Walking around with Muslims: Options for Showing and Telling the Gospel


Let’s try to keep it simple today. We really only have three options when it comes to talking with Muslims about the gospel and Islam. Since Islam typically includes culture, religion, politics, and even economics, it can seem like a huge wall between us and our Muslim friends and acquaintances. Here are our options:

  1. Knock the wall (of Islam) down.
  2. Build upon that wall (of Islam).
  3. Walk (with our Muslim friends) around that wall.

{I first read about these options in a book by Wiliiam Saal, Reaching Muslims for Christ.}

The first option isn’t so good because it usually leads to arguments and polemics rather than apologetics. And it’s a pretty imposing wall you and your arguments are trying to knock down! The wall is often political, social, economic, judicial, cultural AND religious.  And then, of course, there’s that deadness and noetic effects issue. Arguments might be won and friends lost. Not a few Muslims come from a shame culture and so losing arguments is never an option-for them!

Presenting the gospel can’t be reduced to this, can it?
Your ideas vs. My ideas
Your religion vs. My religion
Your people vs. My people
Your culture vs. My culture

The second option is not so good either, because we might seem to suggest that the gospel somehow adds to Islam rather than replaces it. The gospel demands full allegiance to Jesus Christ alone and re-orients our entire worldview. But the gospel doesn’t add to; it replaces. It’s very tricky for outsiders to try to build upon Islam which often includes religion, politics, economics, society, judicial system and culture too!

The third option, walking around the wall, means that we don’t pretend to be an expert on Islam; we don’t attack that wall, we regularly step around it to keep the conversation focused on Jesus Christ and who He claims to be.  We walk around with Muslims, rather than facing off against them or even trying to find points of agreement with them.

We don’t ignore Muslim culture, society and religion, but we keep stepping around that wall to invite them to consider Jesus Christ and the gospel. We will need to know something of their culture, society and religion in order to communicate clearly and meaningfully, and keep the walk going. But we can learn a lot by asking genuine questions and then making sure that we are, in fact, communicating clearly.

We seek to avoid an adversarial role (mine vs yours) as we build relationships of trust and keep the conversational walk going for days, weeks, months and even years. In turn, we learn about our Muslim friends, what they actually believe rather than what the books say they should believe. Then,  we invite them to learn what followers of Jesus genuinely believe. We show and tell them the gospel with love and persistent communication that centers on who Jesus is and what He has done.  We want to get them hearing or reading the Word! It might take time to explain how Jesus fits into the Big Story of God’s redemptive plan but we always come back to the Savior in reliance upon the Holy Spirit to change hearts and minds. The gospel is the power of God for salvation for Muslims, too. Jesus, when accurately understood,  will be polarizing enough; He will demand a response! for or against Him and the gospel. Isn’t that what John’s gospel is trying to say?

Surely, God calls a few to a more formal involvement in fashioning a contemporary Christian apologetic for Islam in its varied expressions. For the rest of us, the gospel lovingly communicated in the context of genuine friendships could be a very powerful “apologetic.”

Most of us can be a more effective witness by forming genuine friendships, walking around with Muslims, that create opportunities for Muslims to accurately hear/read/see the gospel, and meet Jesus the Messiah. Then, it is Jesus Himself who polarizes and demands the choice, not the argumentative environment or the confusing option of adding Jesus to the Islamic system(s).

The vast majority of the 8 million Muslims living in the United States have never seen the inside of a Christian home or enjoyed the hospitality of a Christ-follower, a Christian. If there’s a wall keeping this from happening, maybe it’s time to step around it and show and tell the good news!

Ed Roberts

Ed Roberts has been planting churches in Central Asia for nearly twenty years.

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