SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA – Someone forgot to tell Jason Williams* that you can’t plant churches in Muslim communities. Or share the gospel with Muslims. And see them come to faith in Christ and change a community.
Since Williams didn’t know he could not do all that, he also skipped the part about not training other people to do it too. Now there are people in Southern California going to mosques. They are sharing the gospel with their Muslim and Hindu friends. If Williams isn’t careful, this might lead to something big.
The activity led Aslam Masih to coordinate two events with local churches. The interaction included Williams, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planting missionary.
“The purpose was to learn, encourage and cast a vision of mobilizing churches to engage Muslims and Hindus, and plant churches among them,” said Masih, national coordinator for South Asians and Muslim people groups for NAMB’s church mobilization team.
“The first church is doing a great job living out the Great Commission in local and global missions,” said Masih. “They are engaged in several ethnic plants as a sending church. The Middle Eastern, Iranian and South Asian pastors shared their ministry experiences. They told of how their churches are making a difference in the community, and in reaching different nations.”
Those pastors told Masih they estimate the number of Iranians in the area at 50,000, with another 50,000 immigrants from the Middle East.
“The pastors shared several important points for evangelism and planting churches among Muslims and Hindus,” said Masih. “They have seen progress using gospel tracts, visiting temples and universities, asking Muslims and Hindus their prayer requests, and starting Bible study groups.”
Masih and Williams led another training at a church with a vision to reach Muslims.
Williams shared about his ministry among Afghans and challenged the participants to join him on mission.
“People there told interesting reasons why they were there,” said Masih. “They said a large number of Muslim students attend schools in their communities. They are working with Muslims and want to understand who they are. Mosques also are opening in their neighborhoods.”
Following the training, Masih, Williams and the pastor visited a local mosque. Leading by example is one of Masih’s favorite methods of teaching.
“The Muslim leaders welcomed us, and served us Somali tea,” said Masih. “A young African American man who converted to Islam in 2001 was very hospitable. I asked him what made him convert from Christianity to Islam. He said Islamic values caused him to become a Muslim.
“While we were in the Mosque, a group of Muslims shouted, ‘Allah-hu-Akbar!’ ‘Allah is great!’ We turned to see the reason. They were expressing excitement because an Hispanic young man had converted to Islam.”
Masih is sold on teaching people to reach Muslims by showing.
“I believe the best way to make an impact is not just to teach how to reach Muslims but to model it,” said Masih. “If God’s people will live out the call of reaching nations intentionally, and engage them in their neighborhoods with the unconditional love of Christ, the landscape of North America would be changed forever.”
One church, in Maryland has taken Masih’s training to heart. They began by asking other churches in the area to partner with them. Next they contacted a local mosque, expressing an interest in touring the new facility and being part of activities open to the community. But they did not stop there. They extended an invitation to the leaders of the mosque to be their honored guests at the church’s Christmas Eve services.
The church launched an adopt-a-business strategy where churches can “adopt” Muslim-owned businesses, praying for the owners and staff regularly and making visits to build relationships. The goal is for church members to invite Muslims to their homes for meals and fellowship.
Whether in California, Maryland or somewhere in between, Masih attempts to capitalize on peoples’ curiosity about Muslims and Hindus and move them to action. Making the effort to reach these people groups practical is Masih’s aim. He begins with the Send North America strategy, shares practical models for reaching Muslims and Hindus and shows how churches are being planted among these people groups in North America.
Masih shares five ways churches can reach out to their Muslim neighbors with the goal of sharing the gospel. The same principles apply when attempting to reach Hindus.
– Pray for Muslims, particularly Muslims in your community.
– Research and understand the need.
– Take short-term mission trip.
– Befriend Muslims.
– Host international students for a holiday dinner in your church.
Want to learn more about reaching Muslims and Hindus for Christ? Visit 4truth.net/world-religions. To help church planters in North America, visit namb.net and click on “mobilize me.”
*Named changed due to the sensitive nature of his work.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aslam Masih contributed to this story. He serves as national coordinator for South Asians and Muslim people groups on the North American Mission Board’s church mobilization team.)