Evangelizing Muslims

Evangelizing Muslims
by Emir Caner, Interviewed by Brian Proffit

Brian Proffit interviewed Emir Caner, co-author of many books including Unveiling Islam. Dr. Caner taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary before becoming the first former Muslim to be president of a Southern Baptist school: Truett-McConnell.

There are more and more Muslims in the United States. I’m sure there are a lot of misconceptions; a lot of the public image has been shaped by people on the extreme end. What can the church do to try to build the kinds of bridges and relationships needed for effective evangelism?

In this 21st century you have those who try to make Islam a peaceful religion when it is absolutely clear from the Koran and Haddith that it was from its inception a religion of aggression and world domination. The latest survey of Fox News said that 25% of all Muslims in America at least sympathize with the bombing of the World Trade Center. There’s got to be something behind that.

So how do we reach people who have that attitude about us?

The irony is that the more devout a Muslim is, the more likely he is to be violent. And the more devout a Muslim is, the more likely he is to come to Christ. That may not make sense, but here’s why: the more literally a Muslim takes his Scripture, the more likely he is to become violent because when you take the text literally that’s what you see. But surveys show that about 2 out of 3 Muslims that come to Christ were devout before, like me. The reason is very simple: they think of heaven, they think of hell, and even though they worship a false god at least they are taking the concepts of god seriously and trying to figure out judgment and so forth. The dark secret that most missionaries know on the field and most Americans do not know is that you risk your life on a daily basis in order to share Jesus with them.

Is that kind of dedication from Christians something that gets the attention and respect of Muslims?

That’s a great question. The more you are open with a Muslim the more he will not only hear you but the more he’ll respect you. Be bold about what you believe and why you believe it.

Most Americans compartmentalize their faith. They’re a different person on Sunday than they are on Tuesday. Muslims aren’t like that. On the day I was born my father whispered the Muslim prayer, and it’s a cradle-to-grave relation. So if you go up to a Muslim, he’ll talk your ear off. You’d better just sit down and eat some good ol’ lamb meat and some hummus and enjoy the time.
Everybody asks me what evangelistic technique to use, what programs are the most successful, and the best thing to me is to not use any program. Understand that he will be worried. (And I keep saying “he” because the men won’t let the women speak to another man.) Islamic values say that you never say anything against Islam. In Pakistan, for example, Section 295 C of the blasphemy code says that if you do that you can be killed.

So he knows that and he assumes that you will take offense if not worse.

So I start by telling him I want you to know that you can say whatever you wish to me and I promise you I will not be offended, and secondly I will be honest with you. You can call Jesus whatever you want. Because after all, what do we expect? A naturally minded man speaks naturally and acts naturally. You should see how this frees up conversation.

So I don’t like programs, I like books like Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism because they free up the conversation to be forthright and honest.

Well, you’re sitting across from me, so you can pretty clearly look at me and say “that guy’s probably not a Muslim.” If Islamic families move into my neighborhood, how do I introduce myself; how do I earn the right to even have that kind of conversation?

There is a disconnect in much of western culture, and there’s a ghetto mentality for Muslims. They think we’re out to get them, so you may have a door slammed in your face. But you’d be surprised how many are open and hospitable. A good friend up at Penn State University looks through the digital student directory for popular Muslim names, Muhammad or whatever it is, and writes them personal letters. He says I want to have a conversation with you. I’m a devout Christian, and I’d like to hear about your faith. One fall he sent out 2,500 letters and began witnessing to 250 of them who responded.

You’d be surprised how just a little respect for their culture—while not compromising theology—works to open things up. One of the things we do to reach out and serve Muslims is to invite them to our house for a meal and tell them we will serve halal food.

That means not only is there no pork, but it was butchered by a Muslim and so forth. We even set up a halal food pantry in central Ohio where all of my Muslim family is. There are many Somalis there and they walk to the church for food they know they can eat. And while they’re there, they talk with the pastors and lay people there. This is servanthood evangelism that is both confrontational and compassionate.

Emir Caner is co-author of many books including Unveiling Islam. Dr Caner taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary before becoming the first former Muslim to be president of a Southern Baptist school: Truett-McConnell

From Brian Profit from his Equipping Ministry Blog. www.equippingministry.com