We would like to offer our help to your church. Because all situations are different, we can tailor our involvement to your needs with some or all of the following:
- Providing the “Bridges DVD study on Christians Connecting With Muslims” for small group or Sunday school use.
- Help with starting an Oasis Group for prayer and growing awareness of outreach opportunities.
- Performing a demographic study of your area to identify cultural shifts, particularly towards an Islamic presence.
- We can assist the pastor and leadership to challenge their congregation re:
- their changing community and its needs, and
- evangelistic and growth opportunities
- We can assist the pastor with beginning a Sunday AM teaching series on “Missions From Your Front Door.”
- There may need to be the presentation of special sessions on:
- the background of Islam and other religions;
- evangelism techniques;
- answers to questions about Christianity;
- understanding your own culture and other cultures;
- the body of Christ: how to care for a convert from another culture.
- We will be ready to assist the church with hosting a “Meeting for Better Understanding” by providing:
- guidance to the pastor on identifying and contacting a mosque;
- training on how to organize an MBU;
- help in getting speakers;
- literature for distribution
“Meetings for Better Understanding” between Muslims and Christians
Unfortunately, confrontation is a frequent feature of Christian-Muslim encounters. Opportunities for discussion in a friendly atmosphere are rare. Real communication often does not happen. Muslims and Christians do have organized debates about controversial issues. But, while in many ways such events have their uses, the problem nearly always attached to them is the degree of heated exchange they can engender. On the other hand, inter-faith dialogue always runs the risk of obscuring the differences between the religions, and implying that all roads lead to God. Clearly, then, there is a need for a forum where Christians and Muslims can meet in large numbers to hear what the other community believes without succumbing on the one hand to liberal ecumenism or on the other deteriorating to a shouting match. A middle way is needed to facilitate more intelligent discussions and understanding of the very real differences between Islam and Christianity.
That middle way is attempted by organizing forums called Meetings for Better Understanding [MBU]. These are not debates. Any public criticism of either the Muslim or Christian religion is not encouraged since each speaker is to address what their faith believes about the topic. Neither are they ecumenical dialogues, in which the lowest common denominator of similarity is the focus. Rather MBUs promote a mutual comprehension of what Muslims and Christians believe. These meetings enable the two communities to encounter one another in a relaxed context of friendship and learning hearing from a representative of the faith that is being talked about.
Speakers from both communities address the meeting for about 20 minutes on the same, agreed-upon topic. A forty-five minute question-and-answer period is held after both speakers have presented their messages. Questions, which may be directed to one or both of the speakers, are to be kept on the topic and are not to be statements of the views of the questioners. Each speaker may follow up on the answer of the other speaker once. Other questions that are of personal interest but are not related to the topic may be discussed in individual conversations after the formal sessions. For each meeting the host group selects a moderator whose role is to ensure that the above guidelines are followed. There is ample time after the formal meeting for people attending the meeting to meet personally with members of the other faith. For more information, see this booklet, Meetings for Better Understanding.
Jon and Karen Elias have recently transitioned into an exciting new field of ministry, reaching out to Muslims in the Mid-Atlantic United States. My church and I are so pleased at what God is doing through them in this time and place. Jon and Karen helped open a dialog between us and leaders of the mosque in our community. This led to a Meeting for Better Understanding in October of 2012. The purpose of the meeting was to share the beliefs of the two faiths. We used the Christian belief of Christmas as a gateway to sharing the Gospel. The Muslim speaker shared about the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). It was a great opportunity to contrast the works system of Islam with the grace to be found in the Christian message. Our second Meeting for Better Understanding is being planned for the Spring of this year. Jon and Karen were indispensable in preparing us to respect their culture while lovingly sharing our faith in Jesus. They would be a great resource for you and your church to reach Muslims in your community!
Timothy Schmoyer, Pastor
Whitehall BFC in Whitehall, PA