Muslims best reached through example, author says
March 13 2003 by Mandy Crow , LifeWay Communications

Muslims best reached through example, author says | Friday, March 14, 2003

Friday, March 14, 2003

Muslims best reached through example, author says

By Mandy Crow LifeWay Communications

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Sometimes the way people act can say much more than their words.

George W. Braswell says that's a lesson Christians should learn as they seek to reach out to a world in need.

"Missionaries have told us that the best way to win a Muslim to Christ is through your example," said Braswell, a former missionary to Iran and distinguished professor of missions and world religions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.

Braswell, author of several Broadman & Holman books about Islam, recently released to the media a letter from Southeastern Seminary students serving as missionaries in Muslim countries. The letter asked Baptists to refrain from making negative comments about Islam or its founder and prophet, Muhammad.

The missionaries said comments by Western Christians about Islam or Muhammad are highly publicized on the local radio, television and print media in Muslim countries, creating "heightened animosity" toward Christians.

"We are not sure if you are aware of the ramifications comments that malign Islam and Muhammad have - not only on the message of the gospel, but also upon the lives or our families as we are living in the midst of already tense times," the International Mission Board missionaries wrote in the letter released in January. "We prayerfully ask you, as brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, to focus public comments about Muslims on their need for salvation that is found only by faith in Jesus Christ."

For Braswell, the controversy about the letter isn't as important as working to develop strategies that allow for more conversations between Christians and Muslims.

"The letter is not an attack," he said. "It's just encouragement to be sensitive. Remember it's a tough world we're living in. We've got to start with Jesus Christ. If you start there, you can't ever fail, whether it takes a month, a year or even ten years to win a person to Christ.

"There are nonnegotiables, as we well know, between Islam and Christianity," he said. "But those nonnegotiables can be used strategically."

Those nonnegotiable beliefs for Islam include the concept of a distant God who cannot participate in a personal relationship, an acceptance of Jesus as a prophet, but not as God's own Son and savior of the world, and adherence to the Qur'an as the perfect and complete law of God.

Muslims follow the five pillars of Islam, which include: a confession of Allah as the only deity, prayers five times a day, fasting, almsgiving of certain percentages of their income and possessions, and a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime.

As Braswell writes in his book, Islam: Its Prophet, Peoples, Politics and Power, various branches of Islam exist, most notably the Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, a division that formed over disagreements about leadership following Muhammad's death in 632.

Islam is also an expanding world religion. Braswell writes that there are currently more Muslims than Episcopalians in the United States, and tens of millions of Muslims live in Central Asia, China and India. The Nation of Islam, well known in the United States, is not accepted among most orthodox Muslims as a viable form of the faith.

Most Muslims live peaceful lives, separated from the violence and terrorism often associated with the faith in American media. Learning to move past such stereotypes and misconceptions to an understanding of the Islamic faith is vital to witnessing effectively to Muslims, Braswell said.

"Both sides have been suspicious and distrustful of each other," he said. "It makes it difficult for conversation to occur. It's not that biblical Christianity accepts what Islam believes, but if you're going to have a Muslim friend, you've got to communicate about what is vital in your life. We've seen missionaries who disagree but don't go on the attack. They've been able to befriend Muslims and share the gospel with them."

Sensitivity to Islamic theology and an unwillingness to condemn or degrade the faith are the keys to reaching the Muslim world, Braswell said. Based on his experience in the mission field, he believes that building personal relationships with devout Muslims has proven more effective than actively denigrating their faith.

"I don't think there's any question," he said. "When we send missionaries out, they go willing to give their life to Christ. That's the calling. But you want to go with sensitivity. Don't put up walls with the very first word you say."

For Braswell, actively living the Christian life in front of the Muslim world is the most effective outreach strategy of all.

"It's a continual witness," he said. "You can argue; you can debate, but that's not going to work. Very few Muslims have been won to Christ through debate. It's not that we're fearful of their religion; it just has to be done in sensitivity."

Braswell's books include What You Need to Know About Islam and Muslims, Islam, Understanding World Religions, and Understanding Sectarian Groups in America.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - This story was released by LifeWay Christian Resources. It was originally distributed by Baptist Press then pulled and later released with revisions.)

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3/13/2003 11:00:00 PM by Mandy Crow , LifeWay Communications | with 0 comments
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