It should ever be manifest that we are reformers, but not bigots. When our laborers enter a new field, they should seek to become acquainted with the pastors of the several churches in the place. Much has been lost by neglecting to do this. If our ministers show themselves friendly and sociable, and do not act as if they were ashamed of the message they bear, it will have an excellent effect, and may give these pastors and their congregations favorable impressions of the truth. At any rate, it is right to give them a chance to be kind and favorable if they will. Our laborers should be very careful not to give the impression that they are wolves stealing in to get the sheep, but should let the ministers understand their position and the object of their mission – to call the attention of the people to the truths of God’s Word. There are many of these which are dear to all Christians. Here is common ground, upon which we can meet people of other denominations; and in becoming acquainted with them we should dwell mostly upon topics in which all feel an interest, and which will not lead directly and pointedly to the subjects of disagreement. Ellen G. White, “Overcoming Prejudice,” Review and Herald, June 13, 1912
I have always appreciated this statement by Mrs. White. It came just a couple of years before she died after a long ministry where she had seen how much had been lost in our cause by ministers and members who were more interested in being combative and proving the truth of our teachings than developing friendships with people in other churches and helping in the cause of the Reformation and point people to the Bible. I found this principle to be even more important in my work with Muslims.
When I was living in Lincoln, Nebraska and attempting to start a center for interfaith studies and culture at Union College, I began to attend some of the local mosques on a fairly regular basis. I became good friends with the imam at one of the Sunni mosques and the whole leadership team at the local Shi’a mosque. I ended up sharing many meals with them in my house and in their homes and had many good discussions. I found a small group of Adventists there who were interested in reaching out to the Muslim population, so we started a Bible/Quran study that has now been meeting for over four years.
I am now pastoring in Minnesota, but my parents still live in Lincoln. We just went back there for Christmas and New Years. I was hoping to see some of my Muslim friends when I was there, so one of the Adventists in our Bible/Quran study group opened up her home for a New Year’s celebration. I invited most of my Muslim friends to come, but didn’t expect that many would be able to make it due to their own family celebrations. I was so surprised when the whole leadership team from the Shi’a mosque showed up at the party. We sat around drinking tea and talking about many topics – some political, some religious and some personal. I was so glad that we had been able to develop such a good relationship that they would trust us to come and share their New Years with us. Many times they have told me that they view the Adventists as “true believers” and their fellow brothers and sisters.
Doug Hardt is pastor of the Iron Range district in Minnesota and has recently published a book titled “Who Was Muhammad?”