A recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life projects that the global Muslim population will continue to grow at a faster pace than any other demographic during the next two decades. The study projects that by 2030, one out of every four people in the world will be Muslim.
In North America, the Muslim population is projected to triple in Canada, where Muslims will account for more than six percent of the population by 2030. In the United States, the number of Muslims is expected to more than double during the same period, from less than one percent of the population in 2010 to almost two percent by 2030.
“We need to train people to understand Islam and to understand Muslims, so they will have the confidence to engage them in conversations and talk to them about the Lord,” said Marty Dupree, evangelism and church growth team leader for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
“This is an important issue because there is so little engagement of Muslims from the church.”
Dupree is praying that the 2013 annual state evangelism conference, to be held Feb. 25 at Pleasant Garden Baptist Church, will encourage North Carolina Baptists to engage Muslims with the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Understanding, Loving and Relating to Muslins” is the conference theme.
“We are not trying to use this conference to condemn Islam,” Dupree said.
“We want to equip people to love and understand and then be able to relate to Muslims so that they can feel confident sharing the message of Christ with Muslims.”
Dupree believes fear is the greatest barrier that prevents Christ-followers from witnessing not only to Muslims, but also to people from all backgrounds and cultures.
“Many times we are afraid that we won’t be able to answer their questions or that we might offend them and they will reject us,” he said. “But I have found the exact opposite of that.”
Dupree said Muslims are generally curious about spiritual matters and are willing to engage in spiritual conversations one-on-one.
Believers do not need to know all the answers, but they must be willing to engage in conversation with the purpose of sharing Christ, because eternity is at stake.
“I want Muslims to know that they can go to heaven. Through Jesus Christ, like anyone else, they can have access to the eternal Father,” Dupree said.
Mike Licona, associate professor of theology at Houston Baptist University and president of Risen Jesus, Inc., who will speak during the morning plenary session, said “It’s not one of these things where Christians need to fear offending Muslims by proclaiming Christ as God’s Son.
“We can say that, and they will respect us for that because they respect firmness and conviction.”
Licona said one way believers can be more confident engaging Muslims is by studying the Bible, learning basic theology and knowing how to explain the deity of Christ and how Christ claimed to be God.
He also said American Christians need to adopt a missionary mindset.
“Everyone needs to realize that they are a missionary now,” he said. “We don’t have to go to foreign countries to be a missionary because God is bringing Muslims right here.”
The conference features other well-known pastors, apologists and experts in the field of sharing the gospel with Muslims:
Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, La.
Zane Pratt, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism and associate professor of Christian missions, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Alex McFarland, director of the Center for Christian Worldview and Apologetics, North Greenville University
Nabeel Qureshi, director of Creed 2:6 Ministries
Nik Ripken, expert on the persecuted church
Luter and Licona will speak about the gospel in culture during the morning session, Pratt and McFarland will address the issue of Islam and America during the afternoon session, and Qureshi and Ripken will teach about understanding, loving and reaching Muslims during the evening session.
During the Monday afternoon session attendees will participate in a special panel discussion relating to Islam and America, and will be able to submit questions for the panel discussion.
Questions may be submitted prior to the conference by emailing [email protected].
In addition to plenary sessions, the conference includes a special pre-conference workshop that will be held Sunday, Feb. 24, from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. at Pleasant Garden Baptist Church.
Topics include the basics of defending the gospel, how Christian families can reach Muslim families, and how families can live together on mission for the gospel.
Alex McFarland will also lead a special workshop for students related to apologetics.
The conference and pre-conference workshop are free and registration is not required.
For more information, visit www.ncbaptist.org/cultureach.