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Discipleship and Lebanese pizza

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WORLD Radio - Discipleship and Lebanese pizza

Calling Muslims to follow Christ starts with inviting them into community


iStock.com/Photo by Waqar Hussain

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, July 12th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: leading Muslims to the truth.

For the last many decades, hundreds of thousands of Muslims have immigrated to the US. Driving that in part has been upheaval in Iran, Turkey, and across the Arab world.

This trend concerns some observers who track Islamist movements.

REICHARD: But many in Christian ministry say there’s another movement taking root in the United States: Muslims coming to a new faith. WORLD’s Jill Nelson reports.

JILL NELSON, REPORTER: It’s a Wednesday night in Orange County, California, and this spacious Middle Eastern cultural center is alive with activity. It’s Muhammad’s birthday, and people are filling tables with food while children play games.

Off in the corner, three men and five women walk into a makeshift classroom. Most of the women are wearing hijabs, or Muslim headscarves. They are all here to improve their English skills.

SUE FUQUA: Ok the next sentence says you’ve been created. How are we created? In the likeness of who? Like God.

Sue Fuqua is teaching English using the story of creation from Genesis. Five volunteers sit next to the students and help them decode the answers. They all seem to know one another.

NADER HANNA: Is that it? All right, take turns reading it.

Salam Ministries President Nader Hanna takes over as they transition to the next exercise. Hanna says his ministry seeks to meet the needs of immigrant communities, and promote relationship building.

HANNA: I think we should seek to build bridges and build relationships with our Muslim neighbors, coworkers, classmates and just do life with them and then it opens the door to communicating the message of the gospel.

Hanna has been in full time ministry for more than 20 years. In his earlier days, he worked for the Christian broadcasting station SAT-7 in Egypt, Lebanon, and Cyprus.

Now he lives in Orange County where he facilitates church planting, outreach, and discipleship training programs. He believes in creating community first, then moving onto discipleship and evangelism. He says the West often has it backwards.

HANNA: We think evangelism, discipleship and then community. We think of evangelism as an event. And then discipleship. When we say the word, we think of a classroom setting.

Eventually we may accept them in our community. But this is not how Jesus did it. The very first thing Jesus said to his disciples, follow me, become a part of my community first. And then He discipled them into believing in Him.

Hanna gives an example. One day he was with a friend at a restaurant enjoying Lebanese pizza.

HANNA: Of course they don't call it pizza. They call it naish. It’s dough with zaatar and olive oil on top or cheese.

They noticed a man and his son sitting together and struck up a conversation. Hanna and his friend invited them to their table and shared their food with them.

HANNA: Turns out there are Algerians who moved recently to California and they're a family of five. So we got to know them. And we started helping them with the things that a new immigrant would need, like car insurance and stuff like that.

They became friends. Hanna invited the family to the ministry’s 50th anniversary celebration. He says the family enjoyed getting out of their hotel room and meeting people.

HANNA: We got the impression that they don't mind being invited to other Christian events. So we invited them to an Arabic Bible study we had then and ever since they've been with us, Jamel and Aisha. Aisha is veiled. They have three children and they are still practicing Muslims. But they love our company, they love to be with us. They come to the Bible study.

Hanna emphasized the importance of long-term relationships. His ministry baptized a Turkish man last year who had been a part of their multi-ethnic church plant for two years.

HANNA: Some people get to this point faster, some people take a longer time to get to this point.

Hanna’s observations align with those of other ministry leaders.

Some I talked to know 30 or 40 Muslim background believers in the United States and have secondary knowledge of several hundred. Others told me about Iranian converts to Christianity on U.S. campuses who keep their faith a secret for fear of reprisals against their family back in Iran.

They all said evangelism usually begins with relationships, and they believe the church can do a better job getting to know their Muslim neighbors. Hanna says many are seeking answers to their faith questions.

HANNA: I have no doubt that many Muslims are reconsidering or considering Christianity or seeking to know the truth or choose to follow Jesus. Many more than we know.

But the church is not doing great in regards to the Great Commission in general. And within that, it's worse when it comes to Muslims.

Back at the Middle Eastern cultural center, Hanna cues up a simple video about the Genesis creation story while the group looks at their printed script.

ESL CREATION VIDEO: She then gave the fruit to Adam and asked him to take a bite as well.

Hanna says the cultural center the ministry meets in promotes interfaith dialogue and has been open to their teaching curriculum.

HANNA: At some point, we found that we can use Bible stories to teach the class. So we've done Joseph, and then today we thought, why don't we start from the Genesis, chapter one, and then take all the prophets?

Audio: [SueTeaching]

They don’t use the ESL class for direct evangelism, but Hanna says they are laying foundations.

HANNA: We're happy for people to be in our company and part of our community and we just love on them and become their family and just let the Holy Spirit work.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jill Nelson.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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