I am no expert on ministry to Muslims in the USA (a part of the “diaspora ministry movement”). However, I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so…
I am watching how many US churches are waking up to the opportunity to reach out to the growing Islamic populations in their midst. I praise God for this! It is very exciting.
There are a few places where I see success at the local church level. However, it’s more often that I see diaspora ministry that is less than successful, or perhaps more accurately, not focused on goals that will reach these Muslim communities.
For most churches, Muslim ministry is organized around the “attractional” model that they use in the majority culture. It’s a “come and join us” mentality. How does this work itself out? Usually, the church has a refugee ministry or an ESL ministry conducted by their members. The programs are an attempt to provide service and love to those in the Muslim community in a non-threatening way. These are great ideas – but they assume that Muslims will someday want to attend our churches and join with us. Often, this approach is couched in multi-cultural language.
From my perspective, if we want to see these communities reached we have to adopt instead the “go and join them” attitude. Our goal needs to be to see a church birthed within their community, reflective of their language and culture.
This is a tall order for the American church that is typically focused on its own people and programs. Most often, the “go and join them” attitude will require us to plant a totally different kind of church within their midst.
So, do I think the refugee resettlement program, the ESL program, educational programs, international dinners, and all the other programs that are done in our churches bad? Absolutely not. They are helpful not only in meeting real needs, but more importantly, in preparing people for ministry and for identifying those whom God is calling into a deeper ministry.
So, my advice is that we go into these communities and plant churches, not try to extend the influence or ministry of our church into them. Most churches will not be willing to take this step. For the few that do, it will be a rough road with plenty of opportunity to trust the Lord.
Do you think your church is able to do this kind of ministry?