SELECTIONS ON CONVERSION – DISCREET WITNESS
By Phil Parshall
Often, there is too little consideration given regarding sociological issues involved in the conversion process. Tim Matheny explains:
In Arab society the initial approach may be made to a younger person, but the challenge for a decision to change should be made to the head of the nuclear family or extended family. Allowing sufficient time for the making of decisions is indispensable in the group-oriented Arab society. The evangelist’s tendency, to encourage some especially responsive person to step out and make an individual decision, may often cause the people as a whole to reject the message. Until a people are able to make what seems to them a valid decision, any pulling out [isolation of] group members immediately raises the fear of the loss of solidarity.’
In our evangelistic outreach, we have consistently urged the solitary convert to go back among his friends and family and discreetly share his faith. This is not to be done in a way that will stimulate social opposition. If necessary, we counsel the new believer to say nothing about his conversion until others notice a qualitative change in his life, and this then opens the door for a quiet word of witness. We are extremely honest from the start with the convert; he is told he must remain within the Islamic community.
Our goal is to see a small cluster of believers within a given geographical area. When the ideal of sociological strength, plus maturity on the part of the believers, is reached, it becomes possible to consider baptism. Premature baptism has often sparked off intense persecution from the Islamic community.
Phil Parshall is one of today’s leading authorities on ministry to Muslims. He and his wife, Julie, have lived among Muslims since 1962 in Bangladesh and the Philippines. He is the author of nine books on Christian ministry among Muslims.
Adapted from Phil Parshall, Beyond the Mosque (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), pp. 186-187.