Eye On… The U.S. – Guidelines for Conversation

God willing, you will eventually find yourself in a position to talk about your faith with a Muslim friend. Diving into this topic can be daunting with anyone who is unsaved, but the guidelines below can help you avoid pitfalls and successfully share what Jesus has done in your life!
Excerpt from “Journey to Understanding: Equipping Christians to Engage Muslims with Faith”.

Don’t start an argument.
The first guideline for conversation is to avoid arguments. The Word tells us specifically in 2 Timothy 2:23-24 that the Lord’s servant must not argue or quarrel but be kind to everyone. Sometimes believers want to argue Muslims into the kingdom of God, as though justification comes through the best argument, not by faith. If the Muslim persists in an argumentative attitude, it may be best to defer the conversation, or de-escalate the tension through calmness or even the use of humor.
What we want to do is dialogue with our Muslim friend. It was not the habit of Jesus or the Early Church to use argument or debate in the modern sense. Neither a yelling match or a formal debate (where each side presents its arguments presided over by a judge followed by questions and answers) is recommended. The apostle Paul “disputed” with the Jews at Athens (Acts 17:17, KJV). This word’s meaning in Greek is “to think about things from different perspectives,” as in presenting an idea in a speech. It is best rendered as reasoned or discussed

Resist the temptation to criticize their faith. 
A Testimony: 
After going through a period of searching and reading the Bible, Hormoz testified: “Jesus did not fit the profile of a prophet that I had in mind. He let people worship him. A prophet will never do that. He will say, ‘Don’t worship me, worship God.’ … I was struggling with Jesus. Is He really a prophet? Is He really the Savior of the world? What about Muhammad? What about the Quran? I just struggled for months. 
“Because I couldn’t make a decision, I decided to go sit in a church, just to see what they were saying. One week, the pastor said, ‘If anyone has a question, just come ask me.’ I came up and asked him, ‘Is Muhammad a prophet of God?’ He thought for a few seconds, then he said, ‘Well, what’s your next question?’ I asked, ‘Is the Quran the Word of God?’ He asked, ‘Well, what’s your next question?’ I asked, ‘How about my grandma? She is a very sincere Muslim. Does Christianity teach that she goes to hell?’ The pastor avoided answering his questions. Finally he said, ‘I do know one thing. Faith is very simple. Do you believe you are a sinner? … Do you believe God loves you? … Do you believe you cannot reach God? … Do you believe God loved you so much that He came after you?’”
Hormoz realized he could answer yes to all these questions. Then the pastor said, “These few things you believe, that’s enough.” 
Hormoz recounts what happened next: “As soon as the pastor said, ‘That’s enough,’ suddenly things became so clear.” At that moment, he was changed. His heart was filled with God’s peace, joy and love. He was on the journey that would lead to his conversion.

Try to remove theological misunderstandings.
All that Muhammad knew about Christianity came to him orally. As a result, he made several wrong conclusions about orthodox Christianity and conveyed these ideas to his followers. One idea was that followers of Jesus worship three gods. To counter this idea in conversation, it would be good to reaffirm what Jesus said about the unity of God, which is also the greatest belief of Islam. To show this to Muslims, you could read to them Mark 12:29-30, where Jesus repeats the great statement of faith from the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” 
Jesus confirms that this is a true statement. The seeker may still believe that you believe in three gods. The three gods he believes we worship are God, his female companion, Mary, and their son, Jesus. We must make it clear that to Christians this belief is blasphemy! 

Remember the primary issues. 
A fourth guideline for conversation is not to allow yourself to be diverted. Always remember what the primary issues really are. Depending on your Muslim friend’s orientation, he or she may be either seeking eternal life, or seeking solutions for today’s problems. Muslims tend to emphasize many other issues besides the eternal ones. They will talk to you about social, political, military, and economic issues. They will speak about the community of all Muslims and the solutions for man’s problems that exist in Islam—for Islam is a total way of life. The eternal issues are the ones they may not want to address. These deal with forgiveness of sin, the human condition, and assurance of heaven.
Their felt needs represent the pain and uncertainty of everyday life. It is important to address these needs also—by pointing them to Jesus as the One who heals, delivers from oppression, and answers prayer. Pray with them and believe for a miracle. At such times, remember the words of Jesus in Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We come to serve people.

Make a positive statement of what you believe. 
A fifth guideline to conversation is to make a positive statement of what you believe. We have just discussed how forces can work against getting to the primary issues. You don’t always want to be responding to the Muslim’s questions; also look for opportunities to share what you believe and why. In 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) we are advised to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….” 
Also explain how Jesus changed your life. You want the listener to understand that the Christian life is not just a different set of rules to live by, but that you are sharing about a relationship and a new life with Jesus. Offer Jesus as an experience, as a friend—not just a historical figure.

Give your personal testimony. 
Again, we emphasize one of the best ways you can make a positive statement is to share your personal testimony. When you give your testimony of how you came to Christ, you convey a number of truths: First, you were not born a follower of Christ. Second, it was an event that happened to you. Third, you made a conscious decision to follow Jesus. There was a reason you made this decision. You were desperate for a change in your life. But in the end you did it because you had sinned and knew you needed a Savior. 
In all this you are conveying another important message: you know God and have experienced His love and forgiveness—all because you have met Jesus personally. The verse that tells us this is John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” As you speak about Jesus as the Savior who forgives sin, you will be proclaiming that you and all men are sinners. Remember, to the Muslim, man is basically good by nature and just needs to be reminded of Allah’s laws. The Bible of course tells us that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). You could point out that 1 John 1:8-9 is written to Christians. 

Be patient while God works. 
The seventh guideline is that you must be patient while God works in the person’s heart. For the Muslim to accept Jesus as Savior is very often a process that can take months or years. Your patience allows him the time to truly consider the cost of commitment. For his whole life he has been warned about Christians and the shame of his ever becoming one. Many of the key concepts of our faith are the exact opposite of what he has learned throughout his life. 
In John 16:12 (NIV), Jesus tells the disciples, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” Then He promises that when the Spirit comes, He will guide them into all truth. If that was the case with the disciples, how much more it is true for Muslim seekers. The disciples didn’t understand it all—and they had been with Jesus for more than three years! We need patience because “some plant, some water, but God gives the increase” (author’s paraphrase). 

Touch the heart and not just the mind. 
The eighth guideline is to remember to touch or make contact with both the mind and the heart, the seat of the emotions. We tend to judge a person’s orthodoxy by what he knows and by certain statements of the faith that he can affirm. This is fine, but people are not saved and brought into the Kingdom by knowledge. Many wicked men in history have known the Scriptures well, but never surrendered to the person of Christ. The Muslim needs more than knowledge; he needs an experience of the heart, an emotional experience. He needs to encounter the love of God, His forgiveness, and His grace. Jesus knew this about His disciples for in John 15:9 He said to them, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” Jesus showed His love by making a great sacrifice. Muslims are people of emotion, and there is nothing wrong with appealing to those emotions, for both the mind and emotions influence the will, the part of man that must make the decision to follow Christ. 

Give your friend the written Word of God. 
In this final guideline for conversation, you stop talking and let the Holy Spirit speak. We suggest that you give your friend a copy of the Scriptures. In Hebrews 4:12, we are reminded that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” In the end, the Word of God is best able to answer the Muslim’s questions under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We have the promise that the Holy Spirit can guide people into all truth (John 16:13).
When you give this gift of a gospel portion or the entire New Testament, explain what it is and that it will bring blessing to them. (The Arabic word for blessing is baraka.) Wrap it in plain white paper and emphasize that it is a special gift for them from God. If you have marked your Bible, explain it is an aid to studying it and learning God’s Word. We do not recommend giving Muslims a used Bible, especially one that has been written in. Pray with the person and ask God to make His Word a blessing to them. Let them hear you talk to God and remember a key to ministry is to be led by the Spirit of God.


“Journey to Understanding: Equipping Christians to Engage Muslims with Faith” is now available on Kindle!

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