Tuesday, September 13, 2011

To Reach Muslims for Christ, Quit the Fear and Start Loving Them

It isn’t that Muslims aren’t responsive to the Gospel, International Mission Board strategist Sam McAlister* says. The issue, he says, is that most Muslims have never heard it or seen a committed Christian live it out.

Islam claims nearly one-fourth of the world’s population — 1.57 billion Muslims. But fear — felt by both Muslims and Christians — ranks among the most significant barriers separating the Muslim world from the Gospel today.

After Sept. 11, 2001, Western culture collectively branded Muslims as suicidal jihadists bent on the Islamization of the globe politically as much as religiously by the fear-producing act of terrorism. Though these stereotypes are softening as Americans’ understanding of Islam grows, strong anti-Muslim sentiment endures as war with terrorist groups continues in Afghanistan and Iraq.

What’s more, Americans’ phobia toward Islam doesn’t appear to stop at the church threshold. A survey of more than 1,000 Protestant pastors released by LifeWay Research in December 2009 showed that 77 percent of evangelical pastors either somewhat or strongly agreed that Islam is a “dangerous religion,” though the study did not explore the specific issues behind their concern.

So what does all this mean in light of Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations?
McAlister, who leads the IMB’s strategy for spreading the Gospel among Central Asian peoples, believes Christians must transcend their own prejudices if they are committed to fulfilling the Great Commission. The real problem, he says, is a “lack of love” for Muslims that causes believers to respond with fear and hatred rather than loving them as God does.


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