A recent TGCA interview with Ben, a gospel worker who is seeking to reach Muslims with the gospel in Sydney.
TGCA: You’re an Aussie family working to reach Muslims here in Sydney. What made you want to do that?
I did a ministry apprenticeship in an area of Sydney where there seem to be lots of Roman Catholics. We’d go door knocking and get “no thanks, I’m Catholic” at virtually every door. In my last year of Bible college, I visited a suburb with lots of Muslim residents. When I knocked on doors there, said I was from the local church, and that I was looking for people who want to speak about Jesus, I was invited in for a meal and two hours of discussion! I thought to myself, this ministry is a racket and I have to get in on it.
I was invited in for a meal and two hours of discussion! With a Muslim, you can get to Jesus inside of about five minutes. Muslims love Jesus, and love talking about him.
I find it pretty difficult to talk about Jesus with Anglo Aussies like me. It can be hard to get there, and hard to know where to go when you arrive. With a Muslim, you can get to Jesus inside of about five minutes. Muslims love Jesus, and love talking about him. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve been told by a Muslim bloke that he loves Jesus more than I do! After you get over the shock of that, you can have a solid conversation about who Jesus is.
TGCA: What are the challenges in reaching Muslims in Australia?
The major challenge to reaching Muslims with the gospel in Australia is our own Christian wrong thinking. Two issues, then…
First off: clergy-dependant thinking. Many Christians functionally believe that the minister or pastor in the church is the evangelist, and that the role of congregation members is to invite people to church. If we bring people in, then the professional can go to work. I’m sure your minister or pastor, like mine, wants you to invite people from the community to come to church, but the vast majority of Muslims are not able to come to church. They may be curious—many are—but there are lots of obstacles. And if church is the place where they hear the gospel, they simply won’t hear it.
I serve full-time in prayerfully seeking ways to bring the story of the gospel into the lives of Muslims, and I still often think, “Now, if only I could get this guy to church”! That’s just craziness. You don’t have to be a pastor, or an expert in the Qur’an or whatever. You know your Lord. And he has brought you to the Muslim people around you.
Second: by global standards, many Aussies tend to be quite private people. It’s one of the downsides of being individualistic. And we’ve also been well-trained by our society to be private about our faith. I live in the postcode with the highest percentage of Muslims of any Australian suburb, and I don’t feel pressure here to hide my faith. What does that tell you? For Muslims to come to faith, we must be willing to share our lives and our belief and practice with them, outside church. A few days ago I spent some time in a Christian home with a young Muslim guy from a “very Muslim country”, and he couldn’t stop talking about the joy of this Christian family. They were talking about “religion,” and they were happy!
In my opinion, the more time followers of Christ spend with Muslim people, the better, to the glory of God. We’ve each been gifted in different ways, so…
- One person will visit a Muslim friend for coffee and listen as she talks about her family difficulties, offering to pray for her in the name of the one who brings our prayers and requests to God.
- Another will hand a printed card to a workmate with a verse from the Scriptures on it, perhaps Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary…” That workmate accepts it as a beautiful verse of Scripture from the lips of Jesus, and pins it above his desk.
- Another will have his Muslim neighbours over for a BBQ, taking care to serve appropriate food (by asking), so the kids can play together and they can talk about the joys and difficulties of their lives and how God is working. Recently I’ve been convicted by God that “love your neighbour” means you should love your (actual) neighbour. Who’d have thought?
I was speaking to one young woman the other day who lives opposite a park in Mt Druitt. She rubbed her hands together as we talked, and said, “It’s Park Season!” During Summer, she gets out in the park in the evening and chats with all the Muslim women sitting around together. She tells them all about the Jesus she follows, and shows them the joy she has in believing. None of these Muslim women have any other kind of friendship with a follower of Christ.
Here’s the punchline: Jesus didn’t say, “Be the light of the world,” he said, “You are the light of the world, so let your light shine!”
TGCA: What are the opportunities that Christians have in reaching Muslims?
I’m not sure what this question means. Does it mean, where are the Muslims? Mostly in state capitals, in less wealthy areas. Come and join us!
Or does it mean what do we have going for us as we share our lives and faith with Muslims? We have tons going for us. Muslims believe in one God, the creator of the world, the biblical prophets, Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist etc. They believe in judgment, heaven and hell, the Scriptures.
There are lots of complications to all this, of course—“sin” doesn’t mean the same thing, for example—but this is a huge amount to work with. Best of all, we have Jesus, our greatest asset. He’s stellar. And if someone really isn’t interested in knowing who Jesus truly is, that’s okay. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. One sows, another waters, another loves and serves as the image of Christ … God gives the growth.
TGCA: Many Christians (and Australians more widely) are ambivalent toward Muslims in our society. What would you say in response to these concerns?
Politics, terrorism, Sharia law, the hijab, halal meat, wars in Syria and Iraq—I’m trying to write a list of the things that confuse or complicate the relationship with Muslims. They’re important issues, but they’re also things Satan will use to stop you sharing the gospel of Christ with Muslim people. He will distract you, make you afraid, and throw dust in the air. Are Muslim people in need of salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus? Yes. Yes, they are. On we go, then. At some point in the discipleship of believers in Christ from Muslim background, we have to help them work through some of these things. But let’s be clear about what’s important.
TGCA: What are some things Christians need to remember as they share the gospel with Muslims?
Remember what you believe. Be convicted and clear in the way you speak about your trust in Christ. This doesn’t mean threatening, or competitive, or defensive. Just settled. Settled that you know who you are, and you know the One who saved you.
Remember to love them. All human beings are wired by God to give and receive love. It’s basic to us. Like many people in the world, many Muslims have not received as much love as they should have.
Remember to love them. All human beings are wired by God to give and receive love. It’s basic to us. Like many people in the world, many Muslims have not received as much love as they should have. Love them, feebly, if you have to (I have loved many Muslims feebly), but love them. Have compassion on them, as Jesus did when he saw the people like sheep without a shepherd.
And remember to pray for them. Only God has the keys to the hearts of human beings. He rejoices as we lift our Muslim friends and neighbours to him in prayer. Ask that he would deliver them from illness or spiritual opposition, convict them of their sin, point them to himself through dreams, open their hearts to Christian friends, convince them of the truths of the Scriptures.
Pray that he would lift the veil, so they can see the glory of God in the face of Christ, just as we have. Then go with God and invite yourself over to a Muslim friend’s home.
Ben works in south-west Sydney, sharing Christ with Muslim people, discipling believers from Muslim background and training others to do the same.