It’s a sunny Sunday morning, you’re walking into Church, and you spot a new face in the crowd. This face looks lost and scared, and it doesn’t seem like anyone has come to talk to them. They sit in the back row and look around. You walk over, sit down next to them, and introduce yourself.
After a great sermon, you ask your new friend to grab a cup of coffee with you to continue getting to know them! As you’re talking, your friend shares their testimony and you discover that they are a new believer, and they used to be a Muslim.
You’re not sure what to say. You’ve never met a Muslim background believer (MBB) before. Can you ask them about Islam? Is it too upsetting for them to ask about their old life?
Sadly, Muslim background believers experience a special kind of isolation as they are starting their relationship with Jesus and the Church. Believers are under-equipped and not prepared to support their brothers and sisters in Christ who come from an Islamic background. It is important for us to know the unique challenges that MBBs face, and how you can help them in those specific circumstances.
Challenges that MBBs face
Muslim background believers will often face persecution from their family and this creates a lot of isolation for them. Islamic families will first try to change the new believer’s mind about their newfound faith, they will tell them that they are sinning against Allah, they try to make them feel guilty and ashamed, and eventually they will cut them out of the family entirely. Their relatives and even neighbors may try to kill the new Christian in order to wipe out the shame the MBB caused to all their family; many believe that a violent death could purify the convert and this may lead to Allah still accepting them into Paradise.
Sometimes, although we don’t like to admit it, the Church can be suspicious of MBBs because of what we know about Islam. Especially in countries where Islam has power, churches are afraid that the new believer is actually a spy sent by the government to check whether the church would disobey the rules and accept them instead of reporting them. This usually results in serious persecution to the pastor and the church may be burnt down or closed.
Because of the isolation that MBBs can face, they also might not receive proper discipleship from mature believers. This means that they stay in a state of spiritual immaturity instead of properly growing in their faith. In other instances, they might get partial discipleship so they will grow in some areas but not others. It was very common to meet MBBs who have been Christians for 5 or 10 years, and yet they still are babies in the faith.
Furthermore, due to their ignorance about denominations and Christian cults, many end up visiting an unbiblical church, like the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons and end up following a religion of works just as they were used to in Islam because it feels familiar and comfortable.
How we can help support MBBs in their specific challenges
There are special ways we can connect with MBBs that will help them. To get them out of their isolation, make sure to reach out to them! Befriend them, get a meal or coffee with them, and sit with them at church.
Invest in their spiritual journey! Read the Bible with them, ask them questions, and help them grow in their relationship with God. Introduce them to other believers so that they can grow with them as well. Help them find a Bible study specifically for new believers so they can have a place to feel safe to ask questions and grow with others who may also be new in the faith!
Finally, ask God to work through you so that you can live as an example for your new friend. Help them see healthy Christian relationships and healthy Christian family dynamics so that they no longer will rely on their mindset and examples from their experiences as a Muslim.
This MBB has lost family, friends, and everything that was dear and familiar. They chose to leave all they had because they found the Giver of Life. Remember that God put you in their life so they can have a new family and community who loves them and can provide support and encouragement.
Because of the mindset that this new believer will be bringing in from Islam, they might ask questions that a Muslim would ask. You can read 60 of the most common questions a Muslim will ask you, and how to answer them in our book The Guide to Loving Your Muslim Neighbor, to help this new believer learn the truth!
Bible verses about a diverse community in the Church
Jesus wanted His church to be a diverse body of believers from every tongue, nation, and tribe. An example from the first century church is the Lord’s calling of Saul, a killer of Christians, to be one of the most important Gospel preachers in history. Jesus' disciples included a doctor, some fishermen, a zealot, and a tax collector - the most unlikely group to be friends in Jesus’ culture.
Today, Jesus is gathering worshipers from every nation and language. Your MBB brother or sister in Christ are part of the body of Christ. Love them, take care of them, and help them grow in their faith and become a witness to their own families and nations.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
How to start a conversation with an MBB at church
You may not know how to approach someone with a background in Islam, and don’t worry, we got you covered! Remember that a friendly face is going to make all of the difference for your new friend’s experience at church. Here are some easy conversation starters for you, and some examples of what you can ask them about:
- How long have you been a believer?
- How did you find our church?
- What was growing up like for you?
- Have you been able to connect with other believers?
- How did you come to Christ?
- How can I be praying for you?
Prayer for Muslim background believers
Lord, I pray for unity within your body of believers. Please let your Church throughout the world welcomes the MBBs, so they would experience love and grace instead of isolation and fear. Show me how I can step into a role of welcoming others into your body and provide sound discipleship so they will know you on a deeper level and become witnesses to their own families and friends. Amen.