There is a simple reason I never listened to street preachers [when I was a Muslim]: they didn’t seem to care about me. It wasn’t that they were annoying. I found their passion admirable, and I appreciated people who stood up for what they believed. Rather, it was that they treated me like an object of their agenda. Did they have any idea how their message would impact my life? Did they even care?
Sure, there are street preachers who share their message while still greeting people kindly, getting to know others’ troubles, and praying over personal pains, but I never saw them. What I saw were men who would stand on street corners accosting the public with their beliefs. No doubt they reached a few, but they repelled many more.
Unfortunately, I have found that many Christians think of evangelism the same way, foisting Christian beliefs on strangers in chance encounters. The problem with this approach is that the gospel requires a radical life change, and not many people are about to listen to strangers telling them to change the way they live. What do they know about others’ lives?
On the other hand, if a true friend shares the exact same message with heartfelt sincerity, speaking to specific circumstances and struggles, then the message is heard loud and clear. Effective evangelism requires relationships. There are very few exceptions.
In my case, [for much of my life] I knew of no Christian who truly cared about me, no one who had been a part of my life through thick and thin. I had plenty of Christian acquaintances, and I’m sure they would have been my friends if I had become a Christian, but that kind of friendship is conditional. There were none that I knew who cared about me unconditionally. Since no Christian cared about me, I did not care about their message.
But that was about to change.
Read more about Nabeel’s life-changing friendships with Christians inSeeking Allah, Finding Jesus.
All the Answers?
I have met a few people who, after reading my story in Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, thought they needed to know all the answers about Islam before connecting with Muslims. That is certainly not the case. [My Christian friend David Wood] barely knew anything about Islam when we started talking.
What people need before befriending Muslims is not advanced knowledge of Islam but a willingness to discover what is important to their Muslim friends and the desire to invest the time to learn and discuss those matters as the relationship progresses. When it comes to a basic knowledge of Christianity, though, it is important for people to be able to articulately explain what they believe and why. That, at least, is what 1 Peter 3:15 tells Christians to do.
A Closing Appeal
In closing, I wish to appeal to those who are considering following Jesus, especially those who will sacrifice much. I will honestly say that my first year as a Christian was extremely difficult, without a doubt the most painful period of my life. Each and every day was a struggle, and I experienced depths of anguish I did not know possible.
But I will also honestly say, looking back ten years later, that it was the most powerful and important time of my life. It shaped me, molded me, changed me into a disciple of Jesus. The Holy Spirit was my Comforter, His Word was my sustenance, and I would not give up that time for anything. The suffering is what made me into a true follower of Jesus. My life now, including my walk with God and my relationship with my wife, is blissful, far more wonderful than I ever could have imagined when I was a Muslim.
All suffering is worth it to follow Jesus. He is that amazing. — Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity (Third Edition).
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity