We have a HUGE problem in America today. A mosque-sized problem.
Mosques are popping up in every major city across the country. Chances are, if you live in a populous city or state, there is mosque coming to a " street corner near you." The number of mosques rose a whopping 74% in the 2000-2010 decade, growing from 1,209 to 2,106! There are mosques in every state in the union and in each of our territories. There are 246 mosques in California alone! New York wins out as having the highest number in the nation with 257 and Texas is well on its way with 166.
But is this really the problem? I am going to take a bold step here and say a very emphatic NO!
The building of mosques at an exponential rate is not the problem. Muslims coming to our shores and integrating into our society is not the problem. This, my dear friends, is an opportunity!
The mosque-sized problem is that generally we in the western church are doing a great big nothing about it. I say "generally" because certainly there are ministries and churches which do, indeed, reach out to this growing populace living in darkness and in dire need of Christ. By and large, however, we as a church turn and look the other way, refusing to acknowledge the Muslim walking down the grocery aisle let alone say "hello."
I say these things with the full realization that there are a few major obstacles in the "way" of reaching out. Firstly, there is the "fear factor." Considering everything seen on any news station around the country, most Americans equate "Muslim" with "9/11" and now "ISIS." The other issue is a lack of understanding in the "how-to" realm. The oh-so common question of, "What if I offend him/her?" swirls around our heads before we even get up the nerve to say hello. Combine these two issues, and the typical Christian turns the other way or simply ignores the Muslim walking opposite them in the grocery store.
How many "well-meaning" Christians turn away instead of engaging the Muslim who has come to our shores? So many that in only 10 years the number of mosques "grew" by seventy-four percent! They are not afraid of offending us, my friend. How dare we let "fear" keep us from potentially "offending" them!
I want to challenge you today. Our problem isn't Muslims or mosques. Our problem is our own lack of reaching out with the glorious gospel of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Having lived overseas in a Muslim context, I can promise you, not all Muslims are going to want to murder you in your sleep. Yes, there are "extremists" who would be more than happy to do so, but may I also be so bold as to say they need Jesus too! Throw aside the fear and doubt the devil would so love to hinder you with and the next time you see a Muslim walking down the street, gather up the courage to say hello! As far as offending them goes - "Hello" is not a very offensive word.
Here are a few "how-tos" for those of you who have Muslims living in your neighborhood.
1. If you are going to say hello and introduce yourself, make sure you say it to the correct gender. Men socialize with men and women socialize with women. Period. In a husband/wife situation, the socialization rules are pretty much the same. Husbands speak with each other, wives speak with each other.
2. Let your beliefs infiltrate your speech. Including things like, "God brought me to this town 12 years ago..." and, "Lord willing..." are great ways to let a Muslim know you worship God and aren't afraid to show it. And while we're on the subject, don't be afraid to show it! For the most part, Muslims live, eat, and breathe Islam. We should live, eat, and breathe Jesus Christ!
3. If you are able to strike up a conversation, offer a way for further contact. If you just met these people, give a phone number (again, remember #1) or your street address and invite them over! Muslims are very hospitable people and though they may not seem super friendly at first, they will warm up to you through a genuine offer of friendship. Remember, they are largely ignored and ostracized due to media attention and the fact that most people would rather they just leave instead of adjust and fit into our society.
I cannot possibly overemphasize #2. LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE is a commandment, not a suggestion. Muslims are won to Christ by seeing and hearing about the love, grace, mercy, and light of the Lord Jesus through His Gospel. Speak of Him, love Him through your actions, let Him affect and flavor every single thing you do. Be the salt of the earth. Reach out with the love of Christ. In Jesus' day harlots and Samaritans were the ignored and ignoble people of society. But many of them are in the kingdom of God because Jesus purposely spoke to them about redemption, their need for it, and the way they could obtain it.
Let us reach out, let our light shine, and speak the glorious news of the precious gospel!