The New Evangelization
The adventure began one day in church. I was sitting in the back row thinking there had to be more to the Christian walk than what I was experiencing.
Saint Paul, one of the greatest missionaries of all time, lived an exciting adventure with the Lord. In the book of Acts, Paul and Barnabas moved with such a mighty outpouring of God’s Spirit that the townspeople wanted to offer sacrifices to them. Paul and Barnabas accomplished God’s will in some of the most challenging and difficult ministry assignments imaginable.
As I continued meditating on the life of the apostles, I felt trapped in a state of complacency. I had a desire to move with God’s power, but I felt hindered as if my true potential was slowly wasting away, being consumed by the worries and cares of everyday life.
I had enough airline miles to book a flight to Africa and even had pastor contacts in Nigeria and Kenya. The pastor from Nigeria seemed more receptive to a visit and was extremely helpful when it came time to set up a schedule of ministry assignments. I asked a few friends to join me, but everybody made the same excuse about their finances—not being able to afford the airfare, and not being able to take time off work.
Over the next several months I continued to pray. There were more than enough fear-driven concerns to discourage my plans. But then again, another part of me wanted to live an exciting adventure with the Lord. I wanted a move with God’s power while fulfilling the Great Commission.
If Jesus wanted me to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, I didn’t have anything to fear. If Jesus was calling me, he would also accompany me. As I continued to pray about the mission trip, I could hear the Lord say, “Yes” when I asked his permission to visit Nigeria.
Upon my arrival, I was able to put together a small ministry team that consisted of our van driver, an associate pastor named John, a lay evangelist named Bunmi, and several others. After meeting at my hotel in the morning, we set out for the first village in two vehicles. The road leading to the village was rough and dusty. As we approached the location, I could see a bamboo shade canopy in the distance with several rows of plastic chairs. It looked like the villagers had been using the structure for a church.
When we came to a stop, a young man came running up to the vehicle to greet us. Our van driver called him the “man-on-ground,” because he was the missionary in charge of the area. It was his responsibility to gather the people for our arrival. According to the man-on-ground, the village had already been notified the day before, and they were expecting us at 11:00 a.m.
Because we were an hour early, Bunmi told me to have a seat. She wanted to wait an hour for the people to arrive. Almost immediately, I could feel a burning passion rising up inside of me. I looked at the other pastors and said, “I thought we weren’t going to do any staged events.”
“What do you mean?” one pastor asked.
“I didn’t spend 20 hours coming here to conduct a staged event,” I said, pointing at the bamboo structure. “You call this ministry—gathering Christians from the village so that we can talk about the Lord?”
“What’s wrong with that?” Bunmi asked.
“It cost a lot of money to come here,” I said. “I didn’t come all this way to talk with a handful of Christians about Christ. Where are the Muslims or the pagan idol worshipers?”
“Muslims live in the village across the highway,” the man-on-ground said.
After saying a prayer, we divided into three groups. Two teams would walk around the Christian village and invite people to the staged event. Associate Pastor John, the man-on-ground, and I would cross the highway and speak with the Muslims. After crossing the two-lane road separated by a deep median, we entered the Muslim camp and came upon a group of 30 men playing cards. It looked like they were gambling. Several of them were playing musical instruments, and others were talking and laughing.
After interrupting them to get their attention, I invited them to the staged event by saying, “Hi, we’re Christians, we love Muslims, and we would like to invite you to our church service.”
As soon as I said the word Christian one man became very aggressive. He started shouting at the others in a language that I couldn’t understand. It looked like he was trying to incite the others to violence. When I tried to communicate with him, he wouldn’t look me in the eyes. He just kept shouting at his friends. The man-on-ground started backing away, but Pastor John stood next to me like a rock. He kept trying to talk with them.
Right before the mission trip, I spent a lot of time studying Islam. The northern part of Nigeria is predominately Muslim, and the southern part is mostly Christian. There is a state in the middle of the country called Jos, where extreme violence has been occurring. Several weeks before my arrival, Muslims were in the process of building a mosque, when school children started a protest.
After a full-scale riot broke out, the Muslims and Christians started fighting each other with machetes. Hundreds of people were admitted to the hospital, and many others died. Because these types of conflicts were common in Nigeria, tensions between Christians and Muslims were already running high. It was apparent that we were interrupting their card game and starting to make them mad. I could feel the hostile attitude rising, until finally one man said, “I would like to hear what you have to say.”
“Very good,” I said. “Everyone who wants to hear what we have to say, please come over here.” About 20 men stood up and followed us to a location about 50 feet away from the card game.
I began by saying, “The Qur’an says 11 times that Jesus is the Messiah.”
One man from the Muslim camp started translating on my behalf into the villagers’ native language. He would repeat the words I was saying, but then he would add his own commentary by saying things like, “We don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”
The hostile attitude continued to grow, until I said, “All we want to do is share about the Messiah, because the penalty for sin is death.”
I was able to share with them from the Qur’an how God removed all sinful men from the face of the earth during the great flood, and that only one righteous man named Noah along with his family survived. After establishing that the penalty for sin is death, I gave everyone a choice—they could pay the death penalty themselves, or allow the Messiah to pay the death penalty on their behalf.
During the 30-minute conversation, a few men wandered away, but at the end, we were able to pray with at least 12 men who accepted the Messiah’s sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins.
After praying for salvation, the man-on-ground received a phone call. The other pastors were looking for us. The bamboo shade pavilion had filled with people, and they wanted us to come back and deliver another encouraging message...
In the event that you have an opportunity to preach to a group of Muslims, you may want to start your message using the following Qur’an passages, and then build upon and support your message with the truth of Sacred Scripture:
1. The creation story along with the fall of humanity is described in Surahs 2:30–39, 7:19–27 and 20:115–123.
2. The conflict between Cain and Abel is described in Surah 5:27–32.
3. If you want to establish the penalty for sin is death, Noah’s ark and the great flood is described in Surahs 7:59–64, 10:71–73, 11:25–48, 23:23–28, 26:105–121, 54:9–16 and 71.
4. The account of Lot and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is described in Surahs 7:80–84, 11:74–83, 15:57–77, 26:160–174, 27:54–58, 29:28–35, 37:133–138 and 51:31–37.
5. If you want to preach on forgiveness, Joseph’s life and how he forgave his brothers is described in Surah 12:4–102.
6. If you want to preach on being a surrendered servant of the Lord, Moses’ life is described in Surahs 2:49–61, 7:103–160, 10:75–93, 17:101–104, 20:9–97, 26:10–66, 27:7–14, 28:3–46, 40:23–30, 43:46–55, 44:17–31 and 79:15–25.
7. Saul’s life is described in Surah 2:246–249.
8. If you want to preach on the battle between good and evil, the conflict between David and Goliath is described in Surah 2:250–251.
9. If you want to preach on surrender and obedience, the account of Jonah and the whale is described in Surahs 10:98, 37:139–148 and 68:48–50.
10. John the Baptist’s life is described in Surah 19:12–15.
11. The virgin birth of the Messiah is confirmed in Surahs 3:42–49, 19:16–35, 21:91 and 66:12. According to Surah 21:91, when the Spirit of God breathed into Mary, she conceived and gave birth to Jesus—the Messiah.
12. The Qur’an confirms that Jesus is the Messiah, a term used eleven times in Surahs 3:45, 4:157, 4:171–172, 5:17, 5:72, 5:75 and 9:30–31. The word Messiah in Aramaic (Meshîhā) means the Anointed One—the long-awaited Savior of the world.
13. According to Surah 43:63, all true believers need to keep their duty unto God and to obey Jesus the Messiah.
14. The miracle of Jesus cleansing the lepers is confirmed in Surahs 3:49 and 5:110.
15. The miracle of Jesus raising the dead is confirmed in Surah 3:49.
16. The miracle of Jesus healing the men born blind is confirmed in Surah 5:110.
17. According to Surahs 2:285, 3:84, 4:136, 5:44, 6:92, 10:94, 32:23, 35:31 and 45:16 the Qur’an confirms the authority of the Scriptures.