IMB’s Pratt calls on next generation to pray, reach Muslims for Christ

Zane Pratt of the IMB visits with college student Jacob Ruiz and Coggin missions pastor Sam Goff during a break at the afternoon workshop on praying for Muslims at the church. JANE RODGERS PHOTO

BROWNWOOD—Zane Pratt, vice president for global training for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, called for the next generation to touch the Muslim world for Christ. Pratt spoke in both Sunday morning Palm Sunday services at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood on April 10 and offered an afternoon workshop attended by 75-100 members.

Pratt, who spent much of his overseas career in Central Asia working among Muslims, started the afternoon session by disavowing misconceptions about followers of that religion. Most Muslims are not Arab, Pratt noted; however, the vast majority of Arabs follow Islam. Non-Arabic predominantly Muslim countries include Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Bangladesh. Though heavily Hindu, India has a large Muslim population also. Large parts of Africa follow Islam as well.

After giving a brief history of Islam and Mohammed’s significance, Pratt discussed similarities and the far more pervasive differences between that religion and Christianity. Muslims, Pratt explained, do not accept that humans are born in original sin or have a sin nature. Humans are morally “neutral,” capable of doing good and evil. God is, to Muslims, “the most important principle in the universe,” a unitary deity rather than a triune God, vast and aloof to humankind.

Muslims acknowledge the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, albeit claiming that when the Bible conflicts with the teachings of Islam, it is because the original meaning has been corrupted. Muslims accept that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and will come again, but Islam denies the divinity of Christ and regards Him as just a prophet rather than a savior.

While Jesus is a prophet, Muslims believe Mohammed is the greatest of the prophets. Islam is, Pratt noted, a religion of absolute “fatalism,” where the saying Inshallah or “if God wills,” expresses resignation to an arbitrary deity rather than trust in a personal God.

Pratt gave several recommendations for reaching Muslims for Jesus, an apt message in the middle of 2022’s observation of Ramadan (April 2-May 1) in the Muslim world. Pratt spoke from his experiences living in Central Asia and in his IMB leadership role.

Start with Scripture, but ease into doctrine

Muslims, Pratt said, will not immediately understand the Trinity. The notion of a three-in-one God suggests, to Muslims, that God had a child through physical relations with the virgin Mary and Jesus was born.

Pratt said he has often used the Gospel of Matthew to evangelize Muslims. One Central Asian teenager who wished to better his English came to Pratt for tutoring. The two went through Matthew together and after many questions, the young man said he wanted to trust Christ as Savior.

“The Sermon on the Mount wrecked him,” Pratt said. “The Beatitudes overwhelmed him. He realized he could not be righteous enough for God.”

In a sobering reminder, Pratt said he counseled the teenager about the consequences of becoming a Christ-follower.

“I don’t think my father will kill me. Our neighbors certainly will. But this is worth more than my life,” the teenager replied.

Pratt later explained that the teen eventually migrated to the U.S., where he works with refugees today. His family, except for his father, became Christians.

Appreciate their morality

Muslims have a strong sense of morality, Pratt said, although notions of fidelity in marriage do not always apply. Still, most Muslims have a strong sense of right and wrong. They appreciate honesty.

Pratt recalled a conversation with a Muslim taxi driver in Central Asia. The driver said, “Everybody in this town knows you. You guys are real Christians. You are always honest, and you help people.”

Reputation is important. So are relationships.

Zane Pratt of the IMB spoke on Palm Sunday at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood and conducted a workshop on praying for Muslims during Ramadan that afternoon. JANE RODGERS PHOTO

Develop relationships

Pratt recommended befriending Muslims, something increasingly easy to do in an ever more multicultural U.S.

Do not confuse the religion, a false and difficult taskmaster, with those who follow it, Pratt said, noting he has many Muslim friends.

“Be a real friend but be visibly different,” he advised. “Don’t be afraid of Muslims. Invite them into your home,” he encouraged, praising the beauty of the genuine hospitality practiced by Muslims.

One must be culturally sensitive…in fact, even kosher.

“Don’t serve pork,” Pratt said, for Muslims consider it unclean. He also advised never touching or serving anything to a Muslim with the left hand. The left hand is considered unclean, he explained, briefly discussing typical Muslim sanitary practices with their left hands. He also advised taking note of whether those entering a home remove their shoes and doing the same.

In short, when in a Muslim home, do as the Muslims do. Mostly.

Understand the spiritual culture

Pratt cautioned that belief in evil spirits is widespread among Muslims. Understanding this can lead to gospel conversations.

For example, in Central Asia, where Pratt and his wife welcomed their first child, a Muslim friend urged him to place a loaf of bread upon his daughter as he carried her home, then to feed the bread, which supposedly would have absorbed any curses, to a dog.

Pratt used that encounter to discuss Jesus, the “bread of life,” who absorbed humanity’s curse of sin, turning the moment toward the gospel.

The importance of women

Islam’s version of heaven is not a “woman-friendly” place, Pratt said, describing an old Islamic saying that “9 out of every 10 men” will attain paradise, while only “1 out of 10” women will achieve the same.

In the Muslim world, the saying that “a woman’s wedding day is the saddest day of her life” rings true in many places. Still, it is imperative to include women in the gospel conversation, for the women teach the children and propagate the faith.

“If you don’t get to mama, you’re not going to see any sort of generational fruit,” Pratt said, adding that married missionaries sent by the IMB must both be involved in the work wholeheartedly.

Evangelism also takes time. Pratt said he has never known a Muslim to come to faith after only one gospel conversation. Coming to faith is a process best cultivated through relationship.

Muslims coming to Jesus

Today, Muslims are coming to faith in Christ in ways and numbers never before seen. “We are literally seeing more response to the gospel than we have in the history of Islam from the early 600s,” Pratt said. Explosions of the gospel are occurring in many Central Asian countries.

During this month of Ramadan especially, pray for “God to open the eyes of Muslims,” Pratt urged. “Pray that God would reveal … to them that they have been lied to about God,” that they would realize they cannot save themselves or earn salvation.

“Pray that this month would give them dreams and visions to point them to Christ,” Pratt said, emphasizing the importance of these to Muslims.

An IMB Ramadan prayer guide is available at https://www.imb.org/south-asia/ramadan/.

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