SOS, my neighbor is a Muslim!

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The days of going across the seas to exotic and faraway lands to meet Muslims are over… Islam represents one quarter of the world (23%) and Muslims are everywhere. Chances are that one of your kid’s doctor is a Muslim, that in the last week you drove with a Muslim Uber driver, or that a new restaurant is about to appear in your neighborhood that has halal sign for clean meat.

Maybe some of you are among those who wish to go back to the “good old days” where everyone kept to themselves in neatly clear boxes, but if you are carefully reflecting in the meaning of the changes to our social landscape, then you will see the hand of God in the glove of current events.

Since most of the major unreached people groups in the world, are represented in the NAD, imagine with me for a moment what impact for mission we could have in the world’s platform by reaching the world next door?

Yes, next door. God has facilitated this by placing a mosque within walking distance to your church, or maybe a Kurdish or an Iranian young man has dropped by and asked to speak with you after the sermon on Sabbath. And you, as the pastor you are wishing that in the class that you had on World Religions, you would have been given more tools for engaging Muslims.

 Three Key Points of Contact and Divergence

 The areas of common ground are not simply areas of interfaith agreement, but signs of divine activity among Muslims; footprints that God has left as bridges to meet with Muslim and journey from common ground to higher ground.

Who is God? The most fundamental place where believers meet is God. Understanding the picture of God, helps us see several foundational themes: what is good, what went wrong and what is the solution to put it right? What kind of relationship is possible between God and mankind? How evil ends? What character, laws and government God has? God (Allah in Arabic), is known to be the Creator God, the God who called Abraham to be his witness/ prophet among the nations. The mission of Abraham is shared by all the subsequent prophets: proclaim the oneness of God, the severity of the Day of Judgment for those who disobey, and promote the virtuous life of doing good. The Day of Judgment is so critical for Muslims, that the Qur’an has 25 names to refer to it. The Qur’an main focus is on God’s power: both creation and judgment testify to it. Yet, it will be a mistake to fail to see traits like mercy, forgiveness and compassion as fundamental to understand God. Unlike some Christians who wrongly think that Allah is the moon-god of pagan Arabs, Muslims have no problem to say that we all worship the same God

(see Quran 29:46 say, "We believe in what was revealed to us and in what was revealed to you, and our God and your God is one and the same; to Him we are submitters”.) The irreconcilable difference comes when we articulate how understand the identity of the triune God of Abraham and the place of Jesus as intrinsic to the divine identity and not a prophet nor a second God. The higher ground here consists in opening the issues of the Great Controversy to show that our loving God can be trusted.

 God is the Master of the Universe, just and merciful Lord who rules over his servants/worshippers. In Islam there is no use of familial language for it would blurred the distance between us and God, so metaphors of God as Father, we as his children and Jesus as Son are not understood and often interpreted as if we are grossly claiming some sort of physical relations with God. These needs to be explained: “when you hear us praying to the Father, we are acknowledging that God is like a Father to us all, and we are all brother and sisters in humanity…” “what we say that we are children of God, what we mean is that God’ purposed from creation that we all be a family, united by the bonds of trust”, when you read that Jesus is the Son of God, is not implying that God has any kind of physical relationship with his servant Mary, but that the closeness between God and Jesus can be best understood as the closeness between a Father and his Son who love each other deeply.” The higher ground is the relational and intimate nature of God. He has made this possible, by removing the wall of separation by sending Jesus.

 What went wrong with mankind? Deficient matter. Yes, man was created from clay which is weak, thus he forgets. When he forget he sins. Ignorance is his problem, guidance is the solution. The higher ground here is to point to man created in the image of God, with extreme high value and freedom, and trapped in rebellion. The problem is not intellectual but relational. God offers us a new heart to recover the original intent dwell in close companionship, this path goes through Jesus who he appointed as the way back to God. Jesus is the new Adam, the originator of a new humanity, Jesus is God’s word made flesh so that we could know the truth about God.

 What Mission did God entrust Abraham and his descendants? God sent Abraham to create a new community bonded by the bonds of faith. The children of Abraham would go all over the world like Noah, calling people back to God and receiving the means that he provided to protect them from an evil age. Higher ground, the blessing entrusted to Abraham was pointing to the seed of the woman, one who would wiped people’s sins and give them his Spirit to choose obedience and that their sinful desires. God loves the world and made a plan to save it.

 

Basic Action Plan for Engagement

What can you do? Here are four simple and inexpensive ideas.

1- Visit your local mosque, introduce yourself and ask the Imam if he will allow you to pray that Abraham blessing will be upon him and his people.

2- Ask the local Imam if you can shadow him one Friday and then invite him to eat out and share in which way your role as a pastor coincides with his and ask him how he deals with similar challenges.

3- Offer hospitality, invite the local Imam to eat out to his favorite restaurant and get to know him and the challenges and projects of his congregation. Pray directing your prayer to God before the meal.

4- Ask the leaders of the mosque if they are interested in a Health Fair, which could be followed up with a stop smoking plan before the month of fasting (Ramadan).

 

If you are interested in receiving more information or support to mobilize your church towards a local ministry among Muslims, reach out the NAD Adventist Muslim Relations Coordinator (Gaby Phillips) at gabrielaphillips@nadadventist.org or call at 423 994 8300