Growing up in a Muslim household, John (real name withheld for security reasons), doubted the validity of his faith. One glaring shortcoming he observed: The way Islam empowered his father to treat his mother—like a possession instead of a partner deserving of affection.
That is one reason the story of Christ’s resurrection deeply moved him. He also remembers a Christian song he heard in those days about Jesus rising from the dead. That contrasted starkly with Muslims’ annual pilgrimage to Mecca to visit Muhammad’s tomb.
“At the time, I never knew anybody who rose from the dead,” says John, who serves on the staff of a Foursquare district office and as the church missions director at a local church in California. “There is nothing that compares to it.”
A native of Nigeria, John decided to follow Christ during an outreach in Lagos. Sponsored by an inter-denominational group of churches from Africa and other nations, the event included American evangelist Morris Cerullo, who was one of the speakers. Besides the resurrection, the assurance of salvation touched John’s heart. He had learned a proverb in his native tongue that emphasized that only when people reached heaven would they know who had made it there.
“But here was a gospel that talked about being born again,” John recalls. “It was saying, ‘Here and now you can know.’ I could be born again here and now, even if I wasn’t leading a perfect life. That got my attention, too.”
To survive as a Christian, he maintained a low profile about his new beliefs for two years, until after moving out of his parents’ home. One of his greatest joys in life would come later, seeing his parents and five siblings accept Christ as Savior.
John’s low-key beginning as a Christian included being discipled by leaders at the Foursquare Gospel Church in Lagos. The senior pastor told him that “we are saved to serve.” The statement let him know that everyone who is born again is called into ministry, whether as a pastor, evangelist or layperson.
He took that seriously, completing his college degree and becoming an actuary and investment banker while planting churches in Nigeria, Kenya, Canada and New York. It wasn’t until before John completed a doctorate at Fuller Theological Seminary that he felt God calling him to full-time ministry.
Our Role in Evangelism
John’s background is one reason he feels so strongly about the role every Foursquare member plays in reaching Muslims. Despite this obligation, he sees numerous Christians failing to train their children, leaving them unable to explain basic biblical concepts.
“They can’t even quote a scripture,” says John. “Know John 3:16. If you want to reach Muslims, know the Bible so you can make references to the Bible.”
Pastors and lay members who want to influence Muslims also need to demonstrate love. After John’s conversion, he continued showing affection to his parents, including buying them special foods or giving money to aid their observances of Ramadan—an annual, month-long, dawn-to-dusk fast.
Demonstrating love includes showing respect for Muslims’ faith and culture. John advises against criticizing Muhammad or Islam, saying such offensive behavior doesn’t demonstrate the power of the gospel.
Living a transparent life is an equally important aspect of reaching Muslims.
“Don’t let them see hypocrisy in your life,” John advises. “Avoid it. There shouldn’t be any masking. If you make a mistake, be humble enough to apologize.”
One’s spiritual life provides another key. John says walking in the power of the Holy Spirit is necessary so you will know when to speak and when to remain silent. And, the Spirit is the key to “power evangelism,” or demonstrating the Word with signs and wonders. Nothing will stop a Muslim from coming to Jesus when he or she sees mighty miracles occur in his or her life, John affirms.
“Foursquare people need to start loving Muslims and stop seeing them as terrorists,” John warns. “Only a few of them are terrorists.”
Love in Word and Deed
Holistic ministry is essential, too; proclamation of the gospel includes deeds as well as preaching and teaching. In 2000, The Church On The Way (Van Nuys Foursquare Church) in Van Nuys, Calif., sent a 27-member team to Gambia (which is 95 percent Muslim) to conduct medical clinics. They also delivered $4 million worth of medications. Today there are five Foursquare churches in the West African nation, as well as a computer training school to help young people prepare for life in the 21st century.
“We can do the same here, whether that is in Detroit or Los Angeles,” John says. “Jesus didn’t just preach the Word, He also fed the 5,000 and healed the sick.”
Ken (real name withheld for security reasons), a Foursquare minister who has worked among Muslims in the Middle East for many years, believes one way to open the door to Muslims is through international student ministry. Starting one may mean contacting groups such as International Students, Inc., International Student Ministry, or the international students office at a school in your area.
Students aren’t the only ones who can be reached through friendship evangelism. Ken says Christians can also establish relationships with Muslims who operate businesses, such as restaurants or gas stations.
No matter what the relationship they might form through such contacts, Ken says it is important for Foursquare members to remember a key difference between American and Muslim culture: the clock.
“When we’re at work, we come to work, but in Muslim culture it’s common to mix work and fellowship,” Ken explains. “They’re used to having friends drop by and drink tea.
“When I lived overseas and got a haircut,” he continues, “friends would stop by, and we stopped to drink tea for a half hour. After we finished, the barber would finish my haircut. Their culture is very hospitable. If you find the right place in your community, you can build relationships.”
Prayer should support all of these efforts. John refers to Matthew 17:21, where Jesus explained to His disciples that they couldn’t cast out a certain demon except through the power of prayer and fasting. Noting this, his church recently observed a special day of prayer and fasting. John notes that he increasingly hears about similar efforts across the nation.
“I’m so glad for the church in America and for people responding to the Holy Spirit,” John says.
You are reading Part 2 of a two-part series.
Read Part 1: “Dispelling the Fear”
By: Ken Walker, an award-winning freelance writer in Huntington, W.V. Ken is coauthor with Steve Willis of Winning the Food Fight (Regal Books).