This entry was originally posted at Here I Blog on August 8, 2011. Given the approach of September 11 it seemed like an appropriate time to post it here to make Southern Baptists aware of the resources one of their agencies is offering to help reach their Muslim neighbors.
The International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention recently launched a website to encourage Christians reach out to their Muslim neighbors. The website is LovingMuslims.com and the timing of the launch was no mistake as the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 approaches.
I had the privilege to send a few question to the person behind the vision for the website. That person is, Lil Brooks, the IMB Project Coordinator for Loving Muslims. Lil Brooks may be reached via the email linked here. I pray the interview is helpful and the website useful to help Christians reach their Muslim neighbors with the gospel.
Q: How much prayer and effort went into creating LovingMuslims.com?
This is an interesting question to me because one of the things God has been teaching me in the past eighteen months is how to labor through prayer. Wanting to create something that would touch this very sensitive topic felt overwhelming. So, from the very beginning, prayer was crucial and it remains so as the whole thing is now available for people to see. We are praying for fruit; that God would use this project to help Christians understand their role of loving and telling their Muslim neighbors the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I fear that speaking of the effort required to accomplish this project would probably overlook important contributions. There were a number of people involved, including writers, videographers, designers, programmers, producers, and executives. Of course there were also those who were gracious enough to let us put them on “that side” of the camera, especially Mr. Buti (the Muslim friend), our Christian friends from Muslim backgrounds, and the church in Texas.
The team worked really hard and, interestingly enough, never together in the same office. We are all spread across the globe in at least four different countries (and time zones!). The new Global Communications Team within IMB Church and Partners Services (new since the reorganization) really did work as a Global Communications Team embodying the Global, the Communications, and the Team parts very well.
Q: What was the primary motivation for putting the website together?
This project started as what we call an Advocacy Project from the Central Asia Communications Team. We wanted to somehow speak into the Tenth Anniversary of the September 11 attacks. God has moved us all to Central Asia to share the Gospel with those people who are Muslims, and we wanted to help the church in America learn to the love the people we have learned to love because God is worthy to be praised from every tongue — even English-speaking Muslims in the United States.
Q: Would you mind sharing anything you learned about Muslims and evangelism while putting the website together?
Well, the many things I’ve learned about Muslims and evangelism are really fruit from the eight years I’ve worked overseas with the IMB rather than stemming from this particular project. I did, however, learn a lot about communicating this particular message to the American church! There was a lot of prayer and conversations concerning how exactly we should say this. For many of us, after living overseas for various amounts of time, we realize that we kind of feel out of touch with what happens in America (both in the culture and in the church). So, we wanted to lovingly come to our brothers and sisters and say,“this might be something you want to consider in light of the Tenth Anniversary of September 11, the growing number of Muslims in the U.S., and the duty of Christians to share the Good News.”
But, I will say, what I have learned about Muslims and evangelism has been pretty simple, actually. The same Gospel that has the power to save a kid growing up in Southern Baptist churches in America is the same Gospel that has the power to save a Muslim kid growing up in Afghanistan. What is that Gospel? It is just this – God our Creator is unfathomably holy and righteous. When He created Adam and Eve and they sinned against Him, we inherited that sin. Not only did we inherit sin, we’re pretty good at it ourselves. God sent Christ to bear the punishment for man’s sin and die a sacrificial death so that we could be reconciled to God. Those who turn from their sins and turn toward God in faith in Christ’s righteousness in place of their own are promised eternal life and forever joy in the presence of God. Those who do not turn from their sins and believe in Christ, whether they have clearly heard the Gospel or not, will suffer the full penalty for their sins in eternal punishment.
This is the thing that needs to be articulated when sharing the Gospel with Muslims. Just like you and I were before the Spirit gave us understanding, so also do they take sin incredibly lightly and do not consider their sins worthy of death. The Bible is very clear on this and, thankfully, it’s also very clear on how we can be righteous in God’s eyes through Christ. They need to know who Jesus really is.
Q: What do you ultimately hope to accomplish with the website?
Ultimately, wow, ultimately we hope that Christians will understand that the biggest need Muslims have is to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and that it is their call to share this with their Muslim neighbors. We want to see Christians recognize Muslims as their neighbors and to put aside any fears of misunderstandings for the sake of loving these neighbors through deed and through word—caring for them as friends and neighbors and, all along the way, sharing the Gospel with them. Through these actions, our prayer is for fruit: Muslims submitting themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, repenting of their sins and believing on Him for salvation. We don’t want to merely accomplish a dialogue or friendship. We don’t want lost people, in this case Muslims, to simply have good friendships with Christians but not know the Gospel.
Q: How do you think Christians and churches may best utilize the material on the website?
The website is designed to point churches (leaders and members) to a small group study guide and an 8-day devotional guide which are designed to help Christians analyze their hearts on this subject. The devotional guide encourages the reader to consider God’s generous hospitality toward us in Christ Jesus and to consider ways to extend hospitality to a Muslim neighbor. Included are cultural tips and information to help the reader understand a little more about Islam.
As I said, the website points users to these resources (available for immediate PDF download or ordering from the IMB Resource Center). But that’s not all the website does. On the website are stories of Muslim Background Believers and how they came to Christ, the story of a church who has begun to recognize the Muslims in its community, and many other stories. All of these stories, including promotional trailers for the 9-11 theme and the Loving Muslims site, are available on the website.
This year, the anniversary of 9/11 just “so happens” to be on a Sunday so, there are resources for pastors to consider for their Sunday gatherings. We are hoping that churches will engage in the Small Group study on the 4th and 11th of September and that members will use the Prayer Guide in their daily personal devotions from the 4th to the 11th. However, the resources are not “date-stamped” for these Sundays only and could be used at any time.
Q: Is there any type of support available for outreach, teaching, etc. outside of the online materials?
As for support, I think we’d hope that the local church becomes the main support as she understands God’s Word, applies it, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, reaches out to Muslims. Of course, we understand that there’s a learning curve to reaching out to Muslims. The best resource for learning how to reach out to Muslims is your Bible and your Muslim friend. Your Bible will be the source of truth that you need to keep coming back to—you’ve got to know your Bible. But not just for the sake of sharing it with Muslims. A humble view on the gift you received in the Gospel should accompany any friendships a Christian has. Your Muslim neighbor will help you to navigate weird cultural things so long as you are willing to learn. So, actually, the biggest tool anyone can have in ministering to Muslims is humility which is confidently rooted in the Gospel and willing to learn another culture.
And, of course, there are other resources available and we have a list of recommended materials on our website. Also, if your church is interested in learning more about partnering with IMB to reach an unreached, unengaged people group (most of whom are Muslim people groups), you can find out more at IMB Connecting.
Q: What is the relationship between loving Muslims and using apologetics?
This is an interesting subject. I’ve been looking into this as a way to better sharpen my personal sharing with Muslims. There are some good resources available (again, refer to the Additional Resources page of the Loving Muslims site). What is more important than learning a method for “witnessing to the Muslim people” is the very real need for the Christian to love and exalt Christ as the center of the Christian faith. It is so easy to accidentally exalt other things: worship styles, material stuff, outreach ministries, buildings, and pastors with great personalities and straight teeth. Christians needs to become self-aware of the way their culture and their faith interact. Look for ways to exalt Jesus in your community (at church, with those whom you ONLY have Christ in common), your speech (not backing down from truths Muslims find problematic and commending only Christ as the basis and glorious reward of Salvation), and your actions (opening your home and your life to your neighbors).
There’s a story on the website about a girl who comes to America to get her MBA and ends up living with a Christian family. The wife of the family didn’t have any higher education. What stood out to Merve[1. Name changed to protect identity.] was this woman’s walk with God. This woman was bold in her conversations with Merve and did not avoid the topic of Jesus even from day one.
What most Muslims need to hear is the truth about Jesus. Most Muslims don’t need a doctoral thesis on penal substitutionary atonement. They do, however, need to know that Jesus Christ was punished by God, taking the guilt for their sins so that they could live forever with Him and glorify Him as the Savior, and that they have received from God the merit of Christ on their behalf (aka, penal substitutionary atonement in a nutshell). To roughly quote John Piper here, “You don’t have to know a lot to change the world. You just have to know One Thing and be consumed by it.” Christians don’t have to have all of their doctrinal ducks in a row to reach Muslims. They just have to know Jesus and be consumed by Him and be able to communicate the Gospel clearly and repeatedly. Take heart in God’s promises to draw up a people for Himself from every tribe, tongue, people, and language (Rev 7:9). He is faithful and He will do it.
Q: How can the readers be praying for Muslims and this ministry going forward?
Readers can use the Small Group guide as a resource to begin to pray. From there, they can utilize tools like the Central Asian Peoples Prayer Guide or other resources. The 30-days prayer emails during the month of Ramadan are also helpful.
They can pray for their Muslim neighbors and for opportunities to share the Gospel with them. They can pray that God would already be working in those hearts and preparing them to hear the Good News. And they can pray for themselves to be bold witnesses, making nothing known except Christ and Him crucified, as Paul talks about.