Several months ago, I took a taxi to a conference center that Josh McDowell was speaking at. I had the pleasure to ride with a Muslim taxi driver who was willing to dialogue with me about our differences of faith. As I stepped out of the cab, he gave me a little book of an apologetic for Islam, and some basic tenants of the faith. With a somewhat-desperate tone, he asked me to please not throw it away after I step inside the conference center. This made me a little sad. I suppose most Christians would do that.
Ignorance never helped anything. I promised the man that I would read through his material. I set aside some time and read through it slowly are carefully. I am thankful I did this, as I feel more prepared now as a witness for Jesus to the Islamic community.
I have long admired the spiritual discipline of many Muslims. It’s true that these people have a very different motive for their religious behavior. (Muslims work to Allah for salvation. Christians work with God because of salvation.) But the fact that these people can go to great lengths for religiosity shows how seriously they take their faith. The Muslim month of Ramadan this year is from June 6th until July 5th. As I write this, we are in it right now. It is a time that Muslims spend in self-reflection as they fast from dawn to dusk everyday, sustaining from eating, drinking, sexual activity, and immoral behavior. This special month also includes communal prayer in the mosque, and readings of the Quran.
Expression of spirituality without a relationship in Christ will inevitably magnify the longing that Christ alone is meant to satisfy. Expect then, that the month of Ramadan carries extra weight on the lost hearts of our Islamic friends, potentially opening the door for Gospel conversations. Allow me to offer a couple tips for evangelizing to our Muslim neighbors.
- Stay Focused on the Gospel Message. I spoke with a Muslim once who, for whatever reason, was persistent about a problem in his mind related to the holiness of Mary. Since Muslims have a religious background, you should expect that their theological questions may be more sophisticated than from your average atheist or agnostic. Try not to get sidetracked in such conversations. The important thing is that you clear a way to the cross, and communicate the Good News of grace.
- Use to your Advantage the Fact that Muslims Respect Jesus as a Prophet and Teacher. You may be surprised to find out how much Muslims revere Jesus. Though they recognize Him as a great messenger from God (Surah 19:30), many of them never think to learn and study what Jesus taught! Bring this out, and encourage them to start with something agreeable, such as the Sermon on the Mount.
- Respect your Similarities, but Stress your Differences. I remember a time in college when I shared a casual conversation with two Muslims students who considered that our differences were not all that significant. After all, both religions come from the Hebrew God. And since these students (like most Muslims) were not extremists, we both believe in loving others, faithfulness, moral living, etc. It’s good to establish common ground, but the purpose of common ground is to help us understand our differences in a civil, respectful way. I immediately asked them if they understood how salvation works for the Christian. They mistakenly thought it was on the basis of good works. Now we have something to talk about!
- Be Prepared to Address the Stumbling Blocks that Muslims Face. After spending enough time interacting with Muslims, you will notice some common “stumbling blocks” of the Christian faith that is hard for Muslims to grasp. For instance, the idea that God would have a Son is abominable to them. Somehow they feel that having a Son diminishes God in some way. Similarly, the concept of the Trinity is something that they will often get hung-up on, thinking that they need to fully understand it before they can accept it.
- Encourage the Muslim to Believe what the Quran Teaches about the Integrity of the Bible. That’s right! Many Muslims point out that the New Testament has become corrupted and unreliable, despite the abundant manuscript evidence we have for it. But this is not the teaching we find painted throughout the Quran! Roughly 160 years ago, Sir William Muir compiled a list of the verses in the Quran that speak of the Bible. All of these verses either implicitly or explicitly speak highly of the Bible’s integrity! Once a Muslim understands that we have abundant evidence for believing that the Bible was reliably handed down, you can now start engaging with the “Lord Liar Lunatic” trilemma, and the witness of the Old Testament prophecies.
- Have Fun and Listen Well. Personally, I find conversations with Muslims to be the easiest to initiate and the most enjoyable to have. Like Evangelical Christians, Muslims are generally interested in conversations related to faith. But in order to have a real conversation, you have to be an active listener. Get to know their journey, their struggles, and their worries. Such is the natural way that relationships are formed.
For further study, I encourage you to pick up the book Understanding Islam and Christianity by Josh McDowell and Jim Walker. This was a book that I picked up before I ever starting working with Josh McDowell Ministry. It provides valuable insight into the Muslim faith, and how to reach our Muslim neighbors. Visit our store listing here.