The challenges of sharing the gospel with people who do not know Jesus have barely changed in 125 years. Here, one of our gospel workers in Egypt shares what he has learned.
When I first came to Egypt, I was passionate for the salvation of Muslims and I still am.As soon as I rented my first flat in Cairo, I went looking for Muslims to befriend in order to give them the good news.
I found it much easier than I thought it would be and before I knew it I was part of a group of friends who met daily outside the grocery store.
In the evening, we went to the coffee house to play backgammon and share meals.
Conversation flowed and religion was one of the favourite topics. I heard endless presentations about why I should be a Muslim and I had many opportunities to share the message of eternal life through faith in Jesus.
In my many years of sharing my faith here, I have observed that, for an Egyptian Muslim, giving mental assent to the truths of Christianity is many times easier than taking the step to profess Jesus as Lord and enter into Christian fellowship with others — and neither of these are the biggest obstacle.
The biggest obstacle does not even exist in the mind of a person from an independent culture, which makes it all the more difficult to explain to most Western people.
The biggest obstacle is the sheer terror of finding oneself without a community, the broader ‘family’ that is the air a person breathes in an inter-dependent culture. It was a local pastor who first tried to explain this to me.
I met him on my second day in Cairo, many years ago. He asked me to attend the church and when he learned of the burden to share my faith with Muslims, he was overjoyed.
Then he warned me: “A Muslim in Egypt who professes faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and God is like a box of sugar cubes. The sugar cubes are put in his box by many different Christians who, in one small way after another, complete the picture of the gospel, and a full sugar cube box is his readiness to tell someone that he has put his trust in Christ.”
I continued to ‘make the most of every opportunity’ but a seed of discouragement took root. Although we were having amazing conversations, I had yet to see any personal movement toward Jesus.
Eventually, I left the neighbourhood but changed my approach to evangelism.
The imam at a local mosque has been a supplier for our business for more than 20 years. He has heard the basics from us all but we have never explained to him the gospel from A to Z in one session. Just as that pastor warned, giving the entire gospel in one go, when that has not been requested, is counter-productive.
As God brings me across someone’s path, I have an opportunity to be and speak part of the message of his love in Jesus Christ, but then it is best to leave that person in his hands to be brought across my path again or that of another Christian, each of us led by the Holy Spirit.
I now have many wonderful encounters with Muslims in which I have the joy of adding a sugar cube to their box.
One day it is at work, on another with the grocer, or the barber, or the taxi driver, or with friends of friends.
Sometimes we discover we agree about something, or I learn something from them, or I am led to explain something about the gospel. Then we carry on with our lives, and I trust the Holy Spirit.
I’ve been here long enough to realise and admit that my role is to support and encourage my Egyptian Christian friends, who are wisely and compassionately gathering former Muslim followers of Christ into robust fellowships.
I’m more and more content to be one part of this body that Christ is using to build his church here.
For Egyptian churches to provide a ‘family’ for new believers.
For more workers to be raised up to serve in the Middle East.
For our workers to stay safe in dangerous places