For more than 30 years God has given me a consuming passion for discipling people from a Muslim background. In this process I have always looked for key people with great spiritual potential. These could be referred to as the good seed in the good soil (Mark 4:20; Luke 8:15) that multiplies up to a hundredfold. A related concept is the “person of peace” (Luke 9:4–5, 10:5–6) who is strategic in the spread of the gospel to others.
There is an Afghan man I’ve known now for about 11 years, and who I consider to be my best friend. We often meet for prayer and to share the scriptures and have some fun times together. He loves to share his faith but has suffered a lot of rejection from his relatives because of his allegiance to Jesus. He has a real gift for explaining the scriptures and all the believers greatly appreciate him. He is a person of peace.
As I think back over my years in ministry, I can identify three other people who I would call people of peace. Like my Afghan friend, they have a common strength in their faith and are making a wonderful impact among people from their ethnic backgrounds. In reflecting on the time I shared with these people, I have learned a lot about how to minister more effectively with them.
During the 14 years I ministered in the Philippines I met a Filipino Muslim man who lived about one metre from my front door in a depressed neighbourhood in Manila. Over a period of 18 months he became a follower of Jesus. He was poor but much respected by his family and friends; a generous, unselfish man who had exceptional people skills. Together we shared the word of God with several of the people close to him using chronological Bible studies. I was amazed at the way he shared when he led the studies. His fluency of language and cultural expression of his faith in the scriptures was amazing. In the years to come he suffered for his faith but was mightily used of God. As I look back on that time I’m thankful for our ministry together but realise key mistakes I made. I dominated the biblical sharing and teaching far too much. I should have focused much more on mentoring and enabling him to reach his own people.
There is another Afghan man I met in early 2003 in Melbourne. He and his family were new believers when they transferred to a location near where I lived. We quickly started reaching out to his friends and relatives with the gospel. Several of them came to faith and were baptised. His gifting was in sharing his faith and he was a natural evangelist. However, since they were all new believers, I felt I needed to take the lead in the ministry.
The third man is an Iranian who came to our country and joined a Bible study I was leading. It quickly became clear that he wanted to be the pastor and lead the group. He invited a number of Iranians to our study and really helped the group to grow. My fear was that he wasn’t mature enough in the faith to effectively lead the group, and I was also conscious of avoiding any power struggle. And so I held him back instead of more effectively nurturing his leadership skills.
A key characteristic of people of peace is their deep value of personal relationships. Personally praying and sharing God’s word with them is vital. My key mistake was controlling the Bible teaching and sharing when I should have stepped back and taken a mentoring role. By God’s grace and with the help of others who share this ministry, I continue to learn and grow! I hope these insights may be valuable for others engaged in outreach to our beloved Muslim people.
Robert* is a CultureConnect Team Member who is helping churches in Melbourne to reach out cross-culturally.
*Names have been changed.