Christians need to offer a “correct biblical response” to Muslims, said Randy Hoffmann. And that response is not to burn copies of the Koran as Florida pastor Terry Jones threatened to do.
Jones’s militant attitude is “inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible and the spirit of Christian ministry”, said a September 10 statement by the Canadian Network of Ministries to Muslims (CNMM), which Hoffmann chairs. cnmm.ca
We should “love and respect Muslims as human beings,” Hoffmann told CC.com. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t share the gospel with them.” Jesus is the only way to God, he added, and “if we really love them, we will want our Muslim neighbours to come to Jesus Christ” and not end up in hell.
When Jesus did his Galilee ministry in Mark 6-8 and ventured into pagan, non-Jewish territory, he treated everyone with respect, Hoffmann noted – but he also preached the same message wherever he went, no matter what the local language or religion was.
In Acts 2, Peter also answered “in a respectful way” when he responded to charges that the followers of Jesus were drunk, Hoffmann said. Paul also spoke the truth in a respectful way on his missionary journeys.
“A lot of Christians don’t understand the words of Christ to love the enemy and turn the other cheek,” said Faheem Moini, a pastor in the Vancouver area. People like Jones “do not understand Christianity or who Jesus is” if they “hate the people they should love.” If we are real Christians, we may hate Satan, but we will “love Muslims, not hate them,” he added. Moini pointed to Ephesians 6, which says that “our fight is spiritual, not against flesh and blood.”
Hoffmann agreed: “We wage spiritual warfare through prayer and love.”
Moini understands this from personal experience. “The reason I am a Christian is because a Christian missionary showed me the love of Christ,” he said. At the time, Moini was working for the Pakistani secret service spying on Christians. He now leads Calvary Persian Church in Coquitlam, B.C.
Terry Jones is not alone in taking the wrong approach to Muslims, Hoffmann said. He can cite numerous examples here in Canada. In one church, a leader came up to a Muslim man who had attended church a few times and demanded to know if he was interested in coming to Christ. “If not,” he added, “we don’t want you here.”
A leader in another church was so angry that he stated, “The best place for Muslims is to go to hell.”
Christians need to “speak the truth in love,” Hoffmann said, and destroying books or monuments is not speaking the truth in love.
Satan seeks to influence people through their emotions, Hoffmann stated. So, Satan tries to “provoke Christians into responding in a non-Christlike way” – by being so angry about the destruction of the World Trade Centre that they stop witnessing to Muslims, for instance.
When Christians respond inappropriately, it just feeds Muslims’ anger, Moini said. He added that Muslims don’t understand Christianity – Muslims in the Middle East associate everything done in the West, from Hollywood movies to gay marriage, with Christianity – and inappropriate actions just add to the misunderstanding.
Christians may still face persecution even if they do everything right, just as Paul faced persecution in the book of Acts, Moini said, but they should at least not make the situation worse.
The problem with Christians who react inappropriately to Muslims is that they don’t understand the gospel but they also don’t understand Muslims, Moini said. “Muslims are people who are ready to die for God but don’t know him. We need to show them who God is. We have to bring them the real face of Christianity,” he added. “The love of God is something that Muslims are looking for.”
Muslims are not all the same and have different backgrounds,” Moini continued. For instance, only Arabs are able to read the Koran, which is in Arabic. Other Muslims recite the Koran, but don’t necessarily understand it. Muslims are also divided into Sunni and Shia branches, and it is primarily the Wahabi group within the Sunni branch that is most militant.
These differences affect the way Christians can approach Muslims, Moini said. A DVD on the life of Mary Magdalene has been effective in reaching Iranian Muslims, but not very effective in reaching Muslims from an Arab background, who are less willing to learn from a woman.
A mission field
Witnessing to Muslims is becoming even more important because of the current influx of Muslims into Canada. There are now 1 million Muslims in Canada, Hoffmann said, and because Muslims now make up just over half of the immigrants coming to Canada, that number is expected to double in the next seven to ten years. There are 120,000 Muslims in Greater Vancouver and 175,000 in Montreal. Toronto is already ten percent Muslim, and mosques are springing up in towns all across Canada.
The influx is due to the fact that Muslims now make up a majority of the world’s refugees, and Muslims are fleeing the violence and economic instability in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Sudan and Algeria.
Muslim immigrants are the “least reached people group in Canada,” Hoffmann said.
This means that Christians should approach Muslims with love and respect but also with boldness, Hoffmann continued. “The body of Christ should not be intimidated by Islam. In Acts, God gave Christians boldness to share the gospel of Christ even in the face of negative reactions.” Christians should see the influx of Muslims not as a threat but as “an opportunity to fulfill the great Commission. God is bringing them to our doorstep.”
There are two reasons Christians in Canada don’t evangelize Muslims, Moini suggested. One is that they don’t know Muslims or how to reach them, and the other is that they “don’t trust Jesus.” Christians may think it is impossible to convert Muslims, but they should know that “Jesus can make the impossible possible.”
The Muslims who come to Canada are not all the same, Hoffmann said. Some are devout Muslims, but others are secular, and some are disillusioned because they have been persecuted by other Muslims. Some in the second and third generations of Muslim immigrants may move away from Islam. Others, seeing the disrespect , immodesty, immorality, family breakups and drug use in Western culture, may pull back into their culture and Islamic faith, which are often intertwined.
This means that Christians, in addition to witnessing, must be counter-cultural, demonstrating a holiness and purity that marks them out as separate from Western culture, Hoffmann suggested.
Perhaps God has allowed Islam in order to call the Christian church to greater commitment, Hoffmann continued. “It is going to take a great amount of sacrificial love, a concerted effort of the whole body of Christ” to impact the Muslim community in Canada.
Contrary to popular opinion, Muslims are not unreachable, Hoffmann said, adding that more Muslims have come to Christ in the past 25 years than in the previous 1400. These include 60,000 in Darfur in the last eight years and 300,000 Iranians since the Ayatollah came to power.
It also includes some in Canada. A few of the 40-50 people in Moini’s church were Christians before they came to Canada, but most were converted here.
One of the key difficulties is that Christians in Canada do not know Muslims or how to go about witnessing to them.
Loving Muslims Together conference
Providentially, the CNMM has a ready answer to that. It has organized its first ever “Loving Muslims Together” conference for November 11-13 in Calgary. The conference is not just for pastors and ministry leaders but for “the wider body of Christ.” The conference is specifically designed to train Christians “to love and share the gospel with their Muslim neighbours.” WEBLINK: cnmm.ca
The speakers include:
- Carl Medearis, who has served among Muslims in the Middle East for 12 years and written the books ‘Tea with Hezbollah’ (with Ted Dekker) and ‘Muslims Christians, and Jesus.’
- Wagdi Iskander, who has served with missions in the Middle East and Canada, and who will lead a ‘reconciliation plenary’ including reflection, prayer, repentance and commitment.
- Joy Loewen, who served in Pakistan for 10 years, has evangelized Muslim women in Canada for 22 years, and has written ‘Woman to Woman: Sharing Jesus with a Muslim Friend.’
- Rasul Malik, who has pastored Arab churches in the Middle East and Canada, and now operates a TV program for the Middle East.
One ministry has offered 10,000 free DVDs to attenders at the conference which can be given out Muslims. Half contain the Jesus film. The other half contain the story of Mary Magdalene on one side and the story of Paul, a first-century persecutor of Christians who became a Christian, on the other.
The Canadian Network of Ministries to Muslims is not a ministry but a network of other ministries, operating in partnership with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. CNMM hopes to offer similar conferences, in different cities, every two years.
Training may also be offered in smaller settings. “If churches or Christians have a heart for Muslims and don’t know know to reach them,” Moini said, “the ministries would love to train them.”