Popeye and the church

What has happened to the church? Have Christians lost their first love? Have we collectively become the church of Laodicea that Jesus will vomit out of his mouth?

Not a positive way to begin a blog post, right? I’ve been accused of being too negative. I’ll admit, I’m a natural born pessimist. But let’s be real. The church has lost its backbone. We’ve given up. We’re no longer in the fight. We’ve succumbed to the enemy.

Does the church want to be known as Popeye or as Wimpy?

popeyeWimpy

Is the church today more like Popeye or Wimpy?

Where is the church today in the battle for the souls of the mankind? Sadly, the church is, by and large, absent. Yes, there exists a minority of churches who actually take seriously the charge to ‘preach the gospel to every creature’ or to ‘go into all the world and make disciples.’ Praise God for these who follow the mandate of Jesus. But where are the rest? Why are they not engaged? Will they change? Is there hope?

ISLAM

Those who know me know I am actively engaged in fighting the demonic ideology known as Islam. Now right away I need to make one thing clear: I’m not Islamophobic, nor am I a hater of Muslims. I do stand against Islam because as an ideology, Islam stands against the Bible and Christianity. Paul says we are to “tear down all arguments that come against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4) and I know of no other ideology that prides itself on doing just that. At the same time, I pity Muslims and see them as the greatest victims of the lies of Islam. And I’ve been doing this for 10 years after quitting my corporate job and following what God put on my heart to do.

But to be honest, some times the battle is hard. And lonely. And I wonder, where is everyone else? When Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, did he give an exclusion for those in the Muslim world? One would think so. In fact, in 1909 Samuel Zwemer made that observation. Zwemer said, “One might suppose the church thought the Great Commission did not apply to the Muslim world.” We have failed to go to them, in their native lands, and now even while they are among us.

Training Christians how to engage Muslims with confidence is one of the several activities I do with my wife as part of our ministry. We travel regularly on a circuit speaking tour of the US, stopping at churches along our planned route. I am grateful immensely for the relatively few pastors who have stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and allowed me to help equip their churches. And for those who have invited me to speak and have heard my one hour introduction to Islam, over 95% have asked me to return for more. I say this not to brag, but to suggest I really have something to offer that few others bring: In-depth academic knowledge of Islam combined with practical experience witnessing to Muslims.

But this seems to be getting more difficult rather than easier. And the difficulty is not Islam itself or Muslims; it’s the church. One of the greatest challenges we face is getting pastors to agree to tackle this touch subject with their congregations. Are they fearful of becoming a target for radical Muslims, afraid of bringing danger to their congregations? Are they simply apathetic or ambivalent about evangelizing Muslims? Do they somehow read an exception into the Great Commission for Muslims? Do they see Muslims as a lost cause, not open to the gospel, and a waste of time? Whatever the reason, it’s wrong. There is no excuse.

In his book “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi writes about a girl in school who was the outspoken Christian on campus. She asked Nabeel if he knew about Jesus. He writes, “Why had other Christians never asked me this question? They did think I needed Jesus to go to heaven, right? Were they content with letting me go to hell, or did they not really believe their faith?”

Is the church best represented by Popeye or Wimpy?

Pastors who avoid Islam and avoid equipping their congregations regarding Muslim evangelism are not only unbiblical, they are content with letting Muslims go to hell. But it gets worse even when pastors and ministers not just avoid Islam, they embrace it and become complicit in advancing Islam, usually under the guise of interfaith relationships. Here are just a few examples of literally hundreds of which I am aware.

MPAC CONVENTION

A few years ago a church in Pasadena, California hosted the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) for their annual conference. Both the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT)and the Clarion Project identify MPAC as a terrorist supporting organization with extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The IPT published an extensive background investigative report on the MPAC. Nevertheless, this did not stop All Saints Episcopal Church from hosting MPAC. The rector thought it was simply the proper thing to do. In his video interview below you can hear him say so.

And in this video Salam al-Marayati, President of MPAC, lies outright about Islam, on camera, at the church. And Rector Bacon thinks this is just dandy. (As an aside, this is likely the only interaction Muslims will ever have with Bacon!!)

PRAYING IN THE NAME OF ALLAH IN A CHURCH

At a recent general assembly meeting of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) an imam was asked to give the opening convocation. He was invited by the Assembly’s Interfaith Council. The prayer also put Jesus on the same level as Muhammad, simply another prophet of God.

“Allah bless us and bless our families and bless our Lord. Lead us on the straight path – the path of all the prophets: Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.”

To their credit, the PCUSA leadership later admitted a “mistake” may have been made, but they remained committed to exploring interfaith initiatives. This example and the one above are problematic: Churches and church leaders are facilitating the worship of a false deity and false prophet. And they will be held accountable before God on judgment day.

Popeye or Wimpy?

INTERFAITH DIALOG

With increasing regularity I hear of churches that invite local imams to ‘teach’ about Islam as part of an interfaith initiative. Pastors do not want to be known as anti-Muslim, anti-Islam, or Islamophobes. To show they are none of these, they invite a local Muslim leader to give either a one time or a series of lectures on Islam, to help break the ‘stereotypes’ of Muslims and Islam.

I recently wrote an article on one such incident in which I was personally involved. I won’t repeat the information here, you can read the article for yourself. But a word of caution on ‘interfaith’ initiatives.

Mark Durie is an Anglican minister in Australia and an authority on Islam. He earned his Ph.D studying the people of Aceh, Indonesia, a solid Muslim majority nation. He has written a number of books, but perhaps his best to date is titled “The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude, and Freedom.” As part of his overview of Islam he writes about the phenomenon of “interfaith” initiatives. His comments are worth reading.

Today there can be considerable pressure upon non-Muslims not to study the primary sources of Islam for themselves, but to refer all their questions about Islam to a Muslim expert. Interfaith dialogue is an increasingly important forum for exploring Islam in Western countries, and these forums tend to follow principles of mutual respect, emphasizing listening attentively to the other party and accepting their interpretations of their own faith. While this is a common-sense approach to sustaining productive and mutually satisfying relationships between people, it does however tend to have the same impact as traditional sharia restrictions, inhibiting non-Muslims from studying about Islam for themselves.

If a Christian involved in interfaith dialogue wants to know what Islam teaches, they will often ask their Islamic counterpart without devoting the effort needed to check what they are told. This can lead to serious problems of misunderstanding. At the same time, if a Christian does make investigations, and comes to conclusions which do not reflect positively on Islam, it can be a simple matter for a Muslim to cast doubt on the Christians’ findings because of the inherent complexity of the Quran, and its relationship to the Sunna and the Islamic traditions of reflection on these texts. Strategies which I have heard used are to say that the non-Muslim has quoted material out of context, that a particular hadith which was relied on is ‘unsound’, or that most authorities reject the interpretation offered.

One very good reason why Christians should study Islam for themselves is that Islam defines its spiritual identity, not merely in terms of Muslims’ standing before Allah, but in opposition and contrast to Jews and Christians. This self-definition includes a deep rejection of Christianity and Judaism. It is a sad fact that incitement against non-Muslims, and specifically against followers of Biblical faiths, is an integral part of Islam, being hard-wired into the Quran and the Sunna.


Misinformation about Islam is a constant issue for non-Muslims. A report in the Herald Sun, a major Melbourne daily newspaper, was published on August 8, 2005 stating that the senior Muslim Imam of Victoria, Sheikh Fehmi (subsequently appointed as Australia’s mufti) reassured non-Muslims in Victoria that Muslims wish only to live in peace with their non-Muslim neighbours:

‘Muslims live cheerfully and happily with all denominations,’ Sheik Fehmi said. ‘This is what Islam is. The Prophet has lived among Jews and Christians. In many parts of the world Muslims, Jews and Christians are living happily.’

Who would not applaud Sheikh Fehmi’s desire for people of different faiths to live together in harmony? The problem arises when he appeals to Muhammad’s example as the basis for non-Muslims to have confidence, that Muslim neighbours represent no threat to peaceful co-existence. Although there was a time when Muhammad lived peacefully alongside non Muslims, large sections of Muhammad’s biographies deal with periods when he was embattled with his non-Muslim Jewish neighbours. Muhammad ordered assassinations of women and old men, oversaw a mass decapitation and enslavement of hundreds of his Jewish neighbours. This darker material Sheikh Fehmi could not fail to be familiar with, as these victories of Islam over the Jews of Arabia are as well-known to Muslim children as Joshua’s conquest of Jericho has been to Sunday School children.

How then are Fehmi’s non-Muslim, fellow Victorians to understand what he means by his reassurances that they can have nothing to worry about, because Islam takes Muhammad as its example? Should non-Muslims just regard this as propaganda, or is it to be understood as a threat?

If a non-Muslim were to have written in response to Sheikh Fehmi’s comment in the Herald Sun, pointing out Muhammad’s less than happy relationships with his non-Muslim neighbours, how could this be done without sounding like incitement of interfaith conflict and a rejection of Fehmi’s apparently moderate and peaceful stance? By relying on acceptance of the excellence of Muhammad’s example as a condition of interfaith harmony, Sheikh Fehmi’s words serve to lock up the truth about Muhammad even more tightly in the dark box of ignorance.

These are not easy subjects to deal with, but deal with them we must, and one of the keys to a free and frank conversation with Muslims about such matters of importance is that non-Muslims must study Islam for themselves. They cannot rely on Muslim spokespeople as their only source of information on Islam. The same can be said for Muslims: they also should not rely on secondary sources, not even on Islamic clerics, to understand their faith.

CHRISTIAN COLLEGE CLUBS

My wife and I have engaged Muslims on college campuses. I have interacted with so-called Christian clubs on campuses and have tried to get them engaged in facing the challenges of Muslim groups.

The Muslim Student Association is very active on thousands of campuses across the nation. While purporting to be a place of refuge and camaraderie for Muslims on campus, they are really a very active arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, spreading the message of Islam on campus and working feverishly to convert the unsuspecting to Islam.

I have offered numerous times to provide free training to college Christian clubs to help them understand Muslims and become effective in outreach to them on campus. Nope, not interested. It seems such clubs are interested only in socializing with one another, having occasional bible studies, and a weekend outing or two thrown in for good measure. So while Muslim clubs are actively recruiting for the cause of Islam, Christian clubs just want to have fun.

Popeye or Wimpy?

SALT AND LIGHT

Jesus said we were to be ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world.’ How can we be either if we don’t become engaged in the issues of the day. There are many issues that seem to be hands-off for the church: abortion and the sanctity of life, the advancing homosexual agenda in our culture, moral and ethical relativism, unwed soon-to-be mothers, moral depravity, and the list goes on. But here I’ve focused on Islam specifically because it’s an issue I’m passionate about and because it is one of the hot issues of the day.

How can we be salt and light if we refuse to engage Muslims? If we’re apathetic toward their spiritual destiny and don’t care if they end up in hell? If we simply want to associate and fellowship with other Christians in a safe environment? If we actually facilitate the worship of a false god by inviting him into our churches willingly?


It’s not too late to change course. You can become engaged today. Resources in DVD, CD, and online formats are available, many for no cost. Study for yourself. Talk to your pastor about having your church trained to reach Muslims with the gospel.

The hour has never been more critical.

Be the salt. Be the light. Be the church.

No more Wimpys.

And me, I’ll just keeping what God called me to do.

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