As part of the 10/10 Prayer Initiative, 180 agencies have come together to ask God to draw to himself 10 percent of the world’s Muslims in the next 10 years. 10/10. Easy to remember, yet such an amazingly big task that only God can do it. Will you join us?
By a former missionary in the Middle East — Whether one goes to a new country to share the gospel, or just down the street in your own neighborhood, it is vitally important to remember to be authentic and to keep your identity clear. Aside from the fact that the Word of God calls us to live pure, exemplary lives (2 Timothy 2:15), an oft-repeated argument from Muslims against Christians is that we are deceitful and have changed or corrupted the Holy Bible.
This call to keep our identities clear, however, does not mean that people serving in Muslim countries should refer to themselves as missionaries. Don’t be shocked; let me explain. When you hear “missionary,” you probably think of someone who goes to another country or culture to share about Jesus, or someone who learns a new language and customs so that they can more easily communicate the love of Christ. You likely think of missionaries as people who are honest, trustworthy and self-sacrificing, or at least as people who pray that the Holy Spirit would lead them in the right path.
However, when a Muslim hears “missionary,” they usually have a very different idea. They might think of someone who comes to corrupt their culture with Western ideas and clothing fashions. Their religious leaders teach them that missionaries will bribe and deceive those who are not vigilant and that anyone who even looks at a Bible will be condemned to hell.
No difference between Western and Christian?
Most Muslims would not separate Christians from Western culture. For example, they would label all Americans and Europeans as Christians. That also means that until someone tells them differently, they consider everything they see coming out of the West as Christian — all movies, books, internet sites, etc. If that is indeed the case, then you don’t have to wonder why Muslims are against missionaries and Christians! With pornography readily available on the internet plus the sexual content in many modern movies, is it any wonder that Muslims want to protect their families from the onslaught of everything “Christian”?
When we lived overseas in the 1990s and 2000s, internet cafes started popping up in Central and South Asia, frequented largely by young men. There were several reasons for this —unemployment was high, English was needed, and women and girls were generally restricted from going out to public places without their husbands or parents.
For a time, many Christian organizations used the local internet cafes, because they either didn’t know how to set up their own internet access, or they wanted to save the money needed to do so. Unfortunately, they didn’t understand the damage they were doing to their witness. Eventually, word started getting out that many of the local young men were using these internet cafes to access porn, and it didn’t take long for anyone else who used the cafes to be painted with the same brush.
Once the Christian organizations found out what was going on, they coughed up the money to install their own internet systems, so they wouldn’t be accused of using the cafes for evil means. They also had to go one step further, installing all the computers in their offices in open hallways or with the screens facing the doorways so that everyone could always see what was on the screens at all times. It was inconvenient, but they had to fight the perception that computers and the internet were just used for bad purposes.
A different label or a longer explanation
Because of this tendency to equate Western with Christian, consider carefully how to describe yourself when you’re interacting with Muslims. Feel free to call yourself a follower of Jesus, or if you have the time, say that you are a Christian, but take the time to explain what that means. I was once introduced by a Muslim to his group of friends as a Christian, which made me nervous, but he was quick to add: “But he’s not like the other Christians here in town. He doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol or sleep around with other women!”
It seems my friend felt that explanations were important too! He wanted me to be accepted by his friends, but he knew they would be judging me as what they thought a Westerner/Christian was and judging him as the one who brought me to their group, so he wanted everything clarified. This turned out well for both of us.
Of course, I don’t advocate feeling paranoid about what others think about us, but as we strive to live pure and exemplary lives, we should think through how we label ourselves, as it could seriously affect our witness for Christ.
10/10 Prayer Initiative requests
- We are asking God to draw 10 percent of the Muslim world to himself in 10 years, and we want to be part of it too! We want to be proactive in sharing our faith with Muslims, and we want to be proactive in preparing the church to receive this new influx of believers.
- The Urbana missions conference took place in the States at the end of December, and thousands of students had the opportunity to hear of the urgent needs in the Muslim world. Pray for the next generation of Jesus followers to step forward and say, “Here I am Lord! Send me!”
Pray. Give. Go.
- Visit the SEND website for other resources on Muslim ministry.
- Give toward SEND projects in the Muslim world.
- Explore opportunities to serve with SEND in a Muslim ministry context.