Fruitful practices: Language learning, reputation building
September 2020

By a member of SEND’s Diaspora | North America team — More than a decade ago, a group of agencies working among Muslims identified 8 Fruitful Practices—elements of ministry that often are present when evangelical churches start in Muslim communities. 

Of course, no one engaged in Muslim ministry would call these practices a recipe for successful church planting. Each community has its unique qualities, and the Holy Spirit’s work reflects that reality. That said, in places where churches have started, many of these fruitful practices have been used. 

We will look at two practices each month for the next four months. As you read, take stock of how your life and ministry display these concepts, whether they are new to you or you’ve been using them since they first were identified. Some people might be better at some of them than others, but we all can improve somewhere. The goal is not to beat yourself up because of where you are not, but to know what things you need to ask the Holy Spirit to help you work on. 

1. Learning language and culture 

While this is foremost for people moving to another country, it also applies to people wanting to reach out to their neighbors and friends who are immigrants or refugees. One person surveyed noted, “Nothing says ‘I care about you’ more than speaking their language.” Learning about a person’s culture is not far behind.  
If you are working among many different groups, it will not be possible to learn 10 languages at the same time. Even learning a few phrases of greeting or a simple proverb will be greatly appreciated. But if possible, seek to cultivate deeper knowledge of one language and it likely will bear more fruit. One refugee, upon hearing someone speak her heart language in her new host country, broke into an ear-to-ear smile! 

2. Building a valued reputation in the community

What does the community that you want to reach value? How do their own people get raised up in their neighbor’s eyes? Are teachers and education respected? Maybe there is something that you know how to do that you could take the time to teach them. What about clothes? What does it mean to dress respectably in their community? 
Let’s avoid turning Muslims off before they get a chance to hear what we want to share with them. As one person said, “The testimony of words often can not be received until after the testimony of an honorable life has been seen.” Though a reputation takes a lifetime to build, it can be destroyed in a single moment. We need to pray and ask God to give us the courage and strength to daily live for him.   
It is very important to seek to build a spiritual reputation early in your interactions with the people you seek to reach. If you wait five years to share the gospel, they will wonder, if it is so important, then why didn’t you share about it earlier? Let them know that you have a relationship with God and it is important to you. Find opportunities to talk about your faith in everyday conversation. It doesn’t need to be a long testimony, it might just be something God brought to your mind while having devotions that morning. 
Take opportunities to pray for them and with them. If they understand that you are a person of prayer, then when they have a need, they will be more willing to share it with you. If they don’t know that you are a person of prayer, then they will probably never come to you and ask for prayer. Most Muslims have never prayed in any language other than Classical Arabic, and it has never occurred to them that it is possible to do so. Hearing you pray for them in English, or any other language, will open doors to interesting conversations, especially when you encourage them to call out to God and pour out their heart to him themselves! 

Prayers for the Muslim world

  • We continue with the 10/10 Prayer initiative with other mission agencies around the world.  We are crying out for God to raise up 10% of the Muslim world to follow him in the next 10 years. Please join with us and ask others to join in as well.
  • COVID-19 still rages around the world and just like you, missionaries are struggling to find ways to cope. Long-standing ministries have been upended, and in their place, new ways of doing ministry are being formed and tested. Though we sincerely desire to meet with people face-to-face, in our homes or theirs, in many places this is still proving impossible or very challenging. However, this virus has not caught God off guard, and we need to seek his wisdom and guidance on how to navigate it well.
  • Teaching English can be a natural way to build relationships in Muslim communities. Pray that God will provide the finances and space needed to meet government requirements for reduced student numbers or increased classroom sizes to allow for social distancing.
  • Ask God to show you some ways that you can speak about or demonstrate your faith with a Muslim friend this week—then follow through! 

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