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FIRST-PERSON: A searching world needs more than our presence

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–It is now three weeks since Sept. 11 and we are still in shock. How do we deal with the reality of terrorist attacks within our borders? with the loss of more than 6,000 people? with the questions believers and non-believers are asking?

One of the lessons we can learn, I believe, is that the presence of Christianity is not enough. More is required.

For example, Muhammad, the father of Islam, grew up around traditional Christianity. In his 1926 book, “Origins of Islam in Christian Environment,” R. Bell wrote, “Islam did not arise in a backwater from some obscure Judaic-Christian sect, but arose in the full stream of religious life in Asia.”

Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq concurred in “Sharing Your Faith with a Muslim.” He wrote, “There is no doubt that the birth and infancy of Islam were attended by Christian presence. It is tragic, however, that the Christian witness was missing from the scene. Hence, despite the contact of Christianity with Islam, her evangelistic light was hidden under a bushel. The main reason for the historic and monumental failure of the Church was her own spiritual decay. The evangelistic fervor and missionary fire of the church of the earliest centuries began to cool off gradually as she started on a course of increasing secularization.”

Samuel Moffett, professor of historical theology at Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Seoul, Korea, noted that the church, when confronted with the growing influence of Islam, believed its presence was enough to make a difference. “What finally produced the withered ghettoes of the Nestorians and Copts was the law of Islam, which permitted conquered Christians to worship but forbade them to propagate the Christian faith. Faced with a choice between survival and witness, the church chose survival. It turned in upon itself. It ceased to evangelize. It survived, but what survived was no longer a whole church. It was a sick, ingrown community.”

Let us remember in these days, and for all times, that the world needs more than our presence. It needs our witness. And let us be busy about the task in times when people are desperately in need of the hope that only a relationship with Jesus Christ can satisfy.
Draper is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    About the Author

  • James T. Draper Jr.