Respect and love Muslims, and share the good news

Faheem Moini used to spy on Christians; now he pastors a church.

Faheem Moini used to spy on Christians; now he pastors a church.

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.

Satan’s trap

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.

Understanding Muslims

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.”

New Challenges in Europe

For many centuries, Europe was the bedrock of the established church. That state of affairs is long gone, according to church planting expert Murray Moerman. After many years leading Church Planting Canada, he has taken on a new challenge: the evangelization of one of the world’s most secular regions. With his wife Carol, he recently moved from Maple Ridge, B.C. to England. Shortly before he left, Mission Fields conducted the following interview.

Mission Fields: What prompted you to consider this move to Europe? Will you be there for a long period of time?

Murray Moerman: Carol and I were invited by One Challenge International (OCI) to move to Europe, to develop and oversee missionary teams there.

These missionary teams are composed almost entirely of Christians from former European colonies going back to the nations who once sent missionaries around the world – but now are in desperate danger of losing grip on the gospel for themselves.

Speaking personally, my parents left the Netherlands immediately after the Second World War, at a time when the town of 6,000 people were – in overwhelming majority – church attenders.

Today, only a miniscule percentage do so – and the nation, along with virtually all surrounding nations – requires assistance in re-evangelizing their people. Generations of young people are growing up without even a rudimentary understanding of the gospel.

I’m 58, and we have no pre-determined endpoint – aside from eventual retirement – for our time in Europe.

MF: What do you hope to accomplish while there?

MM: My hope and prayer is, through these OCI teams and others, to develop partnership movements similar to Church Planting Canada in a variety of countries in Eastern and Western Europe – for the sake of seeing ‘whole nation’ church planting movements.

MF: Europe now has a reputation for being very secularized. If this is truly the case, what do you think Christians can do to counteract this trend?

MM: Europe has nearly 750 million people. Of these, Operation World calculates about 35 million (five percent) are Christian in a broader sense; and out of this number, about 50 percent are evangelical.

Compare this 2.4 percent evangelical in Europe with 3.6 percent evangelical in Asia, 10.8 percent in Latin America, 15 percent in Africa and higher in North America.

Europe has historical monuments to a Christian past in the form of majestic, empty cathedrals. But it is, in fact – from the perspective of Christian faith – the new ‘dark continent.’

For those who like stats, Operation World lists 17 European countries with less than one percent evangelical populations.

This is interesting when juxtaposed with non-European countries with more than one percent evangelical population, such as: Saudi Arabia, Guinea, Laos, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, North Korea, Nepal, India, Egypt and China

Is Europe secular? Yes: it is deeply humanistic. But humanism cannot extinguish human spirituality; humanistic spirituality simply seeks something other than God to relate to.

In Europe, that ‘other’ is often Hinduism in its Western new age garb, pre-Christian paganism or occult movements, and a variety of human potential streams.

My personal view is that deliberate, focused, sustained church planting movements have the greatest potential of counteracting this trend.

I believe this both because of Paul’s example in scripture, and because of my experience in Canada – where, in the last decade, we have seen both the rate of church planting and the percentage of evangelicals grow.

I believe the two are directly related – simply because church planting brings unreached people to faith in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, at the same time in Canada, we have seen both mainline and Roman Catholic movements lose members, while closing churches.

In Europe, I believe the form of church planting with the greatest potential of tipping Europe back in the direction of the gospel is to facilitate a movement involving every able-bodied Christian. The approach is to seek a ‘person of peace,’ as described in Matthew 10 and Luke 10; then begin a house church in their home – and reproduce it, when the person of peace is able to lead the church in their home.

This does not, of course, replace other historic forms of church planting; but is simply a necessary supplement to them to impact Europe broadly with the gospel. All forms of church planting are needed simultaneously.

MF: Some speculate the growth of Islam in Europe – mainly through rising birthrates – will eventually lead to Islamization of some countries. Do you see this as a real possibility?

MM: Yes, the Islamization of Europe is a distinct possibility in several, particularly Western European, countries.

I would say that, in 50 years, Europe will be primarily Muslim, pagan or Christian. Which of the three it will be, will be up to the prayer and obedience of Christians. The battle for the soul of Europe is intense.

The best response to Muslims, as to all those who are not yet followers of Jesus, is loving, personal and relational. Muslim people are responsive to Jesus, and to those who love like him. We as Christians need to have open hearts and homes, and give those who respond – and many have already responded to Christ, but are keeping their heads down – a safe place to relate to other believers. Most European Christians, like most Canadian Christians, are too often afraid of Muslims – or too selfish to give of themselves to their Muslim neighbours. There are many ‘persons of peace’ in the Muslim community, and house churches are the safest settings in which to reach and disciple them.

MF: What are the prospects for extensive church planting in present day Europe?

MM: Humanly speaking, the prospects for an extensive church planting in present day Europe are very difficult – for many reasons I won’t go into. But God’s purpose is unchanging. So I am confident that God has ways of going against the flow, and that church planting will happen anyway – perhaps not conventional congregations, but Christian communities nevertheless.

Most church planting is currently – as God has often has done in history – taking place at the margins. There is significant church planting among the Roma people, who are despised by most Europeans.

Immigrants into Europe, or from one part of Europe to another, are planting. Young people are forming informal communities. How God will work in the future, I don’t know. But that he will, I am confident.

MF: Is there a lot of missionary work in Europe? If so, which countries are sending the most missionaries?

MM: About 175 mission agencies from Europe and around the world have sent about 3,500 missionaries to work with the 715 million unreached Europeans. Is that a lot? I don’t think so, especially when one looks at the low percentage of believers in Europe to help with the huge task.

I don’t know for certain which country sends most missionaries, but I believe it to be the USA – mostly because of the comparatively high cost of sending missionaries to Europe. Most Southern Hemisphere missionaries, however, go to countries with equal or lower standards of living than their own.

There are increasing numbers of missionaries being sent from Southern Hemisphere. Our team in Spain hosted a conference seeking to bring Latin American missionaries into North Africa and the Middle East.

MF: When you visited recently, did you get to any of the big African churches in Europe?

MM: No. I know of them, but haven’t visited them. One of the most notable is African pastor Sunday Adelaja’s Embassy of God Church in Kiev. It is the largest congregation in the Ukraine. Germany also has large congregation, led by a Nigerian pastor.

My personal view is that one reason for this remarkable phenomenon – again from the margins – is that African leaders understand faith, are unintimidated by doctrines of political correctness and are used to taking risks.

OneChallenge.org, and also see Murray Moerman’s web-page