Sam Logan Suggests "Three Ways for Evangelical Christians To Build Credibility Among Muslims"
Why would we want to build credibility among Muslims? Well, there are short and long answer to that question. The short answer is all I will try to provide here.
The fundamental reason we would want to do this is that Jesus deserves their praise, just as He deserves the praise of every single part of Creation. Of course, we know that only the Holy Spirit can cause a heart to want to worship and honor Jesus and that, in one sense, therefore, even “preaching is foolishness.” But we still preach and we still work to prepare the best sermons we can and we still deliver those sermons with energy and enthusiasm. God’s absolute sovereignty does not eliminate our responsibility to be the kind of channels for the Spirit’s work that the Scriptures call us to be. And building our credibility among Muslims is crucial to being appropriate channels for the Spriit's work.
Many passages of Scripture describe the kinds of channels that we should be – wise but gentle (Matthew 10: 15 – 17), well-prepared (I Peter 3: 14 – 16), loving (I Corinthians 13), consistency between our message and our lives (James 3: 13 – 16) and “all things to all people” (I Corinthians 9:22). Of course, there must never be any compromise with the truth but Jesus, Peter, and Paul knew that and none of them, in giving the commands above, was suggesting the slightest such compromise of the essential Gospel message. But they were teaching us that the qualities of the messenger matter. And all of the qualities mentioned in the cited passages (and in many more such passages) involved “credibility.” How we live has a significant amount to do with whether those to whom we are speaking even listen to us.
Living biblically before Muslims is, therefore, critically important if we really do want them to bring to Jesus the honor and worship and obedience which He deserves. I will mention here just three (of the many) things that such living might entail.
1) Oppose injustices committed against Muslims. I will say this even more strongly – oppose injustices against Muslims as vigorously and publicly as you oppose injustices committed by Muslims against others. Last summer, Time Magazine published an article which described attacks on Muslims and Christians by Buddhists in Myanmar. The gruesome details of the Time article were personalized in an e-mail which I received from one of our members in Myanmar and which I posted as a “News” item right here on this website (http://wrfnet.org/articles/2013/07/prayer-request-and-possibly-making-common-cause-muslim-leaders-myanmar#.U2KIe6ROUdU). Loud and vigorous denunciation of the violence against Muslims in Myanmar in no way compromised the essential Gospel message. But it did go a very long way toward giving our members who voiced that denunciation credibility with the Muslims with whom they were seeking to share that Gospel message.
2) Find ways of expressing appropriate support for Muslim communities. The key word, of course, is “appropriate.” Such support must never compromise the essential truths of the Christian faith but, then, that is true of any support we give to projects involving non-Christians. At the end of the street where Susan and I live is a small neighborhood park. This park is used by all kinds of folks in our area, not all of whom have a discernible Christian identity. It is biblically appropriate for Susan and me to work with ALL of our neighbors to make sure that park is clean and safe. How can we do something similar with those who are clearly Muslim (and whom we want to come to the point of worshipping Jesus)?
Let me get specific (although that is always dangerous!). When a Muslim community in New York City announced plans to construct a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center, “building credibility” with our Muslims neighbors would have been dramatically enhanced by Christians giving their support for that project (I told you that getting specific was dangerous!). Perhaps some Christians had solid and genuine biblical reasons for opposing that location for the mosque and, if so, those reasons must be honored. But there would have been other ways of “coming along side” the Muslim community in that situation and becoming the kinds of channels the Scriptures command sometimes requires us to be creative in such efforts. However one regards the particular instance of the mosque in NYC, if we want to be credible witnesses to Jesus in the Muslim community, we must find ways to work toward the kind of behavior toward Muslims which the Lord commands His people to demonstrate toward their Babylonian captors in Jeremiah 29:7 and which Peter commends to the Christians living under Nero in I Peter 2: 13 – 15.
3) Where appropriate, seek the advice of Muslim leaders on religious matters. There’s that word again – “appropriate.” There are many religious matters on which it would be INappropriate to seek the advice of Muslim leaders. But the Muslim community faces some of the same challenges which the evangelical Christian community faces, especially in the area of sexual sins, and asking for advice from an Imam in responding to those challenges would NOT be inappropriate. Asking for advice does not necessarily mean following that advice. But seeking counsel from Muslim spiritual leaders will communicate to them that we want to hear them and if we really do want to hear them, the chances are just that much greater that they will, at some point, be willing to listen to us. The WRF is actively supportive of the ministry of one of our members, Dr. Basyle Tchividjian, who founded and heads a ministry called "Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments." In February, we met with a number of other religious leaders in New York City to discuss how this problem appears in a wide variety of religious contexts, one of which was conservative Muslim communities. The Christians in the group learned a great deal that day about the pervasiveness of this problem and I believe that we demonstrated a willingness to be instructed by those to whom we ultimately want to present the Gospel. Once again, it is a matter of being the kind of credible messengers that will assure that rejection of our message will be cause by the scandal of that message and not by the offensiveness of the messenger.
I have focused in this blog on building credibility among Muslims. But if these comments have any value at all, they have value with respect to whatever non-Christians we are seeking to win to Christ (for example, at the meeting in New York which I mentioned earlier, I was seated next to an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi). Knowing Jesus and His infallible and inerrant Word is of primary importance in Christian life and ministry. But “primary” does not mean “only.” The qualities of the messenger really do matter, no matter whom that messenger is addressing.