Recently I got this email after a seminar. I cleaned up my reply and post, hoping it helps others see some of the thinking that goes into choosing stories to share with our friends.
Hi Tim, I was following up with you on my question I had for you at Perspectives. I’m sorry I could not stay and hear the answer that evening. I had asked what five stories would you pick to share, starting with the old testament to the new to share the gospel. The reason I ask about bringing in the Old Testament is because i think it would be more effective to Muslim’s. I would love to know your thoughts. Thank you for your time and ministry.
Hey Amanda. Thanks for writing me about this. Here’s my quick thoughts. Would be more than glad to talk more if you want.
I completely agree in many situations with bringing in OT stories with Muslims, for a few reasons.
1. Common names and background (even if details are different) builds trust with Muslims as we talk about the stories. We’re not combating them. It also as builds credibility for God as you walk through stories about Him.
2. Many Muslims haven’t ever talked about OT people that Christians believe with Christians and think we only want to
talk about Jesus with them.
3. The Koran says that the Book (Bible) is to be known. While they believe that we have corrupted the Bible, by finding a more comfortable ground to talk with them on (OT) we invite them into some “softer” areas of discussion before we talk about Christ, which can be more tense.
4. A friend once told me after he shared the Jesus Film with dozens of villages that he felt he was “giving them dessert before giving them a meal”. How can you understand the gospel without understanding why the gospel had to be?
But what 5 stories would I share? That’s a tough one b/c of all the variables. Not to make it too analytical, but you have to consider how devout and how cultural Muslim are they, what are their views of Christians, of the Bible, how do they view Jesus, what is your relationship with them, and others probably.
But I’d think of using a story set along the theme of promise.
- God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-9, 17:1-8).
- God’s promise to David (2 Samuel 7).
- Isaiah 52-53.
Then a story about Jesus having authority to forgive sins and heal such as the paralytic lowered through the roof (Mark 2) or maybe Zacchaeus (Luke 19) b/c Jesus says this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham, tying it to the earlier story.
Then I’d condense the arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection (a lot to put together) into one longer story. This ties all three OT stories together.
Then end with Jesus time with the disciples before his ascension, which gives you the reason you are sharing this story with your friend in the first place, because the prophet Jesus who was the Son of God said to obey him is to tell others about him.
These could sound a bit dry since the first three are all prophesy sections, but you could add some context around the promises to make it more living.
Or take 2 or 3 stories from David’s life instead of Abraham and Isaiah. The theme of promise still fits, but you front load the stories with some non-conflict ones about a common person, David. Maybe 1) David as King, 2) David and Bathsheba, 3) Nathan confronting David. Shows that even great king David was a sinner like all of us and needed God’s grace, which leads to Jesus.
These are just thoughts. I would hesitate to give you a prescribed list because the goal isn’t to just share stories that are redemptive, but to have the person engage in these stories.
Having said all that, I also would recommend Carl Medearis book “Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships”. I agree with a lot of what he says about when talking to Muslims, keep it on Jesus rather than trying to use a lot of OT, for example. You can share five stories about Jesus very effectively, breaching the barrier they have to his deity and sonship. In some ways it can be much more natural because you are talking about a common figure both religions and discovering truth and differences. This isn’t confrontation, it’s journeying together.
So, before I confuse you any further, I hope you’re seeing that there is no one prescribed good way to share stories with Muslims. It totally depends on the person you’re friending. Some will feel more comfortable beginning with a common footing in the OT and you can approach areas of redemption progressively. Others you’ll feel more comfortable talking about solely Jesus and making a loving case for your friend to think about.