By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Editor’s note: You can hear William Burton discuss ethnic ministries during Episode 4 of Radio B&R,the official news podcast of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
MURFREESBORO — Muslims do become Christians, said Maged Boles, pastor of the Arabic Baptist Church here. He should know. He lived in Egypt all of his life until four years ago when he immigrated to the United States. Egypt has a majority of Muslim residents. Boles was a Christian missionary there.
William Burton, ethnic evangelism/church planting specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, agreed, noting this is occurring in Tennessee mainly because of Arab Baptists.
“These guys are very, very evangelistic,” said Burton.
“If they were a Christian in the Middle East, they were persecuted. They fled their countries to escape persecution, especially during the Arab Spring.”
Then American folks assume all Arabs are Muslim, because Muslims are often in the news, he added.
“They have a lot of barriers to overcome, yet in the midst of all of those obstacles, they are being very intentional in engaging their communities, these new refugees that are coming, many of them non-Christians, with the gospel and offering them hope,” said Burton.
Other Arabic Baptist churches in Tennessee are located in Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis.
Baptist pastor, church member
As Americans are aware, some Muslims are terrorists and extremists, so it is easy to assume that no Muslim would become Christian. Yet Muslims do decide to become Christians over time, said Boles and Anderow Shafik, a member of the Arabic Baptist Church of Tusculum Hills Baptist, Nashville. They have seen it.
Currently in both Arabic Baptist churches, there are people from the Muslim background who are Christians and they have friends who have made the decision, they added.
“This is why I’m here (in the U.S.), to witness to the Arabs, especially the Muslims,” said Boles.
“It’s a good opportunity that they (Muslims) are here (in America),” said Boles. “Sometimes we are looking at the refugee issue with a negative thought. Let’s take it as a positive. … Everyone, American or Arab, every church, I encourage every one to present Jesus for the Arabs, especially the Muslims,” said the pastor in his second language, English.
He, as a Christian, cannot visit Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim countries, he noted. While serving as a missionary in Egypt he could not visit them. He certainly couldn’t distribute Bibles or witness in those countries. Yet in his community, he meets Muslims, including Saudis, every day. Many are students at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, or are adults who moved to the area to live near the new mosque.
The way to build bridges with a Muslim person is to show love, said Boles and Shafik. Boles, a bivocational pastor, also works in a dental office as Arabic patient care manager.
The good news is that it is usually easy to be a friend to Muslims, the two men said. Our culture and its people are friendly, said Boles.
Some Arabs are curious about Christianity and will talk about it. For instance, Boles met a student from Saudi Arabia who wanted some information about Christianity since he didn’t grow up around any Christians. Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow any Christians to live openly there.
If Arabs do not make eye contact it may be because they are new to the country and their language skills aren’t very good rather than they don’t want to be a friend. If the Arabic person is a woman, it may be that she is Muslim, Boles explained. The Islamic culture “looks down on women,” he added.
If eating a meal with Muslims, be aware that some Muslims do not eat pork, he added. It is against the instruction of the Koran to eat pork.
The key is love, the two men said. The Koran has 99 names for their god, but none of them is love, Boles noted.
Christians should realize that Christians and Muslims don’t worship the same god. Actually Muslims know of Jesus through the Koran and learn there that He had a mother but no father, which should help them to realize that He is God, explained Boles.
Muslims who do read the Bible usually make the decision because a Christian has shown them love, said the pastor.
“It’s like he is hungry and someone who has food gives it to him,” said Boles.
Shafik added that often God uses a vision during a dream to lead a Muslim to become a Christian.
Boles said he is available to help any church understand the Arabic culture and to help “reach Arabs.” For more information, contact Boles at email@example.com.