EDITOR’S NOTE: Visit “WorldView Conversation,” the blog related to this column, at http://worldviewconversation.blogspot.com/. Listen to an audio version at http://media1.imbresources.org/files/113/11355/11355-62029.mp3.
MIDDLE EAST (BP)–Karim* grew up in an Arab Christian family in a Middle Eastern country — part of the “1 percent of Christians among the 99 percent Muslims,” as he describes it.
When you’re part of a tiny, historically persecuted minority, you tend to keep your head down and your mouth closed. You also tend to believe what your elders tell you about the majority, whether it’s true or not. Karim did — for a time.
Now an evangelical pastor in the Middle East, Karim fervently believes the Christians of the region “are responsible for reaching the 99 percent.” But too many still accept three “evangelical lies” that prevent them from sharing Jesus with their Muslim neighbors:
— A spirit of fear. “Most Christians are afraid to go and reach Muslims because of fear,” Karim declares. “We [Christians] say, ‘They will kill us. They will kill our family, our children.'”
— Muslims won’t believe. “Many, many Christians say that Muslims will not follow Christ” — ever. End of story.
— Christians lack the resources to evangelize Muslims. “We say we don’t have the money,” Karim says. “This is another lie, because if I have the heart to reach Muslims, I can go out and reach 1,000 people and share Christ with them. Maybe I need $5 to put gas in my car. If I go walking, I don’t need any money at all.”
But it took Karim a long time to reject the lies.
As a young man he wandered in the spiritual wilderness. He worked in a nightclub (“I was a big sinner,” he confesses). Weary of cultural Christianity, he even converted to Islam for several years. When he returned to Christ with his whole heart, a Muslim friend quickly noticed the change in his life.
“I was so excited about what happened to me, so the first thing I did was to share it with one of my best friends,” Karim recounts. “He said, ‘Karim, if Jesus did that in your life, I want to follow Him.’ I said, ‘No, no, no.’ You see, the fear is there inside us. He said, ‘But I want to follow Christ as you did because it is very good.’ I said, ‘OK, think about it, and we can talk tomorrow.’ The next morning at 8:30 he came to me and said, ‘I decided to give my life to Jesus and to follow Him with no conditions.'”
A second friend believed, and a third, and a fourth. All were Muslims. Not all decided to follow Christ as quickly as the first, but Karim could no longer deny Muslims wanted the priceless gift he had to share.
He began to sense what a Saudi friend later put into words: “We Muslims are beloved people, but we are cheated” — cheated out of knowing about the One who loves them because other followers of Christ are too timid or indifferent to tell them about Him.
“You know the difference between leading a Christian-background person to Christ or a Muslim?” Karim asks. “The first is like a tree planted in your backyard, and in six months you start to get fruit. But to lead a Muslim to Christ, you are digging in a mine. You may spend years, but what you find there is not fruit. It is diamonds!”
What keeps him digging? Every day he hears about — or personally witnesses — a Muslim coming to Christ.
“This is the fuel I’m getting from the Lord.”
*Name changed. Erich Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board (imb.org).