SHARING OUR FAITH: A BIBLICAL EVANGELISTIC STRATEGY
CHRISTIAN APPROACHES TO OTHER FAITHS
If Christ is unique and the Christian faith is true then:
- Are others simply delusions of Satan?
- Are others demonic?
- Do others contain much that is good and true but not saving faith?
- Do others contain truth for all truth is God's?
How we answer the above questions determines our view or approach to other faiths?
- Exclusivism (exclusivists)--(particularism)
- Inclusivism. (inclusivists, universalists)
- Pluralism (pluralists)
FINDING A METHOD FOR WITNESS ( How to..)
Note: There are a number of variables to consider: Consider the people - age, men or women, cultural and religious background, method of learning. Consider the situation - public, private, group, one to one etc; Consider yourself: your gifts, abilities, no one is expected to use or excel in all methods,
- Proclamation: To proclaim Christ by speaking or preaching.
An appropriate style for meetings, addressing a group, supper parties, radio work, television, and allows the speaker to give large amounts of information or prepare for discussions. But it is one-sided.
- Confrontational: To openly challenge the issues of belief of the other person.
It may be apologetical and polemical, plus via the spoken or written word. Not allowed in Muslim countries publicly, but in the UK it is possible in the University situation, or Hyde Park Corner. This method is often more one-sided, with the speaker in control. It can be offensive unless handled with care by an experienced person. One needs to prepare and discern when it is appropriate to challenge.
- Debate: Using the conventional format of debate, each speaker presents a topic or his side of an issue relevant to the faith of Islam or Christianity.
It involves interaction of two speakers; presentation, rebuttals and most likely questions from the audience. Requires skills and needs careful preparation to be of value. Lots of common ground factors can be given to create a genial atmosphere.
- Dialogue: The art of learning how to talk or carry on effective discussions with people of other faiths.
One needs to be a good listener not just a 'talker'. Good dialogue does not mean a surrender of positions, or syncretism. Set out the purposes of the dialogue: is it to raise questions? Is it for learning and sharing information? Is it for persuasion and hope of conversion? Is conversion disallowed. Needs good preparation.
e Friendship evangelism: There is not just one method, which is right or superior, and the other being of inferior quality. Rather there are as many ways as there are situations which need specific attention. Even though many acknowledge the proceeding statement, many still advocate that friendship evangelism is the only one which should be used with Muslims. This is a relational approach or personal one: working one-to-one mostly (or with one family), not a group setting, building up a relationship, rather than a chance meeting with a stranger, spending time with them in various activities, not just preaching the Gospel to them. Genuine care and interest is shown to one another. You are good friends in the full sense of the word. In natural and everyday scenes you will be living out your Christian life before you friend. There will be exchanges in conversation where you will express Christian truths, pray with your friend and they will be observing you practising the faith (fasting, celebrating Easter). On some occasions a confrontation encounter may occur as difficult question are asked, but a good friends knows how to disagree in the appropriate manner. Friendship is not an easy method nor a way to avoid problems you perceive the other methods entail. Love is costly and includes pain. This method has often be spoke of as the 'incarnational approach', being like Christ who humbled himself, becoming a man, a slave and died for us that we might live. You can not programme when you will share, and when they will want to be with you, friends do not live by appointments. You need to listen and be sensitive to your friends needs and beliefs.
- Whole life..means your message and life must be one.
- in reality you may use several methods in your friendship, teaching, telling stories, listening, dialogue or a one to one debate on some issue...
- unlimited time and not controllable, can be stressful, and also strong emotional attachment
- everyone can do this method.
- Contextual: The word was coined in 1973-1974 to denote the social and cultural dimensions of a scripture text or religious situation.
The idea arose out a concern to avoid objectional factors or conflict over issues which in reality could be said to be non-essential and fit in the category of cultural issues. In other words there was no Biblical foundation for claiming that these issues were Biblical commands of behaviour (ie the mode of prayer:- standing to pray, sitting kneeling, or falling face down on the ground). Likewise, in this category would be the mode of worship, sermon styles, music, or the dress codes of the pastor or people. The aim is to communicate the Gospel in the idiom and language and culture of the receivers/hearers, and not to expect the hearers to become like the communicants to receive it. (To become British or Western to be a Christian).
- Which method suits you, or with which one are you more comfortable?
- Is the confrontation method acceptable or is friendship evangelism preferable?
- Explain your answer
- How do you make relationships with Muslims?
Are the above Biblical? A look at Paul's Methods:
HOW SHOULD WE WITNESS?
- Paul contextualized : Acts 13: 13-15; 14:14-18; 17: 22-31
- Paul Confronted: Acts17: 17; 19:8-9;; 13:46; 18:28; 2 Cor.5:11; 10:5
- Paul Preached the Gospel: Rom 1: 16; 15: 20; 1 Cor 1:23;
- Paul had results: Acts 17:4, 11:34; 13:32; 17:32; 18:6;
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
- Know the Gospel well. What are the basic things a person must know to become a Christian?
- Know how to use the Bible to share this message of the Gospel. Which stories and passages teach the above truths
- Use a Story: (most of the world learns orally, from story, poems, proverbs, and can reproduce what they learn in this manner.)
- Ask Questions: help people discover the truth. This is more powerful them telling them the answers.
- Use your story, your testimony..a current one
- Always employ prayer.. for them, and with them, if possible.
- Use comparative studies: the Bible and the Qur'an, or topics like fasting, prayer, forgiveness,..
This is a spiritual battle as well, thus we need to be equipped to face it.
- Break down the barriers which exist between the Muslims and Christians and bridge with them where possible.
This can be done by:
- Incarnational Life-style:
Move into Muslim areas, and open ourselves up to the Muslim community.
Be careful to:
- Respect cultural sensitivities with respect to alcohol, pork and 'halal' food.
- Handle the Qur'an (and the Bible!) with real respect in a Muslim's presence.
- Be aware of ritual observances (especially prayer, fasting at Ramadan and hand-washing etc)
- Be discrete in cross-gender relations (touching, dressing, witnessing etc) Refrain from eating pork or drinking liquor in their presence. Let our children go to their schools. These will open doors for us.
Go to schools, (i.e. SOAS or Ealing), learn about Islam, from their perspective, make contacts with Muslim students, obtain credibility, and gain access.
-Learn Arabic, and brush up on Urdu, Bengali, or Hindi, to not only communicate, but be able to refer to the Qur'an directly during discussions. This helps to show them that we care, as we take the time and energy to understand them at their deepest level of communication.
Attend their meetings on campus, to find out what they think, hear their agenda, so that we can talk to them more intelligently, and better communicate the gospel within a context that they know.
-In witnessing it is wise not to initially attack Muhammad or the Qur'an directly (although in time this will be necessary at least by implication). We should also resist the temptation to 'be nice', as Europeans interpret it (Jesus wasn't!). When we are afraid to show passion or emotion in defending what we believe Muslims may interpret it as lack of conviction!
Most fundamentally we need to know why we believe in the divinity of Christ and the resurrection and be able back it up biblically. To do that we need to:
- establishing common ground first; by asking questions and listening to the answers.
- pray with Muslims (that God will reveal the truth) & constantly in prayer ourselves.
- read the Bible together (Genesis, Proverbs, Luke); if need be read the Qur'an in return.
- Verbal testimony of answered prayer or of 'power encounter' with God.
- support converts; spiritually, physically, materially and emotionally.(1 Thes 2:8).
Help the Muslims with legal assistance, conveying information, tutoring in English, correspondence courses, assist in finding jobs, and relief for the poor (showing the love of Christ in practical ways). Certain Muslim groups tend to have high unemployment rates, particularly among the first and second generation immigrants. The 1991 census shows that for Pakistanis the rate was 28.8%, for Bangladeshis it was 31.7%, compared with 8.8% for whites.
'Be all things to all men'
Although the Gospel never changes our context does. Muslims are not a homogeneous group so our approach must not be stereotyped.
- Nominal: like the woman of Samaria, worshipping God 'not in spirit or in truth' (Jn 4)
- Orthodox: Others are highly moral like the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30)
- Fundamentalists: While some are hypocrites like the pharisees (Mark 7:1-23)
- Seekers: There are genuine searchers like Cornelius (Acts 10)
- Talibes: The majority are lost like the people in the crowd (Mark 9:36).
Jesus responded to each differently and so should we. Never 'Either/Or' but 'Both/And'. This may be challenging; often it is we who are the barrier to Muslims hearing the Gospel. We may need to change first.
Dialogue and Proclamation (again, not "either/or" but "both/and")
It is not good enough to simply depend on "lifestyle evangelism," as many of them do it better then us. We need to tell people the good news (like Jesus and Paul). "And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Romans 10:14).
Through the contacts made at school and in the community (literature distribution, Leicester Square, Speakers corner etc...), get into mosques, Qur'anic schools, and Islamic centres, or Muslim student meetings to set up dialogues and discussions.
The Islamic studies will give a good background, as well as credibility, and hopefully, the trust needed for this type of ministry. From these contacts, try to set up times of Bible Study in the Muslims home, or in a neutral area.
Since 50% of Muslims are now born within Britain, the trend towards the indigenisation of Islam in Britain will grow, which means that potentially Islam can and will be penetrated by traditional British cultural values (i.e. Judeo-Christian values, as well as modernizing Western Humanistic values) to which Islam has no response.
- Be nice. Instead be firm and resolute. (incarnational presentation)
- Don't attack the "book" or the "man" (whose agenda do we use?)
What do the scriptures say?:
Matt. 23:13-33 "hypocrites, blind guides (blind fools, blind men), white-washed tombs,
snakes, brood of vipers
Acts 17 Paul in Athens, at the Areopagus
Acts 19 Paul in Ephesus, 3 months in the Synagogue, then 2 years, discussing daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.
Need to be 'Passionate, Confident, and Forthright'
Bring Muslim contacts or converts into an existing churches.
- From these contacts, try to set up times of Bible Study in the home, or in a neutral area.
- Ultimately, with those who are regularly in Bible studies, it is hopeful that one could set up a worship service, in the home, or with another church. This meeting can be the foundation for a church made up of Muslim converts, and other stronger and more mature Christians, who can give it body, while helping the new converts to be discipled. Experience from some of the Arab-convert churches in London has shown us that it is advisable to bring new converts to Christ to an existing church; one which already has international people who worship there. By doing this the Muslim can be integrated into an existing body of believers, who would have the maturity and understanding to cope with the unique problems which Muslim converts face.
Get on the Internet:
200 Muslim web-sites versus only 15 Christian web-sites.
Newsgroup: MCD on the Debate site; and soc.religion.islam; alt.religion.islam
Future Missionary Service:
- Summer cross-cultural programs.
- Medical Internship overseas (medical electives: see Sandra or Peter at CMF).
- Short-Term volunteer assignments.
- Long-Term Career assignments (O.M., AWM, FRONTIERS, WEC, INTERSERVE, YWAM, and many others).