Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI) has been carrying out ministry to Muslims around the world for more than 50 years.
“I see a growing commitment to serve our Muslim neighbors with the gospel,” notes BTGMI director Rev. Bob Heerspink. “The work of our indigenous media teams has taught us a great deal about what effective ministry among Muslims looks like.”
“Muslims highly respect Jesus as a great prophet, so we always try to focus on Christ,” explains BTGMI Arabic ministry leader. “When Christ is lifted up, he attracts people to himself.”
Islam is more than a religion; it is a culture that affects every area of life. For Muslims, accepting Jesus often means alienation from employers, friends, and even family.
Contrary to what people in the West often believe, there is no such thing as a “typical Muslim.” BTGMI’s Arabic team—as well as ministry teams in Africa, Indonesia, India, and other places worldwide—use a variety of approaches to bring biblical truth to issues that engage the minds and hearts of Muslim listeners.
“Our approach is that we try to be friendly, respectful, and to speak in terms that Muslims understand,” notes the Arabic ministry leader. “We are finding this method to be more and more appealing to a growing number of Muslims who have questions. Without speaking against Muslims, we speak biblical truth.”
In Arabic-speaking regions, BTGMI does a lot of listening, caring, and praying, the ministry leader explains. Media mission teams develop programs that are honest and transparent. Through radio, the Internet, and text messaging, it is possible to privately disciple Muslims, answer questions, and nurture their faith.
On BTGMI’s Arabic website, people can download Bible passages, the Heidelberg Catechism, and other teaching resources. Converts learn to express their faith in ways that will attract others to the Christian faith.
BTGMI partners with Good Books Ministries for media outreach in northern India and the Himalayan region, where Muslims are ethnically very different from those living in other parts of the world. Broadcasts in Hindi and four local languages reach many people.
“There is open resistance to anything connected with the spread of the gospel,” the ministry leader in India explains. “Some team members were threatened when gunmen entered the office. But the Lord intervened and no harm was done.
“People in this region are fed up with the turmoil and violence. They are looking for an alternative and seem to be more open to the gospel. Our strategy is to talk of peace, love, and harmony, which can only be found in Christ.
“Media is crucial to our ministry because, in the absence of a personal encounter, we are able to reach anyone. Radio waves can reach anywhere, crossing political and geographical boundaries.”
Ministry in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, poses several challenges. This archipelago country is comprised of more than 12,000 islands and 700 different tribes and cultures. Many Indonesians negatively associate Christianity with three centuries of Dutch colonialism.
Indonesian people who convert from Islam to the Christian faith are often persecuted and exiled from their families and communities. Still, the message of peace through Christ is breaking through.
Indonesian ministry leader Rev. Untung Ongkowidjaya shares the story of Muhajir, a Muslim from Central Java.
Muhajir works for an Indonesian Christian family and notices that their faith is different, so full of love. He hears the Indonesian-language children’s program Drama Kiddy when the family listens to the radio.
He wrote to Untung that he wants to be a Christian, but is frightened and has been threatened by his family. “Pray that someday Muhajir will be bold to declare his faith in Jesus,” asks Untung. Pray also that Muhajir’s family will come to know Christ as Savior.
The family for whom Muhajir works is part of the 142 listener communities in Indonesia. These listener communities provide powerful reinforcement to media outreach through BTGMI radio, television, and print ministry.
Rev. Paul Mpindi, whose radio programs and discipleship ministry reach thousands of French-speaking people in Africa, notes that media-based ministry is also effective among African Muslims.
“Our ministry has a way of reaching out to Muslims without endangering them,” he says. “Through radio and our Bible study correspondence course, Muslims do become Christians. But they do so privately. They write to tell us and ask that we continue to teach them. ‘We have accepted Christ, but we are alone,’ they write.
“In many of these regions Christians cannot gather, so they worship in secret. They tell us our radio ministry is important for learning more about the gospel.”
“The Internet is also a good tool,” adds Mpindi. “Many Muslims write that they go to our website. Radio makes noise, and sometimes they don’t want people in their compound to know they are listening. But the Internet can be silent.
“In our outreach we present Jesus as one who forgives and loves them. People come and say they want to believe in Jesus. We lead them to faith in Christ and then offer them our Bible study by correspondence course to expose them directly to the Word of God.”
“Thanks to your support through ministry shares, gifts, and offerings, Back to God Ministries International reaches Muslim people in India and Indonesia, Arabic- and French-speaking countries,” Heerspink notes.
“People from all over the world tell BTGMI staff members that the biblical truth proclaimed through our ministry is changing their lives.”
Note: To protect ministry leaders and their ministries, we have omitted certain names and details.
Myths about Muslims
In the West there are many myths about Muslims. Here are just a few:
All Muslims are Arab. Of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, approximately one in six speaks Arabic. Although 93 percent of the Middle East is Muslim, the countries with the largest Muslim populations are Indonesia, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
All Muslims think alike. Islam is a complex religion with many denominations. Most Muslims think for themselves in the same way Western Christians do.
All Muslims are violent. Muslims who practice violence make headlines. But most Muslims are neither radical nor militant. Rather than seeing Muslims as enemies to be conquered, effective ministry sees them as brothers and sisters who need Christ.
Remember that generalizations are misleading. In order to share Jesus’ love with a Muslim neighbor or coworker, pray for an opportunity to relate on a personal level. A growing friendship builds trust and opens opportunities to share Jesus, the bridge to peace.