If a pastor said, “Tomorrow, we are going to Eastleigh downtown and share the gospel with Muslims”, many Christians would struggle to join their pastor because they’re afraid. Often, Christians find it intimidating to share the gospel with their Muslim next-door neighbors. Should we fear sharing the gospel with Muslims? Does leading a Muslim to Christ take a more “anointed” Christian or a “special” Christian? The Bible calls us to share the gospel with the whole world, even with the Muslims. What are key things that are important as we share the love of Christ with Muslims?
Do Not Fear Differences
The main reason Christians fear sharing the gospel with Muslims is their differences: differences in dress, practice of religion, and even language. You’ll find that on Fridays, Muslims wear a kanzu and a hat or “walai,” and women wear a hijab or “buibui.” Another way Islam impacts Muslims’ daily lives is regarding when and how they pray. Islam is very much an outwardly practiced religion that everyone around them sees. In other words, their religious practices are integrated with their everyday life. Muslim men have long beards, and in Kenya, their Arabic terminology can be confusing. These differences between Muslims and everyday Kenyan Christians can make someone feel distant from them, intimidated, and even fearful.
Remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). We should not be fearful of others. We’re to love everyone (Matthew 22:39). Fear of Muslims is due to insecurity in not understanding or knowing them. Naming this insecurity that you feel has a way of making it seem small. Instead of fear, love them because love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). Fear because of things like dress, the practice of religion, and even language should lead us to evaluate if we genuinely have compassion for our Muslim neighbors who don’t know Jesus as Lord. What will increase compassion and decrease fear of our Muslim neighbors? The answer is learning to love them (Mark 12:30-31).
Spending time with them, playing football with them, or playing board games is a great way to learn that they are ordinary people who sleep, eat, love their families, and go to work just like you do. I also encourage you to ask them uncomfortable questions like “Why do you wear a Kanzu and a Kofia on Fridays?” This will help you see that they are ordinary people. Most importantly, pray and ask God to give you a heart like Jesus’, who had compassion on the lost (Matthew 9:36). Prayer and hanging out with Muslims will increase compassion and decrease the fear of sharing the gospel with Muslims.
Don’t Be Overzealous
Another hindrance to successfully sharing the gospel with Muslims is the wrong strategy. A common form of evangelism in East Africa is done through what I would call a “confrontational” style. Examples would be door-to-door evangelism, walking up to someone in town and sharing the gospel, and having crusades. To explain confrontational evangelism further, you directly confront someone with the gospel, telling them that they’re sinners who need Jesus and there is a Savior who can forgive them right now. Confrontational evangelism goes straight to the gospel and encourages a decision immediately because we don’t know what tomorrow or the next minute holds (Matthew 25:1-13). The strength of confrontational evangelism is that it encourages an urgency in the Christian to share the gospel and an urgency for the non-believer to respond.
Based on experience, confrontational evangelism towards Muslims usually leads to anger instead of hearing and understanding the gospel. When a Muslim who doesn’t know you hears you say the word “Jesus,” they often can tell you to leave. I heard a story of an overzealous Christian walking up to a Muslim and using confrontational evangelism. Halfway through his gospel presentation, he felt embarrassed because a Muslim said, “Do you think I am stupid for believing in Islam?” The overzealous Christian had nothing much to say. If he said yes, you’re stupid for believing in Islam because it denies Jesus as God and Savior, then the Muslim would have walked away and probably hated all Christians. If he had said no, you’re not stupid for believing in Islam, then he encouraged him to continue believing in Islam and missing out on the way to heaven, Jesus Christ (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). The overzealous Christian realized later that confrontational evangelism wasn’t leading to adequate hearing and understanding the gospel.
Scripture teaches us that sharing the gospel with Muslims is urgent (Matthew 24:41-44). Still, faith comes by hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17, 1 Peter 1:23, James 1:18). Confrontational evangelism is not generally the best approach when sharing the gospel with Muslims because they usually won’t stick around to hear the gospel. A more effective way to evangelize that encourages hearing and understanding the gospel is a slower approach, such as “relational” evangelism. Relational evangelism would be getting to know someone as a person. Play football with them, play board games with them, or have a cup of tea with a Muslim friend. Become their friend and pray for points of entry in causal conversation to share pieces of the gospel or the whole gospel when it makes sense.
Find Points of Entry
A point of entry for an evangelistic conversation will flow naturally out of everyday speech. For example, you’re playing a board game and just having fun. Your Muslim friend might say something about how one of their family members is very difficult to relate to and that they don’t like being around them. You, the Christian, might ask, “Why don’t you like that family member?” They may say something about how they have done hurtful things to them. The Christian could respond, saying, “Maybe you should forgive them.” They might say that forgiveness is hard. The Christian would respond, “Yes, it is hard to forgive people, but remember that Jesus forgave even his enemies by dying on the cross for their sins (Luke 23:34, Colossians 1:21-22). He also tells us to forgive and love our enemies (Luke 6:27-31).” Then, based on how the Muslim responds, you would either stop sharing the gospel and move back to the board game or continue sharing the gospel. If they ask you questions about Jesus and his sacrifice to forgive sinners (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 3:18), then share some more gospel elements.
Discerning points of entry in conversations with Muslims is critical, but you will only be effective if you have a solid relationship with Muslims. One key thing is to earn the right to be heard. You earn the right to be heard by relating well to them in friendship and being servant-hearted. You won’t be servant-hearted, have a friendship, or effectively share the gospel if you fear Muslims or find them strange. Pray for God to give you a heart for Muslims and pray for their salvation. Pray for solid relationships with them, and then pray for points of entry to share the gospel. So much of Muslim evangelism becomes effective when you pray, believing that Jesus is the Lord of the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).
You will more effectively share the gospel with Muslims whenever you understand it yourself. Ask the Lord to open your eyes so that you might see glorious things in scripture about the gospel (Psalm 119:18). Then ask him to send you out to share it with Muslims and with discernment (Luke 10:2).
Muslims Can Believe
Muslims can come to faith in Jesus because the Lord can bring anyone to salvation. He brought tax collectors (Mark 2:13-17), a blasphemer and violent man (Galatians 1:11-17), a demoniac (Mark 5:1-20), a religious leader (Mark 15:43-46, Matthew 27:57), you, and billions more to faith. Jesus can bring anyone from anywhere to salvation because salvation belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9, Ephesians 1:11, Romans 8:28-30).
Therefore, anyone can lead a Muslim to Christ because the Lord brings us to salvation (John 6:44). Feel confident to share the gospel with Muslims as the Lord leads with boldness and confidence, believing in the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17) as good news. Consider a wise strategy and build relationships with them not simply for evangelism but also for discipleship and friendship.