A Muslim convert helps the church reach Muslims.
For the final week of Black History Month, I wanted to introduce to you a man who was saved out of Islam and is now, among many other things, helping the church to share the Good News of the Gospel with Muslims.
Thabiti Anyabwile grew up in North Carolina in the middle of the Bible belt but his family only attended church on special occasions. He never felt any strong desire for spiritual things until he was arrested in high school and had a wake-up call. He figured that church might be the place to go to get some sense knocked into you when you got in trouble, but when he went, he never ended up hearing the Good News.
He went off to college an angry man and there began friendships with a number of Muslim men. Their friendship and earnest faith led Thabiti to begin practicing Islam in his second year. Unlike his nominal experience with Christianity, he was zealous for Islam and practiced it faithfully throughout his time at university. But during Ramadan, he came to a crossroads as he read the Qur’an. The dilemma he found was that on one hand, the Qur’an conceded too much about Jesus (e.g. the virgin birth, miracles, the fact that he is a true prophet and the gospels are signs from God) but on the other hand, it denied too much (e.g. Jesus is not the Son of God, wasn’t really crucified). After a year of wrestling with this tension, he finally concluded that the inconsistencies couldn’t be explained and he deemed Islam to be a false religion.
A casual conversation with a group of co-workers provided another dilemma for Thabiti. One of the co-workers shared how deeply she respected his righteousness and listed a number of reasons why she felt that way. Far from puffing him up however, it drove him to despair. Because he realized that the righteousness she described was all external, and he knew that his heart was corrupt and sinful. He could impress a co-worker with his external behaviour, but he knew that his sinful heart would never satisfy a holy God.
Still feeling the weight of the realization of his sinful heart, he and his wife miscarried their first child, three months into the pregnancy. Rather than embittering them, it humbled them, and they decided to turn to God. Attending church, they heard the message of Exodus 32 powerfully expounded, and they felt not only the weight of their own sin but also the grace of God in providing a Saviour who took God’s wrath in their place and offered them His perfect righteousness. He and his wife both trusted Christ that morning. Thabiti went on to serve as a pastor and has led several congregations and authored more than a half dozen books.
As a former-Muslim, Thabiti gives a number of helpful tips on reaching out to Muslims:
- Be confident in the Gospel. If you know the Good News, you’re ready to share your faith with Muslims.
- Recognize that your Muslim neighbour has the same concerns, ambitions and needs as your non-Muslim neighbour.
- Don’t assume all Muslims know the Qur’an well; there are many nominal followers.
- Don’t think that Muslims don’t convert. Many are saved by the same Gospel that saved you.
- Most Muslims are eager to hear what we think about Jesus or to try to disprove the Gospel. To do that they turn to the Gospels themselves so it’s a good place to share from.
- As you discuss Christianity, emphasize that faith is a personal issue not just an abstract theological discussion. Our sin is real and it causes a personal offence to a holy God.
- Be respectful as you speak with Muslims and avoid arguments about politics or Muhammad.
- Invite your Muslim friends into your home but be modest and avoid serving pork.
- Don’t assume that they wouldn’t be interested in attending your church. Many would if invited.
I’m grateful for Thabiti Anyabwile and many in Islam who are trusting in Jesus and being used to build His church. May God give us courage to follow their example.
In awe of Him,