Fruitful Practices #5- Build a Good Reputation

By A SEND Worker
Tags: Muslim Ministry, Southeast Asia, Story

The practices highlighted in these articles are not a guarantee of success, but rather, a description of common characteristics and methods found among effective Muslim ministry teams.

The fifth fruitful practice in our series is to “build a good reputation.”

From the moment Kingdom workers arrive in their new community, they have already started building a reputation. “Now wait,” you might say, “My reputation only really begins forming when I start engaging my Muslim neighbors in real conversation.” Actually, your reputation is born long before you can speak the local language or relate culturally. Whether or not you realize, people are watching and observing from the moment you arrive in their community. 

Kingdom workers are evaluated by the size and quantity of their suitcases when they arrive. They are evaluated by the way they discipline their children. Women, of every age, are evaluated by the clothes they wear in public. The type of vehicle they drive, the place they choose to live, the furniture they put in their houses, the amount of garbage they throw away each week – all these things influence reputations. This may seem unfair. Nonetheless, as representatives of Christ, we need to acknowledge this reality and choose carefully how we live from the very beginning. 

Before We Arrive

As Kingdom workers, we want to have thought through some things about our first few months, before we even arrive in our ministry context. It is wise to assume from the very beginning that some locals will understand and speak a degree of English; thus, the things we say, wear, eat, drink, and do have far greater impact than we can imagine. I was once described by a Muslim friend to some of his other friends as “Christian, but not like the other Christians here. He does not drink or smoke or sleep with women outside of marriage!” Many Muslims hold the understanding that all Westerners are Christians, or that Christianity is synonymous with Western culture. It is important to proactively set ourselves apart from our Muslim friends’ understanding of “Western Christians” that comes from movies and television!

A Visible Faith

Kingdom workers in a Muslim context need to think about what their actions convey. If you want to be seen by your new neighbors as spiritual people, then let them see it in you from the very beginning. Do not wait until you have grasped the language or culture to speak spiritual truths into your friends’ lives. Instead, speak through your actions. Take opportunities to pray with people, let them see you reading your Bible, let them hear you singing worship songs. You are not doing these things for the praise of men, for that would be pharisaical. You are doing these things so that your neighbors know you have a living and active faith.

Your Muslim neighbors’ faith is very visible. They go to the mosque to pray with their neighbors. They break their fasts as a community. They go on pilgrimage. Let your faith also be visible. If they do not recognize you as someone who fears and respects God, why would they come to you when they have a spiritual question?

Making Mistakes

Let me clarify that we are not called by God to be driven by fear or guilt, and there is no reason to punish ourselves for making mistakes. We all make mistakes, especially as we move into new cultures with different foods, customs, and beliefs. Your new neighbors will not expect you to follow their way of life perfectly, so there is no need to expect perfection of yourself or your family. However, as much as it is possible, try to minimize the number and size of your offenses. Above all, let us be authentic, and live out our faith in Jesus from the very beginning. 

Will it be You?

There is a good proverb that says, “Actions speak louder than words.” There is another proverb that we would do well to remember: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man (Proverbs 3:3).”

When your neighbor’s chair breaks, he takes it to a carpenter with a good reputation. If his water pipe leaks, your neighbor calls a trusted plumber. When you neighbor has a spiritual need, they will go to a spiritual person. Will it be you?

Read Fruitful Practices Issue #4- Social Networking
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