Working with Muslims in East Asia has been a unique experience that certainly presents unique evangelism challenges. The majority of Muslims in our city may observe outward cultural forms of their belief. But due to past persecution and societal pressures, most bury any substantial fervor or knowledge of their religion in the relative safety of their halal (ritually clean) food and the occasional Islamic holiday.
Evangelism in East Asia
When I first arrived here, I had my own ideas about who these people were and how they thought. Thus, I naively initiated many conversations. I spent more time explaining Islam than I did explaining the sufficiency of Jesus. What I discovered was this: the more I exposed their ignorance of Islam, the more ashamed and dismissive they became. I was quickly convicted of some things.
Confronting People with a King
First, gospel threads are always meant to be woven into people, not philosophies. As Jesus demonstrates, cultural, language, and religious acquisition should confront, complete, and connect real lives and real stories with the Greatest Story.
Second, there comes a point in our sharing the gospel story where it must move beyond comparing religions to a call for bowing the knee to King Jesus. Like Peter’s great gospel confession, the divinely enabled response to “Who do you say that I am?” distinguishes true repentance and faith from fickle fancy (Matthew 16:15-17).
So how do we currently weave the thread of repentance and faith in Christ into our particular ministry context?
A Unique Savior
Our consistent prayer and aim is that, no matter where our people fall on the religious spectrum, we want to take every conversational opportunity to exalt the unique glory and majesty of Jesus. We ask that, through the Spirit, Jesus may be shown to be more beautiful and believable than all other counterfeit saviors. Thus we talk specifically about Jesus. We include his teaching on food and fasting, money and marriage, worship and working. We also emphasize the saving work of Jesus. This includes his life, death, and resurrection. These works covers our shame and secures our relationship to God.
A specific example I often use is my family’s adoption of my three youngest sisters. The gospel motivations behind our family dynamic become an easy entry-point. We can discuss how God adopts us as sons through Jesus Christ. This kind of father-son relationship doesn’t exist in Islam.
Another example is the story behind the widely celebrated Islamic festival called Qurban. This festival celebrates the day when God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice in place of his son. So we love to point to Jesus as the true “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In all of these ways we hope to proclaim Jesus not just as a common prophet or moral teacher. But we proclaim Him as God’s anointed King who demands our full allegiance.
For the lost souls with whom we share, the call to abandon all and cling solely to Jesus is a humanly impossible feat. Yet we remain confident in God’s power and His promise. For the gospel reminds us that, as we turn from our sin and ourselves and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord, the rewards far surpass any and all costs.