When we stepped back and considered our approach we realized not many people engage in discussions with strangers in public places. For example, how many lasting friendships do you have that first started on a bus? What we were doing was not natural, it’s not the way people meet other people. Most people build friendships either through their extended family, their place of worship, or their place of work. The way we were meeting people was weird.
When you think about it, in most countries people do not know their neighbors either. Even so many of our mission strategies are focused on reaching neighborhoods.
Not were our ways weird, what we were sharing with those Muslims we met made no sense. They did not understand our message. For example, we would engage someone in a discussion on a bus, and then quickly turn the discussion to spiritual things and they’d tune us out. Why? Our ways were weird and our words were weird. There was no connection between what they heard from us and what we were saying. We’d talk about love and forgiveness but they never saw it or experienced it. They had no way to connect what we were saying with real life.
In addition, our model was not sustainable. I led Joe to Jesus and Joe wanted to be like me. So I discipled him and then supported him to get Bible training. Then I supported him to be an evangelist to his people. Joe soon led Zul, Mohammed, and Aris to Jesus. They then wanted to be like Joe, who of course was like me. So Joe discipled them, and then I supported them to get Bible training and then I supported them to be evangelists to their people. Because I was supported by the West and I was their model for being a Christian, everyone wanted to be like me. The scenario was, become a Christian and you’ll be paid to get an education and then paid to do a job for the church, with monies from America! Do you see where this is heading? Is it any wonder that many churches planted among Muslims don’t grow very big? Maybe it’s because that’s all the people the mission worker can afford to support!
Since going into business, this has not been a problem. When a Muslim comes to Christ, because they see me working my job, they continue to work their job. Discipleship, and outreach to others takes place in the real context of normal life and work.
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.