I sat in a lovely little plaza in Lille, France, assuming the most open body language posture I could muster. I looked foreign, helpless, and in need of a friend.
I guessed the Friday afternoon worship time at the adjacent mosque would let out in a moment and faithful Muslims would stream past my bench.
As this began to happen, I bargained with God, “I’ve come four thousand miles to talk to these guys. Could you not persuade one of them to walk five feet over to me?”
I needed an icebreaker.
I needed an opening.
I needed to have studied French in high school instead of Latin!
Connecting with Muslims
Maybe you’re not thinking about Muslims in France too much, but you’re wondering if God might want you to connect with some who live and work near you.
If you are, I couldn’t agree with you more!
God wants Christians to connect with Muslims!
But, like a lot of following Jesus, it’s neither normal nor easy.
Jesus was so good at this: chat with Samaritans, engage outsiders, have dinner with sinners.
We have a problem with Muslims: We’ve been told to be afraid or angry. We’ve been warned they’re taking over the world and our kids will live under Sharia law. We’ve seen evil things done in the name of Islam. It’s hard not to be concerned and on guard.
But that vigilance comes at the expense of love. Part of the solution is to meet some—you and me, chatting with a Muslim, then more of us with a few more.
It won’t solve the whole problem, but it counts.
Five simple ways to start a conversation with a Muslim
If you want to give this a go, here’s some help. Whether you see Muslims at work, Walmart, or waiting for kids at soccer practice, try these ideas to break the barrier and start a conversation.
Start with a smile. Say hi. Go from there. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. Kindness and curiosity are magically powerful.
If she has a nametag on, smile and ask, “How do you say your name?” Follow that with, “Where’s that name from? How long have you been here? Can you tell me what your name means?”
Leverage the context: If you’re in a grocery store, comment on what you both are looking at. At soccer, commiserate over the weather, the officiating, kids these days!
Hear a language other than English being spoken? Ask, “What language was that?” or “Can you teach me a word?”
If all else fails, quietly ask, “Where are you from?” If you’re both guys, the old standby, “So, what do you do?” is good for starters.
Practice this. You will get better.
It will feel awkward at first, for you and the Muslim you’re engaging, but it gets easier.
The rest of the story
I bargain less with God these days (about this, at least!) and choose to go the last five feet myself.
For example, having built some skill and courage since that strikeout afternoon in Lille, France, not too long ago I shuffled right into a mosque in Italy. I introduced myself to a caretaker. This led to a tour, an introduction to the mosque leader and a wonderful, long-term friendship.
Sometimes I still crash and burn, but sometimes really good things happen.
Shane Bennett has spent the past 30 years helping Christians learn to love Muslims and Muslims learn to love Jesus. He has worked in dozens of countries and has become friends with Muslims from England all the way east to Malaysia and many points in between.
He works for Healing Nations and lives in southern Colorado where he occasionally shares the pulpit with his generous pastor. He writes weekly at shanebennett.com and speaks around the U.S. and beyond