Ten Ways Pastors Can Help Their People Think and Act like Jesus Toward Muslims

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largePastor articleBy Shane Bennett

Pastors, I honestly don’t know what it’s like to walk in your shoes. Back in college, I pastored a church of a dozen people. Elderly saints they were but with a remarkable propensity not to die. So I preached, and I dodged the rest of the pastoral duties. I never faced the stresses you do with budgets and staff and people who come to you with intractable problems, hoping you’ve got a silver bullet to spare.

Nor have I been in your place with goofballs saying, “Hey, your church should do more with Muslims!” Maybe that feels like a burden you’d rather let go. Maybe you have some personal anxiety about Islam or you can already feel the pushback that will come if you lead your flock toward engagement with Muslims.

Here’s why it might be worthwhile anyway:

  1. Islam is a big deal. Over 1.5 billion people are Muslims, with a huge number being added every day. And Islam is talked about like crazy in America and all over the place.
  2. Your people, at least some of them, are wondering how Christians should respond to this.
  3. God, mostly on the down low, is inviting Muslims into his kingdom these days like we have never seen before. This might be the sort of harvest you don’t want to miss out on.

If the Holy Spirit nudges you in this direction, I’d like to make it as easy as possible to obey, with ideas both for “knowing” and “doing” and with varying costs in time and money.

Not a pastor but know one? If you think it might bless them, please send this along. Tell them you’d like them to read it, and understand if they can’t get to it right away.

Ten Ways to Get Started

1. Add to a sense of Muslims’ lostness an understanding that God wants to find them in great numbers.

You probably don’t have to convince your people that Muslims are lost. Most evangelical Christians agree. They might not be thinking as much, though, that God has in mind to gather great numbers of them into his kingdom, that every blessing we enjoy is meant for them, and that the blood of Jesus shed on the cross works redemption for them with the same wonderful efficacy with which it does for us.

2. Share winsome stories of Muslim-Christian interactions.

While evil has certainly been done in the name of Islam and good Muslims have done very bad things, there’s more to the story than that. Negative news makes it hard to imagine that Christians can connect with them. Read this short, surprising story as a counterexample.

3. Highlight similarities between Muslims and Christians.

Sometimes, whether intentionally or subconsciously, we try to keep Muslims at arm’s length as being “other.” In doing so, we might fall prey to thinking, as a woman at my church once told me, “We are completely different in every way!” That’s just not true. Your people need to know this.

I probably go overboard in the other direction, happy that a typical Muslim and I both believe in just one God and both think Jesus was born miraculously of a virgin, is alive today, and could take Chuck Norris in a one-on-one match. Generally, we also believe that abortion is a bad thing, kids are a good thing, Jesus is coming back, and devotion to God should be above all else. Not bad starting points from which to invite Muslims back to the faith of their forbearers.

4. Read and encourage others to read material that prioritizes engagement over fear and defense.

I know, I know. Everyone wants to give the pastor a book. Or ten. Here are two that will help you think in good ways about engaging Muslims and give you tools to pass along to your crew: Muslims, Christians, and Jesus by Carl Medearis and Connecting with Muslims by Fouad Masri. Both are practical and accessible. If you’ve already blown your book budget for the year and can only give this a few minutes a week, I’d be honored to have you read my 300-word weekly email, Muslim Connect. It’s designed to help normal Christians think about Muslims the way God does and love them like Jesus does.

5. Host a seminar on Islam.

Crescent Project offers a quick look at Islam and how to befriend Muslims in a weekend seminar or DVD-based curriculum. Encountering the World of Islam is a twelve-week course based on understanding Muslims. I’ve seen them lead to lives better ready to serve God among Muslims near and far.

6. Encourage your people to connect with international students and refugees.

In any town with a sizable university, someone organizes care and connection for international students (Muslims and others). Find this person. Give them three minutes on the platform in early August to tell your people how they can befriend future leaders from other countries arriving next week. Decide together that they won’t return home without enjoying a dinner in an American home. Be the first to sign up.

Someone in your town also knows what’s up with refugees. Same story. If you don’t know how to find these people, shoot me an email and I’ll give you a hand.

7. Endorse a church-wide commitment to pray for Muslims during Ramadan.

Each year around a million Christians worldwide will use the same beautiful little book to pray for Muslims during Ramadan, their month of fasting. Order copies for your people. Ramadan next occurs May 15 to June 14.

8. Audit the “Muslim impact” of your missions budget.

Are you putting dollars toward work that cares for Muslims and invites them into the kingdom, either locally or far away? It’s none of my business how your budget is set up or what you support, but a budget suggesting that the church, corporately, doesn’t value reaching out to Muslims might limit what individuals will care about and do.

9. Partner with Muslims to address a social ill in your city.

A friend in San Jose, CA unites “Jews, Christians, and Muslims to serve the poor, suffering, and marginalized.” I think he’s onto something. Serving soup or cleaning up trash shoulder to shoulder with someone from another faith teaches things you’ll never get from a book or video.

10. Offer to take some of your people to visit a mosque.

There’s something about stepping into a mosque for the first time that is powerful, though difficult for many (Am I cheating on Jesus?). Your people will walk away with a sense that mosques are more the places where Muslims go to seek God in the best way they know and less the hothouses of religious sedition we’re sometimes told they are. A little bit of reality goes miles toward reshaping imagination. Two key points for this: Go as learners, not evangelists. A first visit is not the time for a showdown. And make sure you have pre-planned a good 45 minutes to debrief the experience.

Conclusion

Because these ideas are designed to be put into action, I’m happy to help you consider and implement any of them. I’d be honored to come alongside as you guide your people into obedience relative to one of the greatest challenges and opportunities of our generation.

» Let’s chat. Also, please add your ideas, whether brilliantly polished or still in process, to this document. I’ll start with my outtakes from this article.

Creative ideas and tools for the task | World News Briefs

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  1. NETHERLANDS: The Secret That Can’t be Kept
  2. SOUTH KOREA: Consider Inviting the Neighbors
  3. THAILAND: Sacred Ink?
  4. CENTRAL ASIA: Nomad Truck Venture
  5. WORLD: Over 4 Billion Online

Greetings,

Today’s news briefs highlight some creative ideas and tools for ministry. I’ll add one more. I often find cool stuff at Flowing Data. This interactive map is awesome. You can zoom way in to get very detailed results. My area of Northern New York, a 6,000-square kilometer area, has a population of about 64,000. This time next year I hope to visit a part of the world with 12.5 million people in an area the same size!

blessings,
Pat

NETHERLANDS: The Secret That Can’t Be Kept

You’ve heard of OM Ships, but you may not know about OM Riverboats. Their first vessel includes a floating “escape room” to help European visitors consider the gospel, “the secret that can’t be kept.”

Source: Operation Mobilization, January 24, 2018

The Agency is a first-of-its-kind interactive mission experience that’s set on top of OM’s newly-launched riverboat. Inspired by ideas from a popular real-life game known as an “escape room,” The Agency is a simulation where participants race against time as they try to break out of locked rooms by gathering clues and solving puzzles. Through the experience, participants discover a secret that can’t be kept.

“This experience is the focus of the riverboat,” explained David Svenson, who oversees the artistic direction of The Agency. “We are taking the parable and giving it a modern twist. It’s telling a story about the gospel which then motivates and mobilizes people to share it with the least-reached.”

Escape rooms have only been introduced in Europe in recent years, but have quickly gained popularity, especially among youths. The first escape room opened in the Netherlands in 2013, with others following due to market demand.

The concept of The Agency can be summed up in three words: recruited, trained, and sent. It’s the same process that Christians go through to eventually be sent by God and carry out the Great Commission.

» Full story here. Not familiar with the escape-room concept? Read In Escape Rooms, Video Games Meet Real Life (New York Times).

SOUTH KOREA: Consider Inviting the Neighbors

Source: International Mission Board, February 5, 2018

This Olympics… As you watch people compete in events like curling or skiing or shooting, let it be an opportunity to remember who we are, why we’re here, and the eternity to which we are all heading. Let it be an opportunity to remember that our big wide world is full of billions of living, breathing souls, all striving for similar things—to achieve purpose in life, to make their life count somehow.

And let it be a bridge to reach out. Many of us have neighbors or colleagues from different countries. Invite them over for a meal and to watch the Olympics together. Maybe even ask them to bring a dish from their country and share your cuisines. Talk about what sports are like in their country and what brings their countrymen together.

The Olympics are an easy topic around which to unite, talk about what we have in common, and build relationships. In some way, the Games speak to the hearts of everyone. People in every culture know what it’s like to spend their lives trying to achieve something. Every person knows what it’s like to try to find meaning and purpose.

Use these Olympic Games to ask people about their passion in life and what they’re striving for. Ask them what they want their big life achievements to be. Ask them where they find their purpose. Ask them if they’ve ever been disappointed in that quest. Ask if their accomplishments have fulfilled them like they thought they would.

The Olympics are a great bridge to enter a conversation about the race we’re running and the hope that we have—a hope that will gather the nations together one day in a way that is a million times more peaceful, a million times better.

» Read full story.

» See also Experiencing the Olympics with God in Mind (Weave). For daily devotions and activities to do with your children, join the author’s Missional Olympics Facebook group. Sound familiar? We highlighted both those things in last week’s Resource Reviews. Take a look if you missed it!

THAILAND: Sacred Ink?

Source: International Mission Board, January 29, 2018

When I moved with my family to Thailand a few years ago, I began noticing an abundance of tattoo parlors, many advertising “bamboo tattoos.” I soon learned that bamboo tattoos are known in the local language as sak yant, which translates literally, “tattoo of sacred image.”

Sak Yant has gained worldwide fame. The tattoos are considered fashionable and are sought after by many who travel to Thailand. But it is important to understand the spiritual implications of the tattoos.

Khun Pat, a Christian who once practiced sak yant extensively, cautions, “For people who want to be involved with sak yant, they need to know this—it is not an art form. You open the door for something really dark to come into you.”

Khun Pat testifies to the deliverance from sak yant he found in Christ. “What Jesus gave me is not the power to hurt people, not to harm people; but what he gave me was the power to love people. Sak yant is darkness—it will destroy you long term. But Jesus will give you life.”

» See full story with photos and a short videos to see why he says these tats are trouble.

» It may be helpful to acknowledge that tattoos send different messages in different contexts. See Tattoos Present Him With Witnessing Opportunities (Baptist Press) and other points explored in a conversation on the topic at AskaMissionary.com. Also check out Why So Many Americans Think Buddhism Is Just a Philosophy (The Conversation).

CENTRAL ASIA: Nomad Truck Venture

Source: Christian Newswire, January 23, 2018

Christians with a heart for sharing Jesus and a taste for adventure are being invited to take part in an overland trek aiming to help take the gospel to some of the world’s unreached nomadic people groups. The five-week Nomad Truck Venture co-sponsored by Frontier Ventures, will see participants travel more than 3,000 miles across rugged Central Asia in the summer, to introduce them to the special needs and challenges of sharing Jesus among communities constantly on the move.

Joint-trek organizer, the Nomadic Peoples Network (NPN), has identified 181 nomadic groups—totaling 123 million people—of which only one is known to be reached. Also, comprising 69 of the world’s 193 unengaged peoples with populations over 100,000, and more than a third of the world’s unengaged, unreached people groups, nomads represent a major priority for frontier missions

» Learn more.

» For another creative venture in Central Asia, read Team Ventures into Fruit-Drying Business (Partners International).

WORLD: Over Four Billion Online

Source: Missiologically Thinking, February 1, 2018

I want to draw your attention to Simon Kemp’s recently posted article, Eleven New People Join Social Media Every Second (and Other Impressive Stats). After reading this article, you need to download the “Digital in 2018” presentation—a massive goldmine of helpful charts and data on 230 countries and territories.

  • 3.2 billion people are active social media users
  • Average user spends 6 hours per day on the internet
  • More than 200 million people got their first mobile device in 2017
  • A quarter of a billion people got online for the first time in the last 12 months
  • Saudi Arabia is the fastest growing country when it comes to social media users (with India close behind)

May the Lord give us grace today to see the possibilities… and to act on them.

» Read full story.

» Also read about a new app designed for the scattered Christians of India (Audio Scripture Ministries, via Mission Network News) and How Facebook’s Big Announcement Can Help Missions (World Venture).

Life-changing stats, insights from Africa, voices from Europe | Resource Reviews

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sunriseSunrise over an Australian beach. Wherever you are today, we hope you find something you can use in today’s edition of Missions Catalyst.
Photo by Igor Kasalovic on Unsplash.

  1. ARTICLE: Experiencing the Olympics with God in Mind
  2. BOOK: Window on the World
  3. PODCASTS: Voices from Europe
  4. BOOK: African Christian Leadership
  5. EVENT: US-Based Mission Exposure Tours
  6. EVENTS: Upcoming Courses and Conferences

ARTICLE: Experiencing the Olympics with God in Mind

Source: Weave Family

Do you watch the Olympics with your kids? A new article from Weave Family suggests specific ways to not only spark your children’s interest in athletics and friendly competition, but also give your family a bigger picture of God’s world.

» Read the article. For daily devotions, activities, or crafts to do with your children during the Winter Olympics, join the author’s Missional Olympics Facebook group.

BOOK: Window on the World

Window to the World: The Numbers Behind the Need, by Andrew Knight. Independently published, 2018, 45 pages.

“Numbers can change lives and destinies,” claims Andrew Knight, “A statistic can communicate more in an instant than rationale in an hour-long speech or hundreds of pages in a book. I have been told multiple times how stats and numbers have caused people to reflect and then ultimately redirect.”

Window to the World compiles 100 world mission statistics into ten categories (global economics, missionary force, money, urbanization, poverty, refugees, religion, reachedness, etc.) to illustrate needs and opportunities in our world. Each chapter is just two pages: a page of commentary and then a page of 10 striking statistics on that global topic.

This book is self-published and I can’t tell you anything about the author. But everything is footnoted, and many of the numbers are drawn from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity’s status of global Christianity, a document revised annually. That and the author’s commentary could be helpful if you want to use this book as a resource for quick numbers to easily fold into your teaching and mobilization efforts.

» Preview or purchase on Amazon. The Kindle edition is just US$.99, but you can also get it in paperback for US$3.99.