I have worked for almost two decades reaching Muslims with the gospel. Some time ago, I interviewed dozens of Muslim converts and workers in search of the “silver bullet” for Muslim evangelism—the one thing, perhaps overlooked, that could turn the tide. During the course of my interviews, I never uncovered a silver bullet, but it became apparent that Muslim converts to Christ seemed to have three things in common that could provide valuable insight for reaching other Muslims.
In my work among Muslims, these three keys have informed and shaped my evangelistic efforts.
Prayer and Fasting
Let’s admit it. Christians usually fall short in this area. We profess to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, but all too easily we fall into the habit of relying on our own efforts. Among the conversions I observed and researched, prayer and fasting were a common denominator, and God was moving. In order to reach peoples who are entrenched in other belief systems, we may very well need to engage in all-night prayer like our Lord practiced.
It may mean fasting and pleading with God to break barriers and strongholds. Prayer and fasting are not man-centered ways to manipulate God or attempt to force his hand. Rather, they convey our utter helplessness to win souls. They express our total dependence upon the power of God to break barriers (Matt. 6:16–18).
Prayer and fasting are not
man-centered ways to manipulate
God or attempt to force his hand.
Rather, they convey our utter
helplessness to win souls.
There is no generic Muslim. There are diverse individuals who practice the same faith. When we think our calling is to win “Muslims” to Christ, it can turn the missionary task into something detached, impersonal, and faceless. Instead, we must realize and actively remind ourselves that it is our calling to win people who need Jesus.
We win individuals. Each one is a precious soul—a broken image-bearer whom God loves. All of the converts I interviewed said they knew of at least one Christian they could go to with their questions when God began to work in their lives. Maybe you can be that one. But you must be a true friend, even if they never convert.
Loving service to others is commendable, but it’s not enough. The gospel is a message that must be verbally shared and carefully explained. A Muslim-background believer I know once shared with me that Muslims view loving service from Christians as something that should be expected—as if Christians owe them a debt. In other words, they actually think Christians should serve them because Muslims have the final revelation from God . . . or so they believe.
Humanitarian aid is wonderful, but it’s not the ultimate need of Muslim people.
It will never do to merely love and serve Muslims in the name of Christ. Humanitarian aid is wonderful, but it’s not the ultimate need of Muslim people. The Word of God must be spoken to them. The gospel must be proclaimed. Muslims must be called into account before the true and living God. The Bible calls God’s Word “the sword of the Spirit, discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12, YLT). Acts of love and service are good, but they are not the heart of the missionary task.
It has become my practice to speak to my Muslim friends just like I would talk to a friend in church. I share what God taught me during my quiet time in his Word. I talk about stories from Scripture or Bible verses that apply to both of us. They may ask, “Are you trying to convert me?” I simply respond, “Only God can speak to our hearts and convince us of truth.” Until they walk away, I keep sharing the Word.
Only God Can Save
So, there you have it. The three keys for reaching Muslims turn out to be things that are very simple and well known. They aren’t so much the instrumental difference makers in conversion; they are insights that have helped adjust my approach cross-culturally.
We don’t employ these “keys” as a way to “twist God’s arm.” Rather, in doing them we acknowledge the power of the living Christ to save who he wills.
Ultimately, conversion is up to God. We don’t employ these keys as a way to twist God’s arm. Rather, as we pray and fast, we trust God to break the strongholds of the devil. As we endeavor to be a true friend, we bring Jesus into every encounter and trust him to open hearts to gospel truth.
Art Gordon has served in five countries with Diaspora Muslim immigrants. All of these countries are nominally Christian but contain significant Muslim populations. Art’s concern is for how to train majority culture believers to take the gospel into these cultural enclaves.