For the past 12 years, I have been involved in ministry to Muslims. For the majority of those years my philosophy has been: become friends first and then share the Gospel. But I found that the longer I was friends with a Muslim, the harder it became to get to the Gospel message. I would share spiritual truth, (e.g. how Jesus was an important part of my life and that God is love), but the reality is, none of these truths are the Gospel and none of them have the power to save. Only the Gospel has the power to save. I became frustrated. Part of me was desperate to get the Gospel message to my Muslim friends, but the other part of me said that it is unwise to go there too soon. I would pray for opportunities to share the Gospel, but would not find an “open door,” so more time would pass without them hearing this life-saving message. After years of often dancing around the truth, but not always getting to the Gospel, I wanted to be upfront and proactive in sharing the Good News with Muslims, but I wasn’t sure how to do it.
Then right before leaving for an overseas trip, a friend recommended the book Any 3: Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime to me. This book transformed my view on evangelism to Muslims and gave me the practical tools I needed to share the entire Gospel message within just a few minutes of meeting a Muslim. It was a radical shift from my old philosophy, but I was eager to put it into practice. I was eager for Muslims to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ! On that trip, for the first time, I was able to confidently share the Gospel with Muslims after only just a few minutes of meeting them. All my fears that I had about the follies of sharing the Gospel with a Muslim the first time you meet them were dispelled. I was hooked!
This past weekend, I had the joy of attending an Any 3-training hosted by the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at Southern Seminary. The training was led by Dr. Mike Shipman, the author of Any 3. Even though I had already read his book and put its method into action, the training was still extremely helpful for me.
In this short blog post, I have neither the time nor the space to tell you everything that I experienced this weekend, nor to spell out to you all the steps of the Any 3 method (you will just need to read the book for yourself). However, I want to share with you what impacted me the most during this training. In short, this weekend I was challenged to be intentional in sharing the Gospel, to not delay in sharing the Gospel, and to give my hearer a chance to respond to the Gospel.
First, we must be intentional about sharing the Gospel. As Shipman said, we often pray for a door to open and when we don’t feel God open a door, we use that as an excuse not to share the Gospel. All the while, the door was right in front of us and all we had to do was turn the knob. We are waiting for God to tell us to share the Gospel, when he has already done that clearly in his Word. After a full day of training on how to share the Gospel, we went out in groups into the city to share. About 30 people heard the Gospel within the matter of just a few hours because we were intentional about sharing the Gospel. I know that if I wouldn’t have been intentional to share the Gospel that day, none of those with whom I shared the Good News of Jesus Christ would have heard; at least not from me. Any 3 gives you the practical strategies to be intentional in sharing the Gospel. As we walk in the Spirit and are intentional to share the Gospel, people will hear, and by his mercy people will believe.
Secondly, we should not delay sharing the Gospel message. I have already shared with you my personal experience with delaying in sharing the Gospel. It’s not the most effective. In fact, this philosophy caused me to avoid sharing the Gospel with Muslims. Why? Because a friendship takes a lot of time and effort, and I just didn’t have the time to spend hours upon hours with these ladies developing a relationship as a prerequisite to share the Gospel, so I just avoided them all together. There are many reasons we may think we can’t share the Gospel with Muslims the first time we meet them. Maybe we are afraid we won’t be able to have a future relationship with them if we do. (Of course, what good is that relationship if we don’t get to the Gospel?) We may feel it is rude or offensive. (But most Muslims are glad to talk about spiritual things. It’s us Westerners who have a problem with it.) We may feel it is audacious to think that a Muslim may respond positively to the Gospel when hearing it from a complete stranger. (But I have found the response no worse than when I wait to share the Gospel and sometimes even more positive.) However, I believe that these are lies that the enemy uses to keep us from sharing the Good News. He does not want people to hear the Gospel and will make any excuse sound truthful and appealing so that we don’t share. But most importantly, as Shipman reminded us often these past few days, there is no scriptural precedent for delayed Gospel proclamation. If you are unsure, just read the book of Acts. The apostles don’t wait to become besties before they share the Gospel. They share it right away. This does not mean that we should be offensive in our speech (though the Gospel message itself is offensive). We can be loving and gracious and culturally appropriate while sharing the Gospel with Muslims the first time we meet them.
Give People a Chance to Respond
Finally, we should give people a chance to respond to the Gospel message. In the past, I would share the Gospel, but not ask my friends if they believed what I told them. And the thought of sharing the Gospel with a Muslim the first time I met them and then asking them if they believed was paramount to heresy in my mind. As I had heard it said, it would be like a guy asking a girl to marry him on their first date. Well, maybe asking a Muslim to respond to the Gospel the first time they hear it is that bold. But if we don’t ask them, then how will they receive it as their own? If we don’t ask them if they want to know more, how will we know? When we went out to share this weekend, it was obvious that some of those with whom I shared did not believe the message. But there was one woman who was clearly enamored with what I was telling her. And when I asked her if she believed, she said “yes!”. While she is not yet a believer, she has eagerly agreed to meet with me to hear more about this wonderful Gospel message. I wonder how many Muslims have heard the Gospel and wanted to know more, but the person who shared with them just left them hanging. Please understand, giving people a chance to respond to the Gospel message does not mean that we are forcing it upon them, trying to manipulate them in any way to say they believe, or seeking to lead them in the “sinner’s prayer” when they don’t actually believe or understand the Gospel. No! Giving people a chance to respond to the Gospel means we intentionally (there it is again!) seek to know if they understood and believed what we shared with them or if they are interested in hearing more. If they didn’t understand, we can clarify for them. If they want to know more, we can share more. And praise God, if they do believe, then we can lead them to the Savior.
Dear brothers and sisters, if you are involved in ministry to Muslims, want to be involved in ministry to Muslims, or live near Muslims and are a follower of Jesus, then I urge you to read Any 3. It is not a magical book. It is a practical book. Based on the plan of Jesus for Gospel proclamation, the pattern shown to us in Acts, and the description in the Epistles, Any 3 provides you with practical steps to follow and frames the Gospel message in a way that makes sense to Muslims. They may not agree with the message or believe it, but it makes sense to them. So many times, while sharing the Gospel with Muslims using the Any 3 strategies, I have seen the light bulb go off. They understand why Jesus had to die. They understand that Jesus is the sacrifice given by God to take away the sins of the world. Maybe they aren’t ready to believe, but for most, it’s their first time to understand the Gospel. I want to be used by God so that Muslims believe in the Gospel and choose to follow Christ. They cannot believe unless they understand, they cannot understand unless they hear, and they cannot hear unless we preach. If you want to be a part of this, then I encourage you to read Any 3. Then go out in the Spirit in obedience to Christ to proclaim his Good News.