Saturday I packed the three guy interns in the car and we headed about an hour away to do some mountain climbing and feast on lamb. Lamb from the mountains is better than your mom’s Thanksgiving turkey and that’s saying something. While we were at it I called a missionary (worker as they call themselves) who had started a restaurant near where we were going. The guys are all contemplating being long term missionaries in North Africa and one of them wants to get an international business degree as a tool for this work. So we are trying to interview guys who are doing business here and see what we can learn about what to do and what NOT to do.
Turns out from this one we were about to learn quite a bit of the latter. Here in short were the main points he made:
1. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER (emphasis his) give a Muslim a Bible BECAUSE as soon as you hand him one they’ll kick you out of the country. The best way to do it, he says, is keep a Bible on your bookshelf and tell them they can go to your office and pick it up themselves. (I sat respectfully and listened knowing that we have passed out at least 1,000 pieces of literature since we arrived 2 and a half years ago.)
2. Don’t tell the new believer of Muslim origins to call himself a Christian BECAUSE this is offensive to other Muslims and can give them flashbacks of the crusades and thus put his life in danger. The new believer should continue to call himself a Muslim since that means “surrendered” to God.
3. Don’t use the word “Kenisa” (the Arabic word for church) when speaking of a gathering of Messianic “Muslims” BECAUSE this will put their lives in sure danger. They should call their meetings “Jamat” (the same Arabic word as Mosque which means “gathering”) since that’s what it is: a gathering. (Again I say quietly not telling him that the believers we are discipling have told ALL their friends and family about their church and they’re still alive!)
4. Don’t teach the new believers theology! Check your theology at the border! They don’t need any of our Western ideas. They need to read the Bible for themselves and follow it in their “North African way” (as if there is a “Western” way and a “North African” way to understand the Bible). One student asked him if he heard in the “Jamat” that he started that they weren’t believing in the Trinity, what he would do? He stammered and then said he’d show them some things in the Bible about that. We were a bit confused about where he drew the line of non-theology and theology.
5. Baptism is a good thing but not a necessary thing. Since it’s not necessary for salvation, it’s not necessary at all. We should only baptize them if they ask and NEVER teach them to be baptized BECAUSE it could get them killed. (Again, I didn’t mention the estimated 3,000 baptized believers in our country who were, in fact, still alive. Not a one of them has been murdered as far as we know.)
6. The way God is going to shine his light into the Muslim world is through businesses and not through His church BECAUSE this is the 21st century, of course.
If you don’t believe me, I have 3 witnesses to this insanity that is called the Insider Movement.
Maybe you noticed my emphasis of capital letters of the word BECAUSE. Did you notice that after each BECAUSE is some reference to those things that are observable here on earth (most of them imaginary, by the way). One reason I noticed to be missing conspicuously from this list of “strategies” for evangelizing the Muslims after the word BECAUSE was “BECAUSE THE BIBLE TEACHES THIS”.
Let me help you out with a few examples:
1. We give Bibles to the lost Muslims BECAUSE we are commanded to.
2. We start CHURCHES BECAUSE the Bible says Jesus died for his church.
3. We teach the new believers to be baptized BECAUSE it is an integral part of the Great Commission given us by our Christ.
4. We teach the disciples of Jesus to claim the name of Jesus and reject Islam openly BECAUSE Jesus said if we are ashamed of his name before men he will be ashamed of us before the Father.
5. We teach the disciples to take a stand for Jesus no matter the cost BECAUSE Jesus told his disciples that they should rejoice and be exceedingly glad when they were persecuted for his name’s sake.
I could go on and on but I have noticed one thing to be more effective than my own ingenuity while building God’s kingdom: His instruction manual, the Bible. I guess if at the end of it all I would find that I wasn’t near as culturally relevant as my friend the restauranteur nor as sly and cunning I’ll have to blame it all on the Book that I follow.