend to read the passage carefully, restate it in their own words, and then discern what it means and how to obey it. Our friends need a practical hermeneutic in order to read the Bible since a personal, loving God that speaks through the Scriptures is something they do not know.
Always ask your friend if you can pray for them in whatever situation they may be. Rarely will they say No. They have heard about the power of Jesus and the prayers of ‘people of the Book’. We have played a small part in being Christ’s ambassador to Mary – teaching her English, telling her stories about Jesus, praying for her and showing her the love of Christ. Many others were and are part of her and Adam’s discipling journey which started as soon as they put their feet on Canadian soil. Praise God that the nations have come to our doorstep, removing many barriers and giving us the opportunity to share Christ with them today.