I am often asked about how we reach out to Muslims. There are all sorts of ways we might answer that question. But, the simplest and easiest is this: you’ve got to get yourself into the same room.
In many ways, it doesn’t really matter how you achieve that. Whether it is going and hanging around the mosque, setting up cookery events where you can learn to make Asian food, engaging with folks coming to an English class or setting up some sort of interfaith dialogue, it doesn’t really matter. All those things have some value. But the point is, unless you are actually in the same place as Muslim people, you don’t really have any chance of reaching them.
But, when you think about it, it’s not so different whatever type of evangelism or discipleship we’re talking about. I occasionally, but less frequently, get asked about reaching indigenous working class people. And the bottom line is the same. Unless we’re in the same places, speaking to each other in the same room, we don’t stand a chance.
Exactly how we achieve that is up for grabs – going to the pub, local cafes, setting up food banks, whatever – there are discussions to be had about all that. But if you aren’t going to the places they go, or providing spaces that they want to come to, you don’t have any chance of spending any time with them. And if you’re not doing that, and none of them are your mates, you’ve got bigger problems than thinking about what events you might stick on for them.
And when we’re talking about reaching other people – whoever they might be – the same applies, doesn’t it? Unless we’re actually getting ourselves in the same spaces as the people we’re trying to reach – whether they’re working class, middle class, white, black, Asian or anything else – if we aren’t in the same spaces, if we don’t actually know anybody, if we aren’t in the kind of places where we might meaningfully chat to them about Jesus, we just haven’t got a chance have we?
One of the biggest barriers to our doing meaningful evangelism and discipleship isn’t that we don’t know what to say. It isn’t that we don’t know how to share the gospel. It certainly isn’t that we need another course telling us how to do it (really, we don’t need another course!) Our biggest problem is that we just don’t get ourselves in the same spaces as people where we can meaningfully have those conversations.
The best most of us manage is getting somebody along to an event. And, I know people like to dunk on events, but I don’t think they’re as bad as some seem to think necessarily. But I do think ‘events’ generally aren’t the kind of spaces where we can share the gospel or disciple people. They’re the kind of thing we take someone with us where somebody else shares the gospel, we often don’t, and feel pleased with ourselves that ‘a friend came’ without having much meaningful conversation with them about any of it. The Lord might still use what was said and done nonetheless, but it isn’t really our doing any evangelism or discipleship. So, events are fine as far as they go, so long as we recognise what they can and can’t do.
But when I talk about being in spaces where we can chat about Jesus, I mean exactly that. Whatever it is that we do, we need to be in places where we, personally, are able to talk about our own relationship with Jesus. That can happen over formal stuff being put on – like doling out food or cookery classes or whatever – and it can happen over the less formal stuff, like joining secular interest groups and hanging round in local pubs or cafes. But the point is, unless we are in those places where we are able to speak personally about Jesus – which is much more likely to land with our pals because they only come to stuff we invite them to because we are going (they want to be with us, not hear a randomer speak about something!) – then we don’t have much chance of getting anywhere with the gospel.
So, ask yourself: who do I know? Do I know anyone in the community I am trying to reach? Do I have friends and do I spend time in the place I am trying to reach? Am I ever in places where I, personally, can talk to them about Jesus? These may seem like basic questions, but I’m convinced they’re the key ones. We know the gospel because we believe it already. We don’t need to do anything clever. We just need to put ourselves in places where we can chat with our mates, and then start talking about Jesus. That, my friends, is the only, one-session, 5-minute course you need.