When engaging Muslims with the gospel, your message cannot be simply a defense of Christianity and an attack on Islamic beliefs. You have to get beyond Muslims’ minds into their souls. You not only have to understand what they believe but why they believe it. You have to understand what is important to them, what disappointments they find in Islam, and what questions they are still asking about God.
This will mean three things for you as you attempt to share Christ with the Muslim:
1. You can most effectively share Christ with Muslims when you are genuinely friends with them.
Life on life is as important with the Muslim as mind on mind. Because the decision to trust in Christ is a soul decision, not just a mind one, it will most likely not be arrived at in the heat of debate. We have to show, in a way Muslims can see and understand, that Jesus is better than anything else they hold on to for security, and that he is the treasure worth selling the “field” of their lives to obtain (Matthew 13:44). Like Christ, we must “incarnate” ourselves in the lives of Muslims and show them his love and joy in the context of friendship. Christ did not shout at us from heaven, leave gospel tracts on our porches, or broadcast his message in from heaven via radio. He came to live among us. He served us. He lived out the love and joy of God in front of our eyes. We “looked upon” him, and our “hands handled” him (1 John 1:1–2).
2. You must learn to listen to Muslims.
Listening is how you will discover what is going on in their hearts, what is important to them, and where God is already at work in them. God has already planted questions in their heart. Once you learn what you’re listening for, you’ll see they are asking them over and over and over.
As you listen, you will learn how to craft the gospel message in a way they can understand it. We must be people of “double listening.” We must listen to God’s unchanging message on the one hand and the hearts of our Muslim friends on the other. Only then will we be able to craft the gospel message in a way that Muslims can understand it.
This is partially what made the apostle Paul so effective. As he explains in Galatians 2:7, Peter preached a “gospel for the uncircumcised” (the Jew) and Paul preached a “gospel for the uncircumcised” (the non-Jew). This does not mean that there were two different gospels—Paul and Peter are clear that there is only one way for all people to be saved! Rather, it means that the one gospel can be expressed in different ways that will connect better with the people who are hearing it.
Listening is also how you will establish trust. As M. Scott Peck famously said in The Road Less Traveled, “To listen to someone is to love them.” Listening, and understanding, is the core of friendship.
You and I often think of our role as Christians as explaining a message. But it is listening that makes our explaining effective! Listening establishes trust, and listening helps us make our message understandable.
3. You must look to the Holy Spirit to do in the heart of your Muslim friends what you cannot do.
Only the Holy Spirit can make blind eyes see; only he can make the gospel make sense to a Muslim—or anyone, for that matter. It is not some new insight you have or new angle I give you on sharing the gospel that will magically unlock your Muslim friend’s heart. The human heart, until God opens it, is hardened against him, darkened in its understanding, and does not even know to ask the right questions about God. Without God’s initiative, the gospel seems like foolishness to everyone! It takes the illumination of God’s Spirit and his regenerative work inside our hearts before we will ever believe.
God himself has to plant the right questions within us and make us open to the answers. This is not the result of a new technique, but of a miracle that God does in us. The only thing you can do is faithfully explain the message, pray, and trust in God to awaken the heart.
This is a modified excerpt from my book, Breaking The Islam Code.