CMS worker Anna* has been serving in the Middle East over the last three years, with a team that is seeking to share the gospel with Muslim people through teaching English. She reflects on the importance of culturally appropriate ministry and trusting in God, by giving us an insight into how the team trains short-term teachers:
Christian short-term teachers often join our staff team at the English Centre where I work. Our training program for them begins with the following scenario to help them understand the challenge of gospel ministry in this context:
Imagine a group of devout Muslims arrive in your hometown. The men have long beards and the women wear black headscarves. They don’t speak your language. They tell you that the things you have always believed about God are wrong, that you need to change your customs and your clothing. They invite you to a mosque to hear why your scripture is corrupted and tell you that you should risk your life to join them. How would you respond?
As you would expect, the trainee teachers generally observe that this kind of approach seems neither polite nor effective. As they reflect, we hope to impress upon them the importance of respecting the culture and beliefs of their Muslim students. We must share the love of Jesus in culturally appropriate ways.
But more importantly, we hope to challenge them that, no matter how effective we are at being culturally appropriate in our ministry, it is not our efforts that will bring people to faith – changing hearts requires the supernatural and sovereign work of God.
As a result, at the English Centre, we work hard at learning local culture and language and at forming genuine relationships with students as we point them to Jesus, the way the truth and the life. Yet, our students hold deep convictions about their Muslim faith, and their identity is connected to things the community has believed for generations. So in the face of difficulty we find a powerful motivation to pray passionately that God would do what seems impossible – change people’s hearts.
I play a part in what God is doing in the Middle East by teaching and sharing with my students, but you have an important role too! Will you pray passionately for God to radically change hearts? As you pray that God would change hearts and convict people of the truth of the gospel, you are playing a vital part in this ministry. And together we can humbly trust in his sovereign plans for the people we are seeking to reach.
Give thanks for the opportunities Anna has to share about Jesus in her relationships with students through teaching English. Pray that God would radically change hearts so that many would come to faith in Christ.