Recently I was privileged to attend an international gathering of Christ followers who are deeply committed to seeing Muslims transformed by the love, truth and power of God. I heard many testimonies from people who were seeing God move in extraordinary ways. With more Muslims having come to Christ in my lifetime than from the beginning of Islam to the present combined, I am so glad to be alive at this epic moment of history. Muslims are becoming radical Christ followers at an alarming rate through the agency of miraculous signs and wonders, inductive bible studies on the life of Jesus as well as through practical community development and service ministries. Yet in the midst of discovering such encouraging news I also came to the sad realization that much of the church’s understanding of Islam is that which has been developed from the very distorted image painted by our western media. This distorted understanding has and will continue to hinder the supernatural momentum of seeing more and more Muslims reached for Christ. I am prayerfully committed to see that change in my life and ministry as well as in the wider movement that I am a part of, the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
One book that has especially helped me grow to appreciate the Islamic faith and God’s supernatural work among Muslims is by Carl Medearis called, Muslims, Christians and Jesus: Gaining understanding and building relationships (Bethany House, 2008). Carl does an excellent job introducing the reader to Islam’s major teachings, the prophet Mohammed, the Muslim’s worldview, cultural issues, etc. The book highlights what the Qur’an says about Jesus, which surprisingly is a lot, and all the references are very respectful. It further highlights the fact that Muslims are very open to reading and studying the Injil (the gospel accounts of Jesus). The Injil is one of Islam’s holy books that describes the life of their most holy prophet -who happens to be Jesus! The book includes numerous inspiring testimonies of relational evangelism with an unapologetic focus on Jesus. I’ve heard of this openness from others and have read of it in books and journals, but Carl has a way of describing it that puts this approach within the reach of all. At the same time the author exposes the more common ineffective approaches to reaching Muslims. I think such approaches are often taken because of the ignorance of the issues that this book reveals.
For example, recently I spent some time with an Alliance missionary who has been reassigned from one people group to another that is predominately Muslim. At one point in a conversation he said, “I have no idea how to reach Muslims!” (I am making arrangements for him to receive the book.) I am concerned that if he uses the evangelistic approach he is familiar with he will likely close doors to his Muslim neighbors that will be difficult if not impossible to reopen. What Carl presents is a proven relational, incarnational and uncompromising approach to connecting with Muslims as friends and leading them to discover Jesus as the Christ.
Chapter 7 is entitled, “Standing on the Bridge: Muslims Who Follow Jesus,” and I think it alone is worth the price of the book. This chapter describes in simple terms what some are calling “the insider movement.” Sadly I believe this missional paradigm is sorely misunderstood and underappreciated to the detriment of reaching more Muslims for Christ. Here are a few quotes from this chapter:
“Truth be told, there is a growing number of Muslims around the world who maintain their cultural identity as “Muslim” but choose to align themselves with the spiritual and moral teachings of Jesus, becoming his disciples while becoming what “Muslim” really means: ‘Submitted to God’” (134).
“If [a Muslim] can retain his cultural identity and yet follow Jesus without having to convert his religious title to Christianity, he benefits in that he can keep his family and his normal healthy relationships. He also can begin what I like to call ‘an insider movement toward Jesus as Christ” (136).
Finally, I love Carl’s story about his Muslim friend Abou Hamza. Here is how the story ends;
“The real issue for Abou Hamza was in trying to figure out this new life in Christ within his context. It seems that one of two things happens when a Muslim in a conservative country comes to Christ. He either moves to the West, where he can live out his faith within Christian surroundings, or he stays and lives with his faith undercover, in fear that he will be ostracized or even killed.
But is there a third way? Can they stay in their own country, not have to live in hiding, and still talk openly about Jesus? Is it possible? Abou Hamza has done it well” (146,147).
I believe this book could be a helpful resource for a conversation that needs to happen in our Alliance movement. Unfortunate walls can and will come down and new doors can and will open as we continue to think with a Kingdom mindset and really listen to one another. Fear and ignorance are not friends to solid leadership in these matters, and we have no time to waste. May the Lord once again infuse our movement with supernatural courage to follow Jesus wherever and however He leads!
Carl and his family lived for 12 years in Beirut before moving to Denver. He now serves as an international government and business advisor. He has a website filled with strategic information, resources and many video postings that are very interesting. http://www.carlmedearis.com.