Building relationships with Muslims, and people of different ethnic groups, isn’t “rocket science,” said Nik Ripken.*
Ripken has served with his wife, Ruth,* as a Christian worker in North Africa and the Middle East for 25 years. Ripken, the author of The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected, describes Muslims as “loveable” and in need of friendship like the rest of us. There are three things a person can do to provide more opportunities to share the love of Jesus, he said.
‘Fix them a bologna sandwich’
One of the first things a person can do to build a friendship with a Muslim family is invite them to dinner, said Ripken, who spoke Feb. 25 at Pleasant Garden Baptist Church in Pleasant Garden, N.C. The event, Culture Reach: Understanding, Loving and Relating to Muslims, was part of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s 2013 State Evangelism Conference.
“Fix them a bologna sandwich,” joked Ripken, who clarified that the bologna should be made out of beef, not pork. “Jesus knew this himself that there’s nothing that encourages witness, that facilitates love more than breaking bread together.
“… When was the last time you had a lost family in your house on purpose that wasn’t your relatives?” he added. “What would it mean to the tens of thousands of Muslims in North Carolina if you were to feed them, and invited them in your home.”
While meeting and interviewing Muslims in the Bible Belt, Ripken said nearly 100 percent of those who were asked about their lives in the United States said they had never met a Christian. They said no one had mentioned Jesus to them, and nearly all described America as a lonely place to live.
“Almost all of them had [invited family from overseas] to come and live with them because no one had ever spoken to them from this country,” Ripken said. “Some of them had been here for 10 years.”
All it takes to begin a friendship with a Muslim neighbor, he said, is to have “an obedient heart.”
‘Speak in tongues … It’s not what you think’
Churches need to take more initiative in learning the native tongue of different ethnic groups, Ripken said. Christians need to be better equipped when they travel overseas, and learn to speak to people in their “heart language.”
“Yes, with the military. Yes, with industry. Yes, with all kinds of businesses all over the world. And through the church, we equip our kids with the languages needed to go to the nations,” he said. “In the midst of that we can teach ESL (English as a Second Language).”
Having the attitude “you’re in America, speak English” is counterproductive, Ripken said.
“We don’t have a church planting problem,” he said. “We have a biblical problem. Everybody [who] came to Jesus in the New Testament came to Jesus in their heart language or in a regional language that is close to them.”
Nik and Ruth Ripken* help a Somali shepherd boy fix a broken shoelace. “We need to pray that the peoples of the earth will have access to Jesus,” Nik says. “The most persecuted person is a lost person who has no access to Jesus.” See photo gallery for Culture Reach conference.
Anybody can do it, Ripken said.
“Even if you’re getting gray haired, no hair, we can teach you four or five sentences in most of the languages of the world, and you can go up to people and say ‘Hello’ and ‘How are you?’” he said.
“I know everyone in this room could be taught just those few sentences.”
‘Send your babies to Mecca’
Ripken said he heard an “audible gasp” as he told the crowd “Send your babies to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.”
“One of the lies that Satan has told the church is … ‘If I give myself full time to my church, especially in the missions department, then [God] is to keep His hands off my kids,’” Ripken said. “And that is a lie, not from God, but Satan himself.”
Missions needs to be in the DNA of every church, Ripken said.
As churches dedicate children, they need to give each one a Bible and a passport application that is folded up inside the pages. The church, he said, should also start a savings account (maybe $50 or $100) for the child to help them save up for his or her first mission trip.
“If [parents] are not willing to give that baby to God, to the nations, they’re not willing to give that baby to God,” he said. “I believe if you are not going to the nations overseas, you’re not going to your neighbors here. I believe it firmly.”
Ripken ended his message by urging those in the crowd to truly consider “if no one else will go, we will go.”
* Names changed.