If you travel the interstate bypass around Toledo, Ohio, your car will climb a gentle hill, and, on the horizon, you will see a large and beautifully-built mosque. With its two, very tall, minarets, it dominates the landscape.
There is an influx of Muslims migrating to this country. Dearborn, Michigan, represents the largest Arabic population anywhere in the world – outside of the Middle East.
People of the Book Ministries is located in Dearborn. Serving these great Christian workers, my role has been to guide them in mission strategy. In this process, I’ve learned a lot about the religion of Islam, and the people who follow it.
Focus on these issues:
- Perspective is important. Jesus tells Christians to “go and make disciples” of all nations, all “people groups.” Years ago, you would have to travel great distances to do that. Increasingly, you only have to walk across the street.
- What about those mosques? They are often funded by thousands of immigrants to this country. Do they represent places of worship? Yes and no! Often, a mosque will report thousands of “members.” However, worship attendance is frequently less than 200.
- Like Christianity, many who claim Islam as their religion do not practice their faith. They are “nominal,” which means: “in name only.”
- Why do they build these beautiful and expensive mosques? For some, the building is a “monument” that reminds them of their homelands. Many Christian churches were built by European immigrants. At some significant expense, those buildings mimic the cathedrals of Europe. Many of those churches are almost empty on Sundays, but remain a memory of the “old country.”
- The vast majority of people from Islamic backgrounds are friendly, peace-loving, hard-working, and family-oriented. Just like many Christians and Jews, many Muslims will say that their ancestors in the “old country” practice the religion, but they do not.
- It’s easy to talk to most Muslims about faith. (1) Ask about their homeland. If they are from one of the 20+ countries where Islam is dominant, you have a starting point to your conversation. (It would be good to know those countries.) (2) Ask if they grew up in a Muslim home. The answer is usually “yes.” (3) Then ask, “How long have you been here?” (4) I never have difficulty with the next question: “Are you practicing your faith since you’ve been here?” Many will say, “No.” (5) If you want to learn more about how active they are, ask if they read the Koran every day or pray several times a day. (6) Share that you grew up in a Christian home, or tell the story of how you became a Christian. Many are open to talk about the values of peace, forgiveness, and overcoming fear.
The next time you see a mosque on the horizon, don’t feel unsettled about it. Consider this as a mission opportunity, and a chance to broaden your own horizons about different cultures – without leaving home.
Have you talked to a Muslim about his or her faith? We welcome your comments below.
Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by email, Twitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.