Perhaps you have been praying for Muslims for awhile. God has been breaking your heart for them and their need for the gospel. But they are still “them” – a mysterious group of “others” and not yet individuals whom you personally know. You want to make Muslim friends, but aren’t sure where to begin. Here are some ideas you can try.
Go where they go.
More than 26,000 Muslims call North Carolina home, so if you have not met one, you are likely not going to the same places they are. While this may seem obvious, it is an essential first step. If you want to make friends with a Muslim, then you will need to go where they are. When you are going through your day, pay attention to who you encounter.
Do a little research on your own community and find out where the Muslims in your community are from. Are they from Iran? Try eating in a Persian restaurant. If they are from Pakistan, India or Bangladesh, consider shopping in a South Asian market. Does your association have a ministry to newcomers or refugees with whom you could partner?
Of course, not all Muslims in America are new to the country. Some Muslim families have been in the area for generations. A growing number are converts (the Islamic term is actually “reverts”) from a Christian background. So be sensitive to those possibilities as well.
Go when they go
Sometimes we assume that certain hours of the day are sacred. All work and ministry stops at 6 p.m. when one is to return home and spend the remainder of the day with the family. However, evening hours are generally the best time to interact with Muslims. In fact, in many Islamic cultures, most decisions to follow Christ occur late in the evening, because that is the time to discuss important matters.
The point is not to sacrifice your family time for ministry opportunities, but do consider how you build your schedule. If you want to be intentional about building relationships with Muslims, make yourself available to them at times that are convenient for them. Think of it this way – who should be more willing to adapt, the person who already knows Jesus and wants to share the good news, or the person who does not?
Hear what they say.
Many people assume they know what Islam teaches or what a Muslim believes. But remember you are meeting a person, not a faith system. I have met “Muslims” who pray five times a day, three times a day, never, or even ones who pray to the Buddha. So take the time to let your new friend tell his or her own story. What brings them joy? What are their fears? The best way to start a relationship with a Muslim is to start by being a learner who is willing to ask questions and listen.
Ask questions about what they believe about God, how to know Him and what to do if fellowship with Him is broken. Not only will that give you insights into their faith, it will open doors for you to share yours as well.
Feel what they feel
Try to remember a time when you were a fish out of water – when everyone around you was “in the know,” but you had no idea what was going on. Many Muslims living in North Carolina are unfamiliar with the local culture, language and customs.
Maybe you could visit a local masjid (mosque) and see what it is like to be in a new environment. Of course, this would also be a great place to go and meet a Muslim. Ask the Lord to give you insight into the struggles they are facing.
Share what they need
Muslims need more than propositional truth. They need friends who will be there for them, especially if they are living in a new environment. Do you need to help provide English as a second language training, a ride to the doctor, an explanation of American customs or just a listening ear to someone who is overwhelmed by daily life?
Another thing your Muslim friend will need is a friend who cares about them and not just about “a witnessing opportunity.” Be sure that your investment of time and care is genuine.
As you continue to pray for Muslims in your area, ask the Father to put specific Muslims into your life. People with names, faces and stories that you can learn. Pray for them as individuals and get to know them better.