See Samuel Green’s first post here.
I was in a taxi and my driver was a Muslim, and I wanted to share the gospel with him. You may have been in this situation, or you may have a Muslim friend, family member, or work colleague. Where do we start?
In my last article, I showed how Christianity is a major subject in the Qurán and that Islam prepares Muslims to respond to Christian realities such as the cross, the incarnation, the Trinity, how to read the Bible; it teaches them how to talk about romantic and social relations between Christians and Muslims. I also explained how these preparations present a significant challenge for the church, but also a great opportunity because Muslims are meant to learn about Christianity. My suggestion was, that to start a gospel conversation simply requires asking a Muslim what they have heard about Christianity and listening to them.
But after listening, what do you do next? My next suggestion is that after listening say, “Can I show you one thing about Christianity?” If they say yes then say, “I would like to show you what books are in the Bible.”
Introducing the Gospel
In Acts 17, we see the apostle Paul introduce the gospel to different people in different ways. When he was in the synagogue, he started with the Old Testament and then proceeded to the gospel. However, when he was in Athens, he started talking about their “altar to an unknown god” (v23) and then proceeded to the gospel. That is, Paul introduced the one gospel differently to different groups. My question is, how would Paul introduce the gospel to Muslims?
Paul introduced the one gospel differently to different groups. How would he introduce the gospel to Muslims?
Its not hard to see what Paul is doing; he is starting with the religious background of each group and using some aspect of it to introduce the gospel. So, what aspect of the Islamic background should we consider? I believe there are two key Muslim beliefs that we might begin with:
1. Believe the Prophets
Muslims are taught that they believe all the prophets. You may have heard a Muslim say, “We believe in Jesus and all of the prophets. You cannot be a Muslim unless you believe in all the prophets.” What is the effect of this belief? For some Muslims, it makes them open to considering the gospel, but for the majority, it actually stops them from listening to Christians: they think there is no need to listen because they already believe in Jesus.
2. Mistrust the Bible
Muslims are often taught that the Bible has been changed. This is not what the Qur’an teaches, but it is what Muslims are commonly taught. This belief hinders our evangelism greatly because we proclaim the gospel from the Bible.
What do these two beliefs mean for how we introduce the gospel to Muslims? It means we have to introduce the gospel in such a way that it shows Muslims they do not believe all the prophets; and we need to make the Bible intriguing and surprising to them, so they will reconsider what they have been taught about it. It turns out that it is easy to do this, because while Muslims say they believe all the prophets they don’t; they believe one man, Muhammad and what he says about the prophets.
Islam is the religion of one man telling you what to believe about the prophets.
Consider the Qur’an. The Qur’an is a record of what Muhammad recited and claimed came from an angel sent from God. That is, the Qur’an is one man and what he says about the prophets. When Muslims say they believe in Moses, David, Job, Jonah, Jesus, etc., what they mean is, they believe everything Muhammad said about these prophets. Islam is the religion of one man telling you what to believe about the prophets. It is the same as the Bahai religion; the Bahai too believe in all the prophets. You cannot be a Bahai unless you believe in Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, etc. but Bahai only believe what their prophet, Baha’u’llah says about these prophets. Muhammad takes Muslims away from reading the prophets and commands them to just believe what he says about them.
What about Christianity? Christianity is nothing like Islam; consider the Bible. The Bible is not one book but a collection of many books from many prophets over about 1500 years. Christians do not have one man taking us away from these books and then telling us what they mean, instead we have Jesus and his apostles commanding us to read the books of the prophets. Christians are the ones who truly believe all the prophets because we have them in our Bible and read them.
How can you show a Muslim they do not believe all the prophets? Let your first Bible study be on the table of contents. Name the prophet and then show their book. Start with names they may know, like Moses, David, Job, and Jonah, then do some prophets they do not know, such as Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, etc. Explain how Christians believe and read all the prophets and how the Bible and Qur’an are very different. Take your time with this and make sure they acknowledge the point. It is a huge thing for a Muslim to see that it is Christians (rather than they themselves) who believe all the prophets. After this, you can invite them to read the Bible with you. I like to start with Matthew.
If they acknowledge that the Bible has all these prophets but say they are corrupt, respond that that is another question. The point remains. Islam is based on one man telling you what to believe about the prophets whereas Christians read the prophets themselves.
My experience has been that when Muslims learn what is in the Bible they find it surprising and interesting, and this makes them a little more open to reading it. Similarly, when Christians understanding that Islam is just one man telling you what to believe about the prophets, they are not deceived by the claim that Muslims believe all the prophets.
In summary: to start a gospel conversation you can ask a Muslim what they have been taught about Christianity and listen to them. Then ask if you can show what books are in the Bible and explain the difference between the Bible and Qur’an. Then invite them to read a gospel.