July 13, 2016

“Approaches to Islam” course spurs Milton congregants toward friendships

Written by  Emily Jones
A screenshot from the “Approaches to Islam: Theological and Practical” video course by David W. Shenk. Community Mennonite Fellowship in Milton, Pa., recently worked through a portion of the course. A screenshot from the “Approaches to Islam: Theological and Practical” video course by David W. Shenk. Community Mennonite Fellowship in Milton, Pa., recently worked through a portion of the course. Photo provided by Trinity Video Seminary.

MILTON, Pa. Inviting a Muslim family to share a meal in your home: is this simple action key to helping Christians build bridges of friendship with their Muslim neighbors? After leading a group of Community Mennonite Fellowship congregants through sections of David W. Shenk’s “Approaches to Islam” video course, that’s just what Ron Geib did. And after a class filled with enthusiastic learning and discussion, about 20 other churchgoers are better prepared to take those simple, significant steps toward making Muslim friends.

The 20-part video course, “Approaches to Islam: Theological and Practical,” is designed to help followers of Jesus understand the message of Islam, and faithfully commend the gospel of reconciliation as they engage with Muslims. With topics such as “Shari’a is Muslim Law,” “The Quran and the Bible,” and “Principles for Ministry Among Muslims,” the course provides an educated analysis of the differences between Christianity and Islam from a peacemaking perspective.

Geib cited a lack of objective information about Muslims as an important reason for leading the course. In an area with little opportunity to meet Muslims, he considered Shenk’s videos a source of realistic and helpful teaching about Islam.

On a personal level, Geib’s year in service with Eastern Mennonite Missions inspired him to suggest the class. As Geib and his wife, Joanne, served in the Middle East, they developed lasting friendships with Muslims.

The class was a rousing success, with many participants feeling enlightened. Those who joined to better understand current world events were not disappointed. Multiple members said they were surprised to learn the similarities as well as the differences between Christians and Muslims.

A takeaway for several participants was the inadequacy of human effort to bring people to Christ. “Islam is a very logical religion, and it would take divine intervention to convince a Muslim that Christianity makes sense,” said Heidi Bowen. “All I can do is be a loving Christian, so that when God sends someone a dream, they’ll know they can ask me questions about my faith.”

Participants were grateful for the strong commitment to Christ expressed throughout the “Approaches to Islam” course. Geib said that as he prepared to lead the course, some were fearful that Christian theology and beliefs would be compromised for the sake of building bridges. This was not the case. “David Shenk’s up-front desire for Muslims to come to Christ shows us how we can be evangelicals and friends with Muslims at the same time,” said Pastor David Martino. Out of several youth who participated, one felt that her desire to work in full-time ministry among Muslims was strengthened.

On a June evening in the Geibs’ home, they broke the Ramadan fast with a family they met at the local farmers’ market. Ron Geib called the evening enjoyable and the company delightful. “I find that respect usually invites respect in return,” he said. An evening to relax before Geib gets back to planning, perhaps: the group from Community Mennonite Fellowship has expressed unanimous interest in continuing to study “Approaches to Islam” in future Sunday school classes.

“Approaches to Islam: Theological and Practical” is a video course taught by David W. Shenk, doctor of religious studies education and anthropology, and produced by Trinity Video Seminary. This university-level course may be used for academic credit (independent study) or for personal learning. The course is available at emm.org/approachestoislam.