Excerpt taken from "When the Mosque Comes to Town"

Copyright © 2013 by Gina Wilson. Reproduced by permission.


While hundreds of books about Islam are available, few attempt to propose a biblical solution to the problem faced by communities that suddenly discover a mosque in their midst. Bible believers know that hearts must be changed before any significant cultural changes will occur. The focus of this book is to reach the hearts of individual Muslims.

The story goes that, 50 years ago, Muslim leaders in Islamic countries discouraged their people from moving to America because they feared they would be converted to Christ. The soul winning zeal of those days has dissipated in this country and we now have millions of Muslims living among us. Fear of each other has replaced the compassion that should be felt by Christians to weep for these lost souls bound by rituals that date back to the 7th century.

Gina Wilson’s burden for Muslims began early on in life. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree and completing several short-term missions trips, she received an appointment to work in a major Muslim country. This put her in direct contact with Muslim families and coworkers on a daily basis.

She came to understand that the commonalities of life that bind all humans together are just as prevalent in Muslim societies. Through prayer and daily living out her relationship with Jesus, she found many opportunities to share the gospel. A pattern began to emerge in her witnessing that took into consideration the complexities of their culture and the open doors they provide. She has walked through those doors to effectively supply Muslims with information about the Jesus that they so misunderstand.

This book details some of the ways that Muslims will respond to a gentle, loving approach to sharing the gospel. Rather than view the Muslim neighbors in your community with fear or simply resign yourself to their presence, Wilson’s experience and insight will give you a confident approach to drawing them out into friendship and showing them the true face of our loving Lord.

Note: In order to protect the author’s identity and opportunities to speak freely to the Muslims around her, a pen name has been used. All names have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals included in this book.


Muslims Move In

Whether Muslims move into the house next to you, a few blocks over, or begin gathering at their newly built mosque, a structure which resembles something you recognize from Aladdin and the 40 Thieves, the question has undoubtedly gone through your mind: What now?

What should you do when the mosque comes to town?

First and foremost, do not run away, despair, or throw up your hands in defeat!

There is a common reaction among the human race when approached by something unfamiliar and it sees people shying away from the unknown rather than approaching it. One thing I can tell you from personal experience is that the unknown is often scarier in our imagination than it is in reality.

In our imagination, Muslims are people completely unlike us who follow a religion we need to know thoroughly in order to reach for Christ. They are scary, unknown, and cannot possibly have anything in common with you or me.

In reality Muslims are people very much like you and me with the same concerns, fears, failures, hopes, desires and dreams. Parents want their children to get good grades, kids want their schoolmates to like them, girls dream of falling in love, and boys dream of owning their first car. As one who has lived among Muslims of all shades of religious fervor, I can tell you from personal experience, they are very much like you and me.

So... what should you do when the mosque comes to town?

Put on a smile.

Walk around the corner.

And say hello.

Yes, it really can be as simple as that.

Chapter 1

Saying Hello

You have new neighbors; you got up your courage and walked on over. Now what?

There are undoubtedly many thoughts going through your mind as you get ready to push that little button that will alert the whole household to your presence. Thoughts like: I know that there are taboos in their culture! What are they? I don’t want to offend them before I even get started! What if I accidentally offend them anyway?

Let’s take these questions one at a time.


First: Men stick with men and women stick with women.

One of the easiest ways to show respect (and conversely offend your Muslim neighbors) is when dealing with members of the opposite sex. But don’t worry! It’s easy.

If you’re a man: When first introducing yourself to your neighbor, if a woman comes to the door, ask for her husband. Do not introduce yourself or explain why you are there, just simply ask to see her husband. This seems rather rude in our western culture mindset, but to those from the Middle East, you are simply showing respect.

The husband or another male relative will show up and THEN you can paste on a big smile and say, “Hello! Welcome to the neighborhood!” If you want to make your new neighbor feel really special you could say, “Salaam-Alaykum!” Don’t worry about getting the pronunciation right —they’ll just love that you put forth the effort! The man will either invite you in or will come outside to chat with you. Muslims are very hospitable people and will not typically leave you standing awkwardly on the porch while they hide on the other side of the door.

If invited inside, do not fraternize with any women. They will probably make themselves rather scarce, but in case of their presence, always keep your attention directed to the male who you are speaking with. Even if she comes into the room to give you tea, direct your thanks of hospitality to the man.

If you’re a woman: When first introducing yourself to your neighbor, if a man comes to the door, ask for his wife. You can state simply who you are (“I’m Dr. Jones’ wife from down the street”) but that is all. Striking up a conversation with a man is not seen as appropriate. If the woman you have come to see is not there, tell him simply you will come back another time. Do not go inside even if told that she will be back soon. Even if nothing untoward occurs, the male members of the family will see your behavior as loose.

It is possible that another woman will be called to come to the door. If this happens, feel free to smile and speak freely to the woman. The husband, brother, or male figure will probably stay at the door to see what you want, but do not address your greetings to him, just to the female member of his family.

If invited inside, latch onto the woman who has invited you. She may leave you alone for a brief time in order to make tea or bring some other refreshment, but she will come back quickly. Men will probably not speak with you and you should not try to speak with them. Some may sit in on the conversation you have with the female member of the family. Don’t be intimidated! They’re just curious and, since they can’t talk with you directly, will sit and listen in on your conversation. Many a man has learned about Christ this way!

Second: No pig and no alcohol.

Women, this is especially important for you if you bring goodies over to welcome your new neighbors. When baking, the easiest thing to do is leave out the vanilla. Vanilla extract has alcohol and Muslims will not be able to eat it. Leave out the vanilla of any baked goods and you’re good to go! Make your neighbor extra at-ease by cutting out a home-made tag with the label of your goodies and put the word ‘Halal’ on it. They will understand: No alcohol.

Men, this is especially important for you if you invite your Muslim guy friends over for a barbeque. As great and all-American as hotdogs are, many of those questionable links are made out of pork of some kind. BAN pork from a get-together where you are going to have your Muslim friends over. No pork = no problems.

Men and women both, keep this in mind whenever having Muslims over to your house. Never serve them an alcoholic drink or food with pork or pork products in it. Be especially careful with: hot dogs, canned spaghetti sauce, and vanilla extract.

Third and Final: You come from WHERE??

The last big item to be careful of is insulting where they come from. This may sound obvious, but this mistake is committed easier than you think. To our western minds, we see a corrupt regime and think, “What a horrible place! I pity the soul who comes from there!” It may just be, however, that your new neighbors hail from that location.

In general, Muslims are very loyal people. Instead of speaking of the poor conditions of their country, they will most likely speak of their country’s beauty, the traditions they remember from childhood, and other fond memories attached to the land. Some may bring up the corruption or poor conditions, but let them do the talking first and tread lightly. They may just want to vent; they’re probably not looking for your “pro-American, high-minded” opinion.

If your neighbor comes from a country in which we have troops, they will not be happy about it. If the topic comes up, they will candidly express their decidedly negative opinion of our “meddling,” but don’t take it personally. Many Muslims have a two-fold problem: they do not like America in ideology but they love the benefits of living in the Land of Opportunity. While trying to remain loyal to their roots and ancestry, they will work through a paradigm shift during which, at some point, they will realize that they have ultimately become part of the America they “hate.”

Keep in mind that your neighbor is interested in getting to know YOU, not the American government. Feel free to state your opinion when it is solicited —be yourself. They will still be getting to know YOU and will like YOU regardless of whether you agree or disagree about whether troops should march through the streets of Baghdad. Try to keep political talk to a minimum.

That’s it! See? Wasn’t that easy?

Now… what if you offend them anyway?

Each taboo above can be dealt with differently. If you accidentally find yourself falling into more conversation than appropriate with the wrong member of the human population, simply excuse yourself and seek out the correct gender. When the appropriate gender is found, or conversation is redirected to that person, remark how the other person you were talking to reminds you of your brother or sister, if you have the appropriate sibling.

If you lack the correct sibling, then you can simply say that the person you were talking to is just like the brother or sister you always wanted. By stating that you view them as a brother or sister you do two things:

1. You let them know you feel like they can be part of your family, and

2. You let them know you have no wrong motives whatsoever.

Using family language will be a very culturally appropriate way of saying, “I like you and your family and I feel comfortable around them.”

If you accidentally bake with vanilla or serve up pork hotdogs at your backyard BBQ, apologize profusely and scramble to find something appropriate which they can eat. They know that all Americans “eat pork and drink beer” but even so, you do not want to substantiate the rather false view of all red, white, and blue blooded citizens. The best way to get out of a scrape of this kind is to simply plan ahead and avoid the awkward situation altogether.

Finally, should you find yourself in the rather uncomfortable position of having just insulted your new neighbor or friend’s home country, apologize. Then be honest. Explain that you have always viewed it “this way” and that you have never heard good things about it. Apologize for your ignorance and invite them to tell you about all the good things about their country. Ask them to tell you where they would take you if you ever visited for a day. Ask about their favorite memories as a child or their favorite places to go. Ask them what they love about it. Your friend will be quick to forgive your ignorance and will regale you with a wealth of information that will reveal to you more about their heartbeat than you could possibly imagine.

Above all, be yourself. This is the most important part of beginning any relationship. We will all stumble over ourselves and botch attempts at crossing the cultural bridge. Be ready to laugh at yourself, apologize, learn from your mistakes, and try again. The more you interact with your neighbor, the more they will see your heart and sincere desire to know them as a person.

A sincere and genuine offer of friendship will speak far louder than any accidentally served pork sausages and flub-ups about their decrepit country. If you are willing to learn from your mistakes and correct them, your Muslim neighbor soon-to-be-friend will laugh right along with you. In time, you may even have some rather humorous stories to regale other friends with, that will have both you and your Muslim friend laughing through tears.

Chapter 2

Getting into

Once you have started getting to know your new Muslim friend or neighbor, there will undoubtedly be a time when you wonder about bringing God into your conversation. A question like the following might be very close to what you are thinking:

Based on their culture, how much do I need to get to know them before I bring up our difference in religion? Should I drop the idea altogether if they seem distant or plow ahead if they warmly respond to my overtures of friendship?

All great questions! One of the best aspects about reaching your Muslim friend for Christ is the fact that religious differences will be blatantly obvious and could potentially be spoken about right from the beginning. In general, a Muslim will assume that anyone who is not Muslim is a Christian. This is a beautiful thing! Because it means right off, before they even heard your western-accented “Salaam Alaykum,” they knew you were different. And they invited you in, anyway!

Muslims do not shy away from religious differences, nor do they shy away from religious discussion. To Muslims, God is a way of life: a way of speaking, eating, breathing, working, playing, and thinking. God is to be brought into every conversation, thought, and action. As with any “rule,” there will be exceptions, but in general, Muslims will at least mention God in nearly every conversation (if only to say “In sha’Allah” —“God-willing”). Here is where we western Christians need to learn something. God should be our way of life, too! Jesus Christ should be in every thought, breath, and action of our own. If He is, conversation about Him will flow as naturally as asking your neighbor what the baseball scores were from last night’s game.

Live, breathe, and act Jesus Christ. As you are first getting to know your neighbor, do not make your “religion” a secret! Be absolutely 100% open about who you are. If they ask about your weekend activities, tell them you go to church to worship God. If you are speaking about hobbies and you read the Bible daily, talk about it. If something in your conversation reminds you of a Bible verse you read, share that with them. Do not be afraid to make Jesus front and center in your conversations. When you do, your neighbor will realize that you’re serious about the God you worship.

Let me give you a GREAT BIG WARNING. If you do NOT share anything about your identity in Christ at the first available opportunity, your neighbor will think you don’t worship God at all. God is the first thing on their tongues. So He should be on ours. By genuinely speaking of Jesus, Muslims will be brought into conversation and desire to know this One of whom you speak so fondly. If you leave the subject until later, they will wonder why you haven’t spoken about it previously, calling into question the sincerity of your faith.

Westerners have become very assimilated to the cultural way of thinking about religion: it’s okay to speak of in church, with your church group, or in a small group in Starbucks. But don’t say anything too loudly because you might offend a stranger. Don’t believe me? Ever heard of the phrase, “God and politics?” It’s usually used in conjunction with “Don’t speak about…,” not “Let the whole world hear!” If you love Jesus, show it! Speak about Him, breathe Him, love Him through your actions.

One of the most important ways you can love Jesus through your actions is in simply getting to know the Muslim down the street. What do I mean? Namely this: Get to know the soul you desire to see saved before you preach at it. Muslims will typically welcome a genuine offer of friendship. They will appreciate your fumbling attempts at learning their language. They will enjoy your baked goods and warmly offer their hospitality. But they are doing this for a friend –someone they are getting to know, someone who has demonstrated love and a caring attitude —not someone who only wants to step inside their house, tell them to change, and leave.

If you desire to reach these least-reached people, be committed. Like any relationship, it will need to be cultivated. You will benefit from them and they from you. The eastern culture is one of warmth, sharing, and closeness. When you pass from stranger to friend, in their eyes, you might as well be part of the family.

This means that they might call on you to help out if they are in a jam, will possibly invite you to take part in wedding preparations and celebrations, and will be more than happy if you stay at their house ‘till all hours of the night drinking tea and chatting. This does not mean that you have to make them your “best friends” but it does mean that your offer of friendship needs to be real.

Christ in Conversation

So after you’ve visited with Fatima several times, learned the names of her three children who are all grown and in college, and know that she wishes for nothing more than to see her mother come from Iraq, how do you begin talking about Jesus or the Bible?

Through prayer!

You may be thinking, I asked you how to TALK to them, not pray for them, but stay with me and I will show you exactly why prayer must begin every profitable conversation you will have with a Muslim.

For our purposes, prayer does three main things. Firstly, it removes you from the picture. When you focus on the One who needs to work in your friend’s heart, you will come to the point of realizing that you cannot say nor do anything that will make your friend believe. You are simply an agent who is willing to be used of the Lord in this person’s life.

Secondly, it causes you to give all glory to God. The more you realize that you cannot do anything and that God is the one who must work, when conversations arise and parts of the gospel are shared, glory will be given to the One who brought that conversation to pass.

Finally, prayer keeps you close to God. You’ve undoubtedly heard it before, but prayer is conversation with God: your spirit with His. He uses it to draw you near to His heart, make His desires yours, give you wisdom, increase your faith, and cultivate the loving, tender relationship of which you desire to testify.

In Ephesians 6, Paul wraps up his address to the Christians at Ephesus by highlighting several very important aspects of the Christian life. He writes about the armor of God in v.10-17, then concludes the section with these words in v. 18-19, exhorting them to be, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel…” (Ephesians 6:18-19).

The emphasis is obviously mine, but I want to make the point. Look what he asks them to be praying for —utterance! Conversation! To what end? “To make known the mystery of the gospel!” During his lifetime, Paul was used of the Lord to reach many gentile nations who had never heard the name of Jesus Christ. Through his ministry thousands of people were gathered into the folds of Christ’s kingdom. He would be what many consider a “professional evangelist” and what did he ask for? Prayer for conversations!

Prayer is by far the most crucial aspect to beginning a gospel-oriented conversation with your Muslim friend. If you try to draw your Muslim friend into conversation about spiritual things without prayer, it will never work. Every attempt will leave you grasping at straws. Make your new friendship and desire for gospel-conversations a daily point of prayer. Pray about it in the morning, pray about it at night. Keep it ever close to your heart. When prayer is involved the rewards will be astounding!

Questions Asked of You

Questions are amazing things! When questions are asked of you by your Muslim friend a few things happen:

  • You have free reign to answer them openly, honestly, and thoroughly.
  • They are generally more open to you because they are leading the conversation regarding spiritual matters.
  • The Lord has just revealed what topic to cover!

The Lord works in mysterious ways in the hearts of Muslims. He draws them through dreams, hopes and desires, disillusionment with Islam, and life circumstances. When your Muslim friend asks a spiritual question, they are usually speaking directly out of the Lord’s working in their hearts. They will ask the questions most pressing to them. All you have to do is answer!

Keep in mind: If a Muslim asks you a spiritual question they are saying that they trust you. It can take months before a Muslim will get up the courage to ask you anything about the way you worship. Approaching serious discussion about Christianity in the form of sincere desire can be dangerous for Muslims (yes, even those living in the good ol’ U. S. of A.). So bear this in mind when a sincere question is asked of you. What is asked of you in confidence, you would be wise not to share with the rest of his or her Muslim family.

Questions Asked by You

Asking questions of your Muslim friends about their religion is another good way to bring them into conversation about the gospel. When you ask honest questions of your friend it does several things. First, it tells them that you honestly want to know about them and their way of life. This will help them see that you are a friend who is thoroughly interested in them.

Secondly, more than any book will be able to do, you will learn where your Muslim friend stands on issues of religion that you may have only heard rumors about. Finally, you will begin to see how you can take their understanding of religion and life and use it as a bridge to explaining the glorious truths of the gospel.

The Truth about Speaking

There will be many and diverse opportunities to share the gospel! A question about church, an accusation about the Bible, and curiosity about why you love Jesus can all lead to gospel conversations. They can happen when you sit down for tea, go shopping, or are enjoying a backyard BBQ. This is another reason why prayer is so crucial. Gospel conversations do not happen according to a schedule. They occur because the Holy Spirit draws the unbeliever to Himself and you need to be prepared “to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15).

Be Prepared

I know what you're thinking: Oh no, here it comes —the dreaded homework! You're probably envisioning hours upon hours of reading through books big enough to make you remember college days. After all don't you need to know everything about Islam and Muslims in order to "be prepared?"

No! I am not going to ask you to read the Qur'an or memorize the Hadith (or even find out what the Hadith are). Your Muslim friend will take care of making sure you know the ins and outs of Islam. I am asking you to read your Bible.

There is a reason why preparation was stressed in Peter's first epistle. Let's walk through the following scenario and I believe you will understand why I, with Peter, am stressing this point.

You have gotten to know Abdulla for a while now and have been faithfully praying for an opportunity to share the gospel with him.

One day as you are barbequing hamburgers in your back yard, he turns to you and says, "John, I have watched you and your wife. I know there is something different about you. You are not like the Christians my father always told me about. I want to ask something of you."

You flip a burger, excitedly send heavenward a two-second prayer for help and say, "Anything my friend! Ask away."

Abdulla gathers his courage and asks. "Why do you believe Jesus is God?"

This is no Sunday school question, you think to yourself. Here it goes!

"Well in the first four books of the New Testament where Jesus' life is recorded He says that He and the Father are one. The Father is God. So when Jesus says that He is one with the Father, He is essentially saying He and God are the same."

Abdulla takes a drink of his soda. "You believe that the Father is God. Jesus says He is one with the Father so He is saying He is the same as God."

"Yep! That's right," you affirm. "Jesus made Himself equal with the Father."

Abdulla considers what you have said then asks, "Where in the Bible does it say that?"

"I can't remember chapter and verse,” you amicably reply, “but I can look it up later for you, if you'd like.”

"You do not know where it can be found?" Abdulla challenges. "You do not read your Bible?"

You vigorously nod your head. "Yes, I do! Every day! I just cannot remember the exact part. I’ll look it up for you when we go inside."

Abdulla considers this, then levels his last accusation that ends a now rather awkward conversation.

"You believe God had a son with a woman? That is blasphemy! God is a spirit! He does not have relations with women! How can you say such a thing?"

You stand there slack jawed as a burger turns into charcoal. What on earth do you say to that? You wrack your brain for another explanation of Jesus' Godhead and come up empty.

Now, you might be thinking, I’m sure that’s an extreme case but let me assure you —it is most definitely not! Muslims will question where things are written in the Bible and will question what you mean by what you say. In the course of this book, I will give you some “quick tips” on how to approach questions such as the “Sonship” of Christ and His deity, as well as those Bible verses you have yet to memorize. For now, I will simply let the illustration stand to admonish you —be prepared!