Welcome to the first issue of Equip for Ministry for 2002. We are entering this new year with new and urgent challenges at home and abroad. We are making adjustments in ordinary, everyday procedures that we would have thought unnecessary a few years ago.
For those of us who travel, seeing armed guards in U.S. airports is a new experience, but not for our world neighbors. God has been good to North America, sparing us from difficulties that many countries have endured for years regarding terrorism, military presence, and basic concern for life. But now those things are here and we see daily reminders that our world is different.
Our culture continues to undergo change and flux. Nothing is the same anymore. Relationships are tense; the level of suspicion has risen and the level of trust has decreased. We are rethinking the concept of “Whose neighbor am I?”
Just last night on several news channels I heard discussions and interviews regarding Muslims and how America should proceed. In the late 1980s I wrote a book called Changing Trends In Missions, A shift in the mission paradigm. In the chapter “The Muslim Challenge,” I wrote, “How to evangelize and disciple Muslims has to be one of the most important issues in missiology today for the sake of winning some to Christ. From all I have gleaned from studies, limited contacts and interviews, the traditional Western ways are not, nor will they be effective in evangelizing the Muslims. Missionaries are struggling with this methodological question. What must I be and do for the sake of winning some to Christ?” (page 123).
Now fifteen years later, in light of recent events and the growth of Islam around the world and in America, how true that statement is! We cannot look the other way or bury our heads in the sand. Muslims and their mosques are springing up everywhere. We must understand this rapidly growing religion. We must be instructed (perhaps even a bit shamed) by the closing statements in the Equip Tip regarding Christians’ relationships with Muslims.
September 11, 2001 has made us more aware of the Muslim presence in our culture than ever before. Only the Gospel will slow Islam’s impact and growth in North America and around the world. One good thing emerging from the acts of war on that Tuesday morning is that God is getting attention. And we are to be his witnesses and ambassadors. It is hard to be an effective witness without talking or listening.
Relationships are not only the key to ministry in this postmodern world, but also to reaching Muslim neighbors. The lead article, an interview with PCA teaching elder Dr. Anees Zaka, puts this challenge before our readers and offers instruction, training, and resources to assist in the task. This is a dangerous task at the global level; many missionaries are unable to use their real names for safety reasons. Though we do not have exactly the same concerns in America, it is dangerous here as well because Islam continues to grow and Muslims are penetrating our culture, religiously, politically, and educationally.
I hope you will encourage your church members and families to read and study Islam. The Many Faces of Faith (reviewed in this issue), is a brief but valuable synopsis of key world religions. Several other resources that could help increase awareness, understanding, and ministry are reviewed as well: The Cross or the Crescent (a video) and Understanding Islam, What You Need To Know About Islam and Muslims. We also include George Barna’s Real Teens because of our focus to reach the children and teens of the millennial generation.
The Changeless Truths section takes on a slightly different look beginning with this issue. “In Case You’re Asked…” will set forth doctrines aimed at helping you to dialogue with others. The topic in this issue is “theodicy.”
Please share your copy of Equip for Ministry with your friends. I recently visited a mission station in another country and was encouraged to meet a PCA missionary family who thanked me for Equip, saying they read it from cover to cover. And at a recent Women in the Church meeting in the western region several people expressed their appreciation for the magazine. We want you to benefit from each issue. We deal with important topics geared to lay people. We attempt to keep relevant, helpful, and carefully selected resources before you. Our content, ads, and reviews are carefully selected with you in mind.
Enjoy this issue, but be challenged. Commit yourselves to more prayer and involvement in understanding our world and to be a shining light in darkness. Those of you in leadership and teaching roles, integrate the information into your church and community ministry.