About 20-25 students settled in the Bowld Fireplace Room on Thursday night to hear Don Dent, director of the David and Faith Kim School of Global Missions at Gateway Seminary in California, speak about how to approach sharing the Gospel with Muslim friends. Dent and his family previously served with the International Mission Board and in other capacities with internationals.
“The greatest privilege of my life has been to work with Muslim men and women who heard the story of Jesus and recognized the Pearl of Great Price hidden in a field and sold everything they had to buy that field and to have that pearl and with great joy spend their lives,” Dent said.
Dent started the session by reading Isaiah 60 and reminded the audience that, although it may be hard for most Americans to believe that God’s glory and love are going to spread to all nations and that God is working in Muslim countries, God tells us in the Bible that He intends to draw believers from every nation, tribe, and tongue.
“In the last 16 years, more Muslims have turned to Christ and been baptized than in the previous 1300 years,” Dent said. “We are seeing unprecedented advances of the Gospel into new places and people like we’ve never seen before.”
Dent noted that far more Protestants have also gone to share the love of Jesus and drew a correlation between the increase in witnesses and the response to the Gospel.
West Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Central Asia, and particularly South Asia and Southeast Asia are primary Muslim areas. According to Dent, about 85 percent of the Muslim world are not Arab speakers.
Dent said that Christians need to start with humility and deep sensitivity. Christians and Muslims have a long history of conflict, most of which stems from the Crusades.
“When you send people with swords instead of Bibles, terrible things happen,” Dent said. “When you send 100 men with guns for every one that goes with the love of Christ, terrible things happen.”
Dent said that there is often a lot of suspicion and fear among Muslims, so we must be intentional in finding ways to build relationships and trust. Most Muslims are open to building relationships, but most Americans haven’t attempted to build these relationships. Dent said that we need to listen carefully, try to understand where Muslims are coming from and choose our battles carefully.
Dent emphasized that one of the most important ways to be an effective witness to Muslims is to separate ourselves and our faith from American culture. He said that Muslims often confuse Christianity with how they see Americans behave. He noted that, although we proclaim to be a Christian country, we as a country often misrepresent God, and Muslim countries assume that we are a Christian country and everything that we do is Christian.
“I had a Muslim friend in another country one time ask me if Madonna was the official representative of the Catholic church,” Dent said. “He was watching wild videos of her. As far as he knows, that’s Christianity.”
Dent said that a serious Christian should mention that he or she is a true follower of Jesus early on in the conversation and find ways to show and tell Muslim friends that we aren’t like everyone else.
Most Muslims are like any other people; they’re family oriented with businesses and livelihoods, and they just want to live peacefully. Dent sadly noted that Americans tend to have an unfriendly culture.
“We’re not nearly as hospitable as almost every Muslim culture in the world,” Dent said. “We’re told in the New Testament that we should practice hospitality. We just hardly do it.”
Dent encouraged students to reach out, eat Muslim food, help Muslims publicly, and be their friend. Dent advocates for Muslims’ rights; although he believes they are lost without Jesus, he also believes in the right to worship- early Baptists, after all, fought for religious freedom.
“Show interest in their life, in their culture, in their faith,” Dent said. “Ask them questions. Listen to them.”
The Qur’an says that there have been four holy books and special prophets in history: the Tawrat (or Torah) given by Musa (or Moses), the Zabur given by Dawud (or David), the Injil (or Gospel) given by Isa (or Jesus), and the al Qur’an given by Muhammad. However, many Muslims have never read a holy book other than the Qur’an.
“The most powerful witness I know is God’s Word, and you want to encourage your Muslim friend to read the Bible,” Dent said. “Get them in the Scripture. Their book refers to our book and they don’t know what’s in it.”
Muslims usually recognize Biblical names. The Qur’an is filled with references to Biblical characters and prophets; however, it fails to tell their stories. Christians know the background stories behind these characters and prophets, so this gives Christians a unique opportunity to share the Biblical narratives with them.
Muslims are often fascinated by Jesus, believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and recognize that Jesus was a miracle worker but don’t recognize what this means. Dent said that our goal is to help Muslims fall in love with and believe in Jesus.
“The average student mentions church seven times more than Jesus,” Dent said. “The church is not our message. Our savior is Jesus. What we pray for, what we work towards, what we share for is that they will fall in love with Jesus Christ.”
Muslims typically welcome prayer from Christians because they recognize that there is power in the name of Jesus. Dent recounted the story of some Muslim friends begging him to pray in Jesus’ name after learning that he was a Christian.
Christians in several Muslim countries share seven sacrifice stories about prophets whose names are recognized by Islam to address why Jesus had to suffer and point to Jesus and His sacrifice.
“Sacrifice is a part of their heritage, and one of the greatest problems with understanding the Bible is that they can’t understand why we believe that God would allow Jesus to die,” Dent said. “We have to lay a foundation for them to understand that it was God’s sovereign plan from the beginning that Jesus would come and die because that was the purpose that he came for.”
As Dent closed the session, he emphasized that no one is ever won to Christ through an argument, so Christians should never try to argue.
Becca Hankins, a sophomore social work major, and David Banister, a freshman intercultural studies major, both found Dent’s discussion of Muslims lacking the stories behind the Biblical prophets to be their biggest take-aways of the evening.
“As Christians we can simply share these stories from the Bible of these prophets, and it can be life-changing to these Muslims, and they can come to faith through that,” Hankins said. “I think that’s super awesome. I’ve never realized that.”
“Storytelling is vital. Storytelling is what we as Christians can use to share God’s story. That’s what it is: the Gospel, the whole Bible, it’s all one grand story that God has been writing and he’s continuing to write, and it’s amazing that we get to be a part of it,” Banister said. “Specifically with Islamic people, these are stories they can relate to and it’s interesting that they’re hungry to hear. So why aren’t we taking the opportunity to share this with them?”
For those who want to learn more. Dent recommends the book A Wind in the House of Islam, which shares stories of how God is working in each of the prime Muslim areas of the world.