Thinking Out Loud

June 7, 2018

A Ramadan Lesson for Christians

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:00 am

img 060718Guest post by Lorne Anderson

There are two weeks left in the month in which Muslims have a religious obligation to fast during daylight hours. Most of those reading this probably haven’t given that much thought.

When Ramadan falls in December the fast is relatively easy. Not so at this time of year, where there is 15 hours between sunrise and sunset where I live. It’s a total fast – no water allowed either.

It is a spiritual discipline that puts most Christians to shame. Mind you, it comes more from fear than grace. Many Muslims fast more due to social pressures than out of any religious conviction.

What conversations are you having with your Muslim neighbors this month? Have you talked about their fast, or about Christian traditions of fasting, and the differences? Have you shared the love and freedom that Jesus brings? Has your church done anything to reach out to the Muslim community?

I ask this because I was at a fast-breaking event on the first Saturday of Ramadan. It was a community event, families coming together to share a meal. More than that, it was an outreach event But it wasn’t put on by Christians — this was a Muslim outreach..

Members of this particular Muslim community had been told they should invite their non-Muslim friends to share the meal. Looking around the room it seemed to me that most had either not bothered or been unsuccessful. There were obviously very few of us who were not part of the tribe. In that way it reminded me of some church outreach events I have attended – we too aren’t always good at inviting our friends to our events.

Language was an issue, as this is an immigrant community. The woman who invited me is a language school classmate. After four months we have enough German for extremely simple conversations, but have not yet reached the point where we can touch on faith matters. And neither of us speaks the other’s mother tongue.

The organizers though recognized that could be an issue. There was a German-born Muslim who made sure to stop by any table with visitors. He is the one who talked about their community and Ramadan and how they wanted to share with those around them. At least I think that is what he was saying. Certainly he was there to put people at ease, to be the smiling face of Islam. After all, anyone there was probably likely to be somewhat open-minded –  they came because of a relationship they already had with a Muslim. If it wasn’t a positive one, they wouldn’t have come to the meal.

Which got me to thinking. Two things really.

The first is, how well do we do at outreach to those not of our tribe? We have events at Christmas, Easter and other times of the year, but how many personal invitations do we make to non-Christian friends? Few, judging from the events I have attended. I know I probably haven’t done enough. We can’t ever do enough. And how easy is it for someone not of our tribe to just walk through the door?

The second thing is, what are we doing from Ramadan? No, I am not suggesting adopting the fast or emulating Islamic legalism. But Ramadan is more than just fasting, it is a daily cycle of deprivation and celebration, with a huge party at the end of the month.

It is probably too late to organize an end-of-Ramadan outreach event, for this year anyway. But there is nothing to stop you from inviting your Muslim neighbors to join your family for a fast-breaking meal in your home sometime in the next week or so. Yes, that means a late night, you won’t be eating until after nine. And don’t forget the dietary restrictions, so you don’t embarrass yourself and your guests. It is a perfect tie to show Christian hospitality.

Many Muslims are immigrants. They have often been met with fear and suspicion in their new countries. They come from countries where family and community are extremely important – and they may never have been invited into to a family home in their new country. They see this new country as being Christian – and being deficient in hospitality. You can change that perception.

This month is Ramadan. How are you observing it?


Lorne Anderson blogs daily at Random Thoughts from Lorne

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April 16, 2016

Rethinking Church Growth Metrics

Whenever Saturday rolls around, I always check out who the guests are going to be on Canada’s sometimes controversial Drew Marshall Show, which airs 1:00 to 5:00 PM EST and can be heard at this link.

Today I came across the name Luke Cawley who has written a new book for IVP titled The Myth of the Non-Christian: Engaging Atheists, Nominal Christians, and the Spiritual but not Religious and decided to check out his blog. In the process, I came across this 2014 article. His ministry context is probably different from yours: University Campuses. But there are some broader ideas contained here. You need to click the title below to read this in full:

Accountability for Evangelistic Fruit

…Lots of people feel caught in a similar dilemma. They want to hold themselves and their communities accountable for their evangelistic practice and fruitfulness. But it’s difficult to figure out quite how you do that without falling into the twin traps of either reducing evangelism to pure human effort or overlooking our role completely. It’s no wonder that senior leaders in several major Christian organizations have told me that they stall on implementing any kind of internal accountability regarding evangelism. If we don’t control the outcomes, they reason, then how can we make any meaningful judgment in this area?

Accountability and Evangelistic FruitMaybe you’ve had similar thoughts. If so, then I have some bad news for you: I’m not really going to resolve the tension for you. Assessing our individual and corporate evangelistic performance is tricky. There’s no simple way to do so. Yet we still need to try. One reason it’s so important is the consistent New Testament theme that when we regularly invite people to follow Jesus there will be some positive responses. Paul describes “the gospel” as “bearing fruit and growing throughout the world” (Colossians 1:6), and urges his readers to speak to others about Jesus in the expectation that these conversations will trigger more of the same. He asks:

“How can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?” (Romans 10:14-17 MSG)

For Paul, the very point of telling others about Jesus is that they decide to follow him for themselves. If such individual decisions are not taking place—and if the gospel is not “bearing fruit and growing” in our local context—then we need to stop and ask why. Is there something we are doing wrong which needs to change?

He then goes on to give three possible directions:

1. Count Conversations, Not Just Conversions.

 
People trust in Jesus because they have heard about him. How many people on your campus are actually getting to hear—and talk—about him? Keep some stats on how many people stop and chat at Proxe Stations, how long they stay for, how many people attend invitational events, and how many are in GIGs. Figure out ways to increase all these numbers.
 

2. Conduct an Internal Survey.

 
Find out how frequently chapter members have an opportunity to speak about Jesus. Then, work out how you can help them develop those conversations into something more. A few years ago, I interviewed 20 students from our chapter and discovered that they each have a meaningful conversation about Jesus at least once every couple of weeks. They all felt that many of those conversations offered natural opportunities to invite their friends to read the Bible with them or join a GIG. They never offered this invitation, though, because they weren’t confident in leading GIGs themselves. This simple discovery helped me shift my focus to training the students in leading seeker small groups. As a result, a number of GiGs were launched within months.

It may be worthwhile for you to conduct a similar internal survey (face-to-face) with a sampling of students from your chapter. It could help you identify key areas for change.
 

3. Create a Story-Swapping Culture.

 
Make it a natural feature of chapter life that you tell one another when you’ve had a great conversation about Jesus. Swap stories about what happened. Then, pray for the person with whom you spoke. You could create a regular space to swap such stories during small-group meetings.

Each one of these can be equally implemented in a local church context and this subject needs to be top of agenda.

 

February 25, 2014

Mark Hall: We Were Made to Thrive – Book Review

Constitution Oak, a live oak at the junction between the Pea River and the Choctawhatchee River  in Geneva, Alabama. It is believed to be among the largest and oldest live oaks in the state. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]

Constitution Oak, a live oak at the junction between the Pea River and the Choctawhatchee River in Geneva, Alabama. It is believed to be among the largest and oldest live oaks in the state. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]


Like the book The Well by Mark Hall which we reviewed here in August, 2011, Thrive is both the title of a book and a compact disc. I’ve been privileged to hear the CD several times and read several sections of the book twice. While some authors may appear to write from a theoretical standpoint, Mark Hall is in the trenches, doing youth ministry first and foremost, and then what he views as a second role, as a musician with the band Casting Crowns.

Thrive - Mark HallThe book’s full title is Thrive: Digging Deep, Reaching Out and the subtitle and the cover telegraph the book’s outline and content. Using examples from his years in student ministry, as well as a few road stories from Casting Crowns, Mark delivers something fresh in each of the book’s 30 chapters. I’m struck by how he is both forthright and yet transparent and vulnerable at the same time.

The primary audience for Thrive will be people who are familiar with the band’s music, but really, this is a contemporary Christian living title that earns a place next to popular writers such as Kyle Idleman, Pete Wilson, or even Max Lucado. Almost every chapter brings new life to familiar scriptures.

I remember once hearing, “Part one of the gospel is ‘taste and see,’ part two of the gospel is ‘go and tell.'” That’s really the focus of this book. It is suitable for both new believers and those who are spiritual veterans. It is equal parts teaching, anecdotal and autobiographical.

I read parts of Thrive out loud this past week at our family devotions. I can only say that this was the right book for us and it arrived at just the right time.

Thrive is published by Zondervan in paperback at $15.99 US. Thanks to Laura at HarperCollins Christian Publishing in Toronto for a review copy. With both Zondervan and Thomas Nelson titles, you guys have the best books!

April 10, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Community Baptist Church

I’m a success at blogging but a failure at Twitter. Please follow me… please?

Any one of this week’s links could have been its own feature article.  By the way, I’m organizing a travel opportunity that begins in a Wesleyan college in western New York and ends in Jerusalem. I call it the Israel Houghton Tour.

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