Micah Fries, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Keith Whitfield, associate professor of Christian theology, dean of graduate studies, and vice president for academic administration at Southeastern Baptist Theology Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, have put together a new book to address this important question: “How should Christians respond to the growing muslim population in the United States?“
Islam and North America: Loving our Muslim Neighbors is a collaborative effort, bringing together some of the leading Evangelical missiologists to guide Christian leaders and lay-people to live missionally and relate well to those God brings into their lives. The book was written to equip North American Christians to think about Islam theologically and missionally, engage their Muslim neighbors hospitably, and encourage readers to find new opportunities for missional engagement in their own backyards.
At the CGCS, we have the privilege to chat with Micah and Keith about their new book:
Thanks guys for taking the time to talk with us about this new resource.
1. Why did you put together this book at this time?
We are at a unique time in history. Islam is growing in the US and around the world, while at the same time American sentiments toward Muslims are often negative. The result is that many in the church have little or no relationship with Muslims. This is tragic because God has created them, loves them and wants them to know his gospel. We put this book together to assist Christians and churches to better love the Muslims around them, and especially to help them better know how to introduce Muslims to Jesus Christ.Many in the church have little or no relationship with Muslims. This is tragic because God has created them, loves them and wants them to know his gospel. Click To Tweet
2. What do you hope people to take away from this book? How do you envision this book being used—by individuals or in group settings?
This book is both robust in that it could be used in an academic setting, and readable enough to be tackled by laypeople. We hope this book informs and shapes our engagement in our community. Most of all, we hope this book clarifies beliefs which lead to more Christ-like behavior toward Muslims in our communities and neighborhoods.
3. In putting this book together, what surprised you or what did you learn about Islam and North America?
I think one of the most surprising pieces of information was related to the growth of Islam. While it is true that Islam is growing in America, it is also true that the growth is almost entirely due to birth rate and immigration. The conversion growth of Islam is net 0. In other words, as many people in America are leaving Islam as there are converting to Islam. Further, the percentage of Muslims in America was surprising. The Muslim population in America is only 1%. I think most Americans are under the impression that it is much larger.
4. What are some the biggest challenges or obstacles for people to overcome in engaging Muslims in North America?
The biggest challenge is fear and a lack of relationship. People are scared of Muslims, or possibly even angry with them, and they aren’t in any sort of tangible relationship with their Muslim neighbors.The biggest challenge in engaging Muslims with the gospel is fear and a lack of relationship. People are scared of Muslims, or possibly even angry with them, and they aren’t in any sort of tangible relationship with their Muslim neighbors. Click To Tweet
5. From your perspective, what are people most confused about when it comes to understanding Islam?
As we previously said, I think the growth rate and size of American Islam is one area of confusion. I think the other area is related to the belief and practice of most Muslims. American Christians need to understand that while radical Islam is a problem, it’s a small minority of Muslims in America. The vast majority of Muslim Americans want the same things anyone else wants, and wishes to be a good citizen who serves their community and their nation.
6. If someone wasn’t going to read the entire book, what are 2 chapters you recommend as a starting point?
Micah: I would recommend that they read Afshin Ziafat’s chapter, “The Gospel: How do we discuss faith with a Muslim?,” and Ed Stetzer’s chapter, “The Multi-Faith Challenge: How Christians should live in an increasingly multi-faith world.”
Keith: I would recommend that they read Micah Fries’s chapter, “Discovering the Missional Opportunity,” and Ant Greenham’s chapter, “Muslims and the Great Commission: The Important of Community.”