You have a Muslim neighbor.
You may think you don’t. He may be across town, or she may live on your street. In recent posts, I pointed out the overwhelming arrival of the nations to the United States. Like I said, chances are you have a Muslim neighbor, and if there was ever a time to meet them, it is now.
On Monday, we shared some important things to know about Ramadan. Today, let’s look at some key things you can do during Ramadan.
Indeed, Ramadan is a time when the Islamic community in your area becomes more active. They have events and share meals (at night of course, because they fast during the day) and, in many ways, are more visible than other times of the year. Now is your opportunity to meet that Muslim neighbor.
Ramadan is an excellent time to pray for Muslims; however, it is also a good time to engage Muslims with the gospel. Perhaps more than any other time of the year, practicing Muslims are concerning themselves with matters of spiritual importance.
Do not take my word for it though, Trevin Wax asked Thabiti Anyabwile, a former Muslim turned pastor, about this very issue. In 2010, Thabiti released a book called, The Gospel for Muslims, in which he points out that you need to be reaching your Muslims neighbors.
Trevin interviewed Thabiti shortly after the book was published, and in that interview, he provided some important insight.
The Lord drew me out of Islam… he allowed me to see the inconsistencies of Islam on it’s own terms. That began one Ramadan, when I rose early for prayer and to begin the fast… I was suddenly aware of the many inconsistent claims of Islam. That began a period of further study and questions, at the end of which I was sure that Islam was not consistent in its claims. (My emphaisis).
For Thabiti, Ramadan was a key time of spiritual awakening. It may be the same for your Muslim neighbor, and God may have plans to use you to begin such a moment. Thabiti goes on to challenge his readers,
If we are are Gospel-believing Christians, with even a basic understanding of the ‘good news,’ then we know all that we need to know in order to effectively reach our Muslim neighbors and friends. The power of God is not in our wisdom or in our techniques; those things threaten to empty the cross of its power.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you must know something special or be a professional missionary in order to share Christ with Muslims. Muslims need the same gospel you do, and if you have that message, then you have all they need.
Ramadan is a good time to pray for God to work.
Muslims the world over are using this time to focus on their spiritual life. In many parts of the world, cultural oppression and persecution appear to wall off the gospel from the masses. In other parts of the world, God is bringing a spiritual awakening to Muslim peoples. We can pray and pray often that God uses this time to reveal the truth of the gospel to the Muslim world.
Ramadan is a good time to practice hospitality toward muslims.
However, muslims are not just “over there.” Odds are, practicing muslims are in your community. They work with you, or live down the street from you, and their children attend school with yours. As a follower of Christ, you have a great commission responsibility to reach out to these “strangers who sojourn in your land.”
Use this as a time to find and meet the Muslim members of your community. Just keep your eyes open and ask around, you will soon find out that you have opportunities to befriend these neighbors. Hospitality is a high cultural value to most from the Muslim world. And truly, Jesus had a lot to say about the matter in the gospels. Open your home to your Muslim neighbor. Invite them over for dinner or conversation, of course, being sensitive to their fast during Ramadan. There are some terrifying statistics out there about the tiny number of international residents who get invited into an American home. Play against that and embrace the clear Christian mandate to be welcoming to the stranger in your land.
Ramadan is a good time to ask the right questions.
Remember, a Muslim who truly practices Ramadan will already be thinking on spiritual matters. Often, this is the time to ask the right questions. Do not feel the need to construct some “air-tight” argument that you plan to present once you have them over. The gospel can defend itself. Instead, begin by asking the right questions. Show your interest in their thoughts about God, revelation, sin, grace and and salvation. More importantly, let them answer. Hear what they have to say, and discover how that will lead you to share the truths of the gospel in return.
Avoid Bible ping-pong. It is easy to get in a quid-pro-quo, back-and-forth argument about theological facts. Those are rarely helpful. Yes, they do believe Jesus is not God, and Jesus was never crucified, and they disavow a resurrection, and they think that your Bible is corrupt. However, a convert is rarely won by your winsome ability to lay down the facts. Lostness is not simply an side-effect of being misinformed. Lostness is a spiritual condition.
Remember that Islam is not a monolith. Everyone who claims Islam does not believe the exact same thing. Sure, they all confess “there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet,” but that doesn’t mean all are radical or even well-versed in what they believe. Many (if not most) are nominal in their faith, just like so many who claim Christianity. The only way to know what your new Muslim friend believes is to ask him or her.
Finally, try to avoid the Christian jargon. I said it earlier. The gospel can defend itself, and it will most likely offend a Muslim. However, we must be clear in presenting the truth. Avoid the ping-pong, but do not apologize for the truths of the gospel. Present them clearly, because they are the words of life. Lose the extra-biblical terms. Most likely, a Muslim is not going to know what your “quiet time” is and they are not going to understand what it means to “ask Jesus into their heart.” Remember, they didn’t grow up in church.
Below is a great summary by Thabiti on the topic. Check it out.
Keelan leads the Peoples Next Door project and is a Senior Church Consultant with the Union Baptist Association in Houston, TX. He is working on a PhD in Missiology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In previous years, he spent time as a church planter in West Africa with the IMB and doing ethno-graphic research in Washington, DC with NAMB.