The Opportunities Facing the Church Today


1. An Opportunity for the Whole Church to Become Involved.

Until the emigration of Muslims to the West it was necessary to train and prepare individual missionaries for full -time service among Muslims in foreign lands. Efforts have been made to spread Christian influence through "tent- making" ministries where doctors, nurses, construction- workers and others in normal secular employment in Muslim countries become involved in evangelising Muslims they chance to meet in their labours. To this day, however, it is still the general rule that missionaries have to be sent out, one by one, into full-time service in Muslim countries.

It would obviously be preferable to have the whole Church involved in such a ministry. It is extremely difficult for a handful of missionaries to make a serious impact on Muslim communities numbering hundreds of thousands. After surveying the extent of Christian missions throughout the Muslim world a Christian writer was led to conclude:

This perspective was written in 1942 shortly before the exodus of Muslims to the West. Despite its ideals, however, Christians generally can only pray for those working in Muslim lands and do all they can financially to support them. Further than this there is little more they can do to fulfil the call Addison makes to the whole Church.

Now, however, this very vision which he expressed has become a real possibility throughout the West. The whole might of the Christian Church can be marshalled behind a broadly-based outreach to the Muslims in our midst. It is quite unnecessary, indeed it would be shortsighted, to leave the evangelisation of Westernised Muslims to a few specially- trained missionaries. An opportunity has arisen for Christians generally - even if they are only ordinary, average church members - to assume the burden of reaching Muslims for Christ. A time has come when large numbers of Christians can engage in direct witness to Muslim men and women.

It has become possible for thousands of Christians to witness to Muslims, to establish contacts, and to pursue them over a long period of time. No lengthy period of training is required to send out a strong lay-force among the Muslims who have become our neighbours. We do need to say that a reasonably sound knowledge of Islam will be required by anyone seeking to venture out among Muslims anywhere in the world as well as some training in communicating the Gospel effectively to them and an ability to answer their common objections. To that end this book and its companion volume Muhammad and the Religion of Islam have been written. Nevertheless no extended formal training is required for large numbers of Christians to reach Muslims in the West. The door is open for a widespread, sustained effort on the part of the whole Church to reach Muslims for Christ. An experienced missionary among Muslims wisely observes:

What has hitherto seemed impossible has, in a generation, become an obvious possibility - I venture to say timely necessity - namely, the evangelisation of Muslims by Christians generally in a broadly-based movement.

Christians today are meeting Muslims in all walks of life. Some play in the same teams on the sports field. Others work side by side in offices and factories. Yet others have Muslim patients in hospitals. Many have Muslim neighbours. After speaking at a church recently on the opportunities which we have in consequence to reach Muslims in a way till now virtually impossible, one of the congregation told me that he had been commissioned as an architect to design a local madressa and that he had been invited to lunch with the local imams. On another occasion a Muslim contact was referred to me by a Christian who had become involved in religious conversation with him during an overnight flight from Europe to South Africa. People everywhere tell of one or other form of contact with Muslims and express their awareness of the remarkable opportunities before us at this time to reach the Muslims of the West who now live in a predominantly Christian environment.

I go further to declare that it is not only possible for Christians generally to become involved in this work but that I believe they have better prospects of success than missionaries who work full-time reaching a large number of Muslims with the Gospel. We believe that the effective evangelisation of the Muslims in our midst is chiefly reserved to the average Christian who, apart from being instructed in the basic tenets of Muslim doctrine and inter- faith Christian evangelism, need not be extensively trained for such a task. The key lies in the kind of ministry we envisage which I shall treat here briefly and expand in more detail in the following chapter.

2. Friendship Evangelism among Muslims in the West.

Most converts from Islam to Christianity in South Africa tell of individual Christians who led them to Christ through various forms of love and personal interest in and concern for their welfare. One told me of a Christian woman she had stayed with for some time who looked after her, befriended her, and did everything she could to help her. At the end of her stay the young Muslim woman left the house declaring she hated her and was tired of hearing about Jesus Christ and his love for men and women. "I could not forget her compassion and sincere concern for me", she later testified however, and it was not long before she too became a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. A Christian she has been for many years now, but she always attributes the chief influence in her conversion experience to the friendship, love and acceptance she enjoyed from that one simple Christian woman.

That woman had never studied at a bible college and probably had only an elementary knowledge of both Islam and her own Christian faith. Yet she was able to lead a Muslim to Christ through her love, companionship and patience with her. We believe that the door has been flung wide open for thousands of Christians to do likewise.

Friendship evangelism is an all-embracing form of witness in which Christians are able to express their testimony in a comprehensive way. Not only can they spread the "good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8.12) over a sustained period of time to Muslims who become their friends but they can also share in their needs, fears, hopes, joys and sorrows and contribute to their welfare. It is our conviction and experience that it is through such caring and compassion that many Muslims are led to become partakers of the same grace they behold in these Christians who are ready to go out of their way to befriend them and meet them in their needs.

There are many times when Muslims, as a small minority in a Christian environment, will need the special kind of help that Christians, as members of the dominant society, alone can give. There will be numerous opportunities in the coming years in the West for Christians to establish friendships with Muslims and reveal to them the fulness of God's love in Christ. Christianity is not just the proclamation of the Gospel, though we freely acknowledge that this is the foremost expression of Christian witness and service. Christianity is also the expression of social care, love and concern towards a needy world. Jesus not only went about "teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom" but he also spent much time "healing every disease and every infirmity" (Matthew 9.35).

We advocate friendship evangelism as the ideal form of ministry to Muslims in the West. It takes in the whole man, both in his spiritual and in his material needs. It enables Christians not only to proclaim their faith but also to manifest it. It is a ministry in which all Christians can share and we are persuaded that the effective evangelisation of the Muslims in our midst rests in the hands, not of individual missionaries endeavouring to reach thousands of people in a constant battle against seemingly insurmountable odds, but of Christians generally, even though they may only reach one or two Muslims over a long period of time. This in our view is the supreme opportunity that has been laid before the Church at this time.

Language barriers are breaking down, cultural gaps are being bridged, Muslims are becoming our neighbours, and the doors are being thrust open for us to reach them in a way until recently thought to be most improbable. Large numbers of Christians can now become involved in reaching Muslims for Christ and circumstances have made it possible for a highly comprehensive ministry to be exercised among them. If the' Church is willing to recognise the opportunity God has graciously bestowed on it and if Christians will assume the burden of befriending and evangelising the Muslims they are now beginning to meet in all walks of life in the West, we will perhaps see a work of the Holy Spirit in Muslim hearts and a turning to faith in Jesus Christ such as, till now, was hardly thought possible.

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