A little over a week ago I sent you a message asking that you partner with me and some three other friends on a trip to Moi University, Eldoret. A friend, A.K had been invited by the Moi University Christian Union to speak on Muslim Evangelism at their once in three years Varsity Mission. The guy, at only 26, has been a missionary to the Somalis for close to three years. He thought I would handle well the Apologetics bit (don’t worry if you don’t have the remotest idea of what that is) and asked me along. Of course together with Shad, my evangelist friend whom I would take a wager he’ll never shut up unless when he’s asleep. Thankfully his talk will always either make you laugh or reflect deeply on something about God. Then there was Maria, whose stories of the hood she’s from will always leave you wondering how she survived it all and even made it to be saved. I think surviving her part of Kayole means she will thrive anywhere; even at whichever place among the Muslims she may someday actualize the flaming passion she has for them.
Thanks to your giving and praying, we used a shuttle and not some fourteen seater (but often with capacity for more) matatumy long legs would have found trouble fitting in. We also afforded beef for lunch at our lone stopover in Nakuru, albeit complaining that it was little. Best of all, your giving and praying facilitated our ministry to both the Christians and Muslims in Moi University. Whether it was the Thursday spent with my crazy disciples/ kids eating, laughing and inspiring, or the Wednesday accounted for by preaching and later facilitating a forum with Muslims, we felt useful. The same way you should feel you were being used of God during those very moments despite being miles away at your job, college or wherever you were.
Apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that seeks to address the intellectual obstacles that keep people from taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ seriously. Growing up in ministry, I have always found it cool how some preachers will give the root meanings of words by quoting from Aramaic or Hebrew. So I’ll try that too. The word has been coined from the Greek word apologia that means a reasoned defense. The very exercise Peter asks of us in 1 Peter 3:15 – be prepared to give an answer (apologia) to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have with gentleness and respect.
The mention of apologetics to most minds triggers imaginations of these lengthy arguments around some theological topic. That usually leads to most people thinking that it can only be applied to people outspokenly rebellious against God, such as atheists, and can only be practiced by theological experts. Quite to the contrary. Apologetics can and should be applied to any imaginable type of audience. Indeed, the level of intellectualism will vary with different audiences, but reason will almost at all times be involved. Even though most people’s faith journey usually starts out on an emotional path, sooner or later their minds will need convincing for them to remain in it. Paul when writing to the Romans (12:1-2) submits that anyone’s transformation begins at the mind. People will always do as they think, and so the faith that transforms the world can only be the faith that transforms our minds. Simply put, change the thoughts and you have the deeds taken care of.
Apologetics is also every Christian’s responsibility and not just the reserve of a few experts. I always say that if something is for everyone who doesn’t have it, like the Gospel, then everyone who has it has a part in availing it. We are commanded to love God with all our hearts, minds and might (Deuteronomy 6:5). Christians’ reluctance to go deeper in the knowledge of God (not just through the Bible, but also other ways He reveals Himself like science too) has often turned this Greatest Commandment into the least obeyed. We hardly love God with our minds. We only go as far as loving Him with our hearts, desiring only a felt love and not going the distance to agree with Him in our minds.
Time restrains me from going into the discussion on worldviews (how people perceive reality) and the four questions Ravi Zacharias says that every worldview should answer; origin, meaning and purpose, morality and destiny. I couldn’t possibly fit together in a single post ideas great minds before me have mulled over for years. You can always enroll for an online course with RZIM (Ravi Zacharias Intl Ministries) for more equipping. It’s inexplicable the depth of minds that have gelled together over the years to make up this great wealth of resources. Their three-month online course would make for a very convenient one for most people I think. You could also start with books, some available online and others at book stores. The resource list at the end of this post should help.
My main focus while I taught (or is it preached? I wasn’t loud and dramatic so I doubt) wasn’t to arm those wonderful young Christians, expectantly looking my way, with intellectual arrows they’d throw at anyone they would go out to evangelize. Ask Ravi where that attitude leads and he’ll warn you that you might win the argument but lose the person. That benefits neither you nor God’s Kingdom. Keith Swartley, editor of the Encountering the World of Islam (EWI) course, from which both my teaching and Arthur’s heavily borrowed, also says that “our fight is not against Muslims, but for them.” A game altering statement I think. EWI is another one week course I wish every Christian did; especially with the rise of Islam. It dramatically shifts your perspective and helps you realize how every petrifying statistic about the rise of Islam is actually a wide open door of opportunity for the Christians. You could either contact Keith on this website or contact Missions Campaign Network, the ministry I serve with, for more information and partnership.
My primary focus was to help my learners look more inwardly to themselves. 1 Pet 3:15 begins with “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” Ravi carefully points to that text as where apologetics begins. He argues that one can’t give reason for a hope he/she doesn’t have. “The business of an apologist is first and primarily himself,” he says. If I may ask, do you think it would be possible to offer transformation to someone else if you yourself were not transformed? Of course not. I think the one costly mistake we Christians have often made when sharing our faith has been to think of faith more as an object apart from us than as a quality alive in us. Defending the faith means defending your life, and offering it means offering your life. Think about what Paul meant when he said “follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). He was asking those Corinthians to be like him! Knowing yourself, would you ask anyone to be like you? To act every way you act and think everything you think?
Often whenever Christians have set out to evangelize a particular people (in our case Muslims) our approach has been to first ask ‘how’ we should do it. But I believe this should make a distant third, way after we’ve answered two very significant questions; first, for whom are we evangelizing – who is God? And secondly, who are we evangelizing – who are the Muslims? Perfectly addressing these two will give insight on how to go about the evangelism. A.K did a praiseworthy job of addressing the second question. His experience and tireless research matched up well to the task of demystifying Islam. Backed up by the truth and easily his favorite quote that ‘where ignorance thrives, fear thrives also’ he meticulously detached Islam from the cruel labels we’ve long associated it with.
Perhaps the most poignant comments for me came after he asked us who we thought Muslims were. Of course almost everyone thought they are the followers of Islam. But I hope this shocks you just as it shocked many in that little, old chapel that had been my favorite place in campus for years. They are not first followers of Islam, but they are first human beings made in the image and likeness of God! Jesus taught that we should treat others the way we would wish to be treated ourselves (Matthew 7:12). It always starts with us. We can never wish anyone better than what we wish ourselves. That’s why it’s important to see Muslims as people just like us. People worthy of love and respect as we are, and desiring genuine relationships just as we do. Only then will we treat them as deserving of the Gospel that is by grace just as we are.
A.K was major on the opportunities we’ve missed. Painfully he related how the former JKUAT student who masterminded the Garissa attack might probably have shared a hostel or the mess with him at some point. Like all other gullible fellas who have been deceived into committing heinous crimes in the name of Islam, he must have, at a time in his life, crossed paths with a Christian. But both because of personal ignorance and reluctance on the part of the Christians, he missed a chance to receive the Gospel that could have saved both him and the many he orchestrated their killings. When he asked us to list any Muslim friends that we had, only a handful could count more than three. How many do you have yourself? How many do you think heaven could credit the saving of their souls to using you today? I think it’s time you focused more on growing that list than on growing that net worth. I’m not saying you quit working; my ministry of course depends on your giving. I’m only suggesting that you make the souls of the lost to be what informs your work, studies, and etcetera. If you do, your efforts will count for eternity because they will have facilitated a soul into an eternity with God.
Who is God? Do we realize that we are not evangelizing to ourselves but to God? If we know Him then we will witness by His Spirit and wisdom. We will model our evangelization styles after His attributes – love, patience, gentleness and holiness. God loved us enough to send His Son to die for us (John 3:16)! Paul loved the Jews enough to wish that he were cut off from the Gospel so they could be saved (Romans 9:3)! Do we love Muslims or anyone we were hoping to reach that much? There’s no act of witnessing that could be done without that kind of love. Yet we are often guilty of going out to evangelize people we are spiteful towards. You could use all the sweet ‘God loves you’s but trust me they can easily pick out your resentful attitude and reject the Gospel you bring.
Are we patient enough to labor for however long it takes to see a brother or sister saved? Any idea how long God has been at work in you preparing you for the coming of Christ? Since you were born, till now, and still counting! Are we after conversions or after relationships that lead to conversions? Without patience we are bound to do the right thing at the wrong time and make our efforts altogether wrong. If we’ll be gentle as Christ is, we will show respect for Islam or any other faith. What results is that they will respect our faith and even find it desirable. Offering a reasoned defense for our faith does not mean aggression. Our place is that of humble representation of truth.
Are we holy as God is holy? Publicly condemning evil which we can be good at behind closed doors isn’t necessarily holiness. Holiness is to live blamelessly. Of course we couldn’t be blameless on account of our righteousness but that of Christ in us. Remember it is our lives that we pass on more than the words we may say. Christ lived out, I have found, is easier seen and accepted than Christ only told. Being holy doesn’t mean we are to be perfect and sinless. Actually, holiness is acknowledging those very imperfections and sins. I know of no other way to draw men to the Cross of Christ apart from acknowledging the work of that very Cross in us. Acting like we have it all together, especially to those we are reaching out to, is denying the work of the Cross! However, every time we acknowledge our sinfulness;
- We exalt Christ as the only perfect one and in turn men are drawn to Him.
- We allow those we evangelize to relate with us by finding us human and imperfect/ in need of a Savior just like them.
I won’t share much from the forum in the afternoon. I’ll only share a few beliefs by Muslims we were able to glean from the friendly interaction we had with them. Hopefully these guide you on how to pray;
- ‘Jesus is only a prophet and a good man.’ We know that He is more. Pray for them to have the true revelation of Christ.
- ‘We are not by nature sinners (still wondering how this will explain the manipulation and selfishness of kids)’. The effect is to not see us as helpless people unable to save ourselves but as people with a chance to save our souls if we do more righteous deeds. ‘At judgment, our good will be weighed against our evil and our salvation determined;’ so they believe. You know how to pray – Grace.
- ‘However good you may be, there is no assurance of salvation! Allah alone knows whom He will have mercy on and whom He will condemn to eternity in jehanam.’ I can’t imagine if there’s anything worse frustrating than living for a future you have not the slightest assurance of. However God leads you to pray, please pray.
To all who gave, thanks again. To the ones who didn’t, for as long as Christ tarries, you have a chance to join in His work through your giving. Not just to me, A.K, Shad, Maria, MCN or the handful of missionaries I know. There are countless ministries and individuals taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Only be willing and God will lead you to one or more. God bless you saint.
- www.rzim.org/Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
- Responsible Faith
- rzimacademy.org (offers a twelve-week course going at 199 USDs but you could get a scholarship that cuts that to KES 3000 only.)
- The Jesus I never knew – Phillip Yancey
- The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel
- The Case for Faith – Lee Strobel
- On Guard – William Lincraig
- C. S. Lewis’ books
- G. K. Chesterton’s books – The Everlasting Man (addresses origins)
- Seven Days that divide the Earth – John Lennox
- Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Nabil Qureshi
- Why Suffering? – Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale.