Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review: Connecting with Muslims

Book: Connecting With Muslims: A Guide to Communicating Effectively
Author: Fouad Masri
Publisher: InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL., 2014
Pages: 194

About the Author:

Fouad Masri is the founder and president of the CrescentProject, which nurtures transformational relationships between Christians and Muslim and overcomes misconceptions about Islam and Christianity.  He was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, and received an MA in Islamic studies at Fuller Theological Seminary.  His previous works include the Bridges: Christians Connecting with Muslims DVD curriculum and the books Is the Injeel Corrupted? and Ambassadors to Muslims.

Introduction:

How many Christians can honestly say that they understand Islam?  Are their views of Islam being driven by a stereotype that has instilled a reluctance, or even fear in befriending their Muslim neighbors, coworkers, classmates, shop owners, or those that they may see in the local grocery store?  In his very practical and easy to read book Connecting With Muslims: A Guide to Communicating Effectively, Fouad Masri provides the reader with helpful tools in order that they may be able to initiate conversations with Muslims.  Further, he addresses seven critical questions that Muslims have concerning Christianity.  It is the author’s hope that Christians would see themselves as ambassadors for Jesus Christ to the Muslim people so that the gospel may be shared effectively and without fear.

The book is broken into two main parts.  Part one covers Practical Ways to Connect with Muslims, and Part two, Always be Prepared to Give an Answer, which provides the reader with the tools to be able to respond to seven common questions that Muslims may ask concerning Christianity.

Part One: Practical Ways to Connect with Muslims

In chapter one of the book, titled Our Role in the Great Commission, the author describes how he came to faith in Christ as a Muslim, living in the midst of a war torn Beirut, Lebanon.  Having read the Bible and studied Christianity, he found himself humbled by the love of Jesus Christ and believed that the only way that he could personally make a difference in the midst of the chaos of war was to surrender his life to Christ.  Masri writes, “When you are a follower of Jesus, when you are committed to the teachings of Christ, when you have received Jesus as your Savior, you don’t see people by their religion, race or background.  You don’t see people by their level of education.  You see them as God’s creation.  You see they need a Savior” [pp. 23,24].  This would include those Muslims who have just moved into our neighborhoods, and those we see in the local coffee shops.  He goes on to explain that in sharing the gospel with Muslims, the Christian does not need to be fearful, because we are doing so under the power and authority that is given by Christ. 

In chapter two, titled Compelling Evangelism: Witnessing Like Jesus, the author gives examples from the life of Jesus Christ as to how to effectively share the gospel by focusing on Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well in John 4, and how it provides the believer with some invaluable tools in reaching Muslims.  He points out the importance of meeting Muslims where they are at, and opening conversations with them by asking them their opinions of Christians or what their feelings are concerning religion, rather than asking questions that may be theologically deep and intimidating.  In doing this, the author believes that the conversation may lead into deeper ideas such as what they believe about God and Jesus.  In continuing to use the example of Jesus in John 4, he points out how the woman at the well took the things that Jesus told her and shared with others.  Of this, Masri writes, “Be intentional about sharing the gospel message with Muslims.  You never know how your message to one Muslim could impact an entire community or network of Muslims” [51].

Masri goes on in chapter three, titled Compelling Evangelism: Practical Approaches, to provide the reader with some “biblical approaches that show respect to Muslims and create compelling conversations that lead to Savior Jesus” [p. 55].  This includes samples of simple and clarifying questions to ask, how to integrate scripture into the conversation, the importance of sharing personal testimonies of how God has worked in your life and answered prayer, as well as other stories or examples of the faith, the cultural importance of giving gifts, praying with and for Muslims, and showing hospitality.   

In chapter four of the book, titled Bridge-Building Approaches, the author examines the religious and cultural divides that exist between Christians and Muslims, as he provides the reader with some practical suggestions on how they might be able to close this gap in order to cultivate meaningful relationships.  He reiterates the fact that the believer is to be an ambassador of Christ, and as an ambassador, does not have the task of making people citizens of God’s kingdom, but rather, they are to represent Christ in such a way that they show His love toward them.  One important aspect of this, Masri points out, is gaining a better understanding about “their current worldview and assumptions about God and themselves, and you and your culture” [p. 71].  Masri describes the importance of reading up on the culture of the Muslim people, and learning about things that are important to them, such as their traditional meals, clothing, customs, and beliefs.  Masri’s main point in this chapter is that an ambassador of Christ can better reach Muslims by showing an interest in learning and knowing more about them as a people, and showing them love and friendship.  In this chapter, the author goes on to provide a valuable list of eight important how-tos in building bridges with Muslims.

Part Two: Always Be Prepared to Give an Answer: Responding to Seven Common Questions That Muslims Ask

In the second part of the book, Masri focuses on the beliefs and misconceptions that Muslims may have concerning some of the teachings of the Bible, and how to answer their questions confidently and respectfully.  He points out that the questions that most Muslims ask are not for the purpose of argument, but rather because they are genuinely curious, as he writes, “These questions alone demonstrate to us that they have been wrestling with their questions, maybe for years – and asking you, a follower of Jesus, to answer their questions takes an enormous amount of courage on their behalf” [p. 87].  The common questions that Muslims may have that are covered in this section of the book are, What Do You Think of Muhammad? (chapter 5), Hasn’t the Injeel Been Corrupted? (chapter 6), Who is Jesus, the Son of Mary? (chapter 7), Who Actually Died on the Cross? (chapter 8), Don’t Christians Worship Three Gods? (chapter 9), Why Did Jesus Have to Be Sacrificed?” (chapter 10), and Is the Gospel of Barnabas True?” (chapter 11).  Each of these chapters provide the reader some very useful insights into what Muslims believe on these subjects and how the Christian can provide them with answers in a very respectful and non-argumentative way. 

In the final chapter of the book (chapter 12), titled Use Your Tools, Masri encourages the reader to put the things they have learned in his book into practice, with an urgency in mind, stating that, “In the time it took to read this book, about 6,316 Muslims died without knowing Jesus.  And about 15,000 were born into homes in which the family doesn’t know Jesus” [p. 168].  He closes the book with the challenge, “Meet Muslims.  Talk to Muslims.  Get into spiritual conversations with Muslims.  Welcome Muslims.  Be hospitable to Muslims in your home.  Visit Muslims.  It’s time to reap the harvest God puts in your path.  Use your tools.  Go” [p. 170).

The book also contains eight appendixes which provide the reader with some additional information on The Parables of Jesus, Jesus in the Bible and the Qur’an, The Miracles of Jesus, List of Terms, Translations of the Bible, Five Basic Beliefs of All Christians, and Five Practices of Christians Who Are Following Jesus.

Assessment of the Book:

Connecting WithMuslims: A Guide to Communicating Effectively is a must read for those who are seeking to build relationships with those Muslims that they may come into contact with in their daily lives.  It is a very concise and well written book, making it difficult to put down.  Masri’s use of personal stories in building relationships and sharing the gospel with Muslims are riveting and help the reader to better understand how to put that which is discussed in this book into practice.  Another aspect of this book, is the author’s use of “Action Points” throughout each chapter, which provide the reader with short insights and advice.  While the first part of the book really focuses on the necessity of Christians in being ambassadors for Christ to the Muslim people, I personally found part two to be extremely helpful as it focused on some of the beliefs and misconceptions that Muslims have concerning Christianity and provided some great tools in effectively answering them.  I can see this book as being a continued resource for the reader to refer back to in helping them best communicate the gospel to Muslims. 

One reoccurring thought that this book has left me with is that Islam is not just the religion of those living in the Middle East or other countries throughout the world.  It is the religion of those who live, work, shop, and go to school in our own communities.  While the majority of Christians may not have the opportunity to go to another country on a mission trip, God has brought the mission field to them.  We have been given Christ’s command to “Go,” and this book provides us with some invaluable tools to carry this mission out to the Muslim people.  Therefore, we have no excuse.

May the God of all truth be with you,
Rob Welty

Many thanks to Intervarsity Press for the review copy. 

1 comment:

Eddie Eddings said...

Thanks for the information! This is just what I need here in Kuwait. Putting it on my wish list immediately.