Texas Southern Baptists see conversion opportunities among Muslims
The latest issue of Southern Baptist Texan to arrive in my mailbox has a front page story which caught my eye about a new evangelism drive aimed at the state’s Muslim population. You can see their on-line report here.
“The increasing presence of Muslims in Texas is an opportunity Texas Southern Baptists must not miss, says Bruno Molina, an SBTC ministry associate specializing in ethnic evangelism and outreach. To that end, a series of workshops—including one next month on engaging Muslim women with the gospel—and three printed resources aimed at helping Texas Southern Baptists understand Islamic beliefs, are planned for the fall and into 2010,” it says.
“We are praying for Muslims during a month (Ramadan) that they are seeking God and waging spiritual warfare on behalf of Muslims in the form of evangelistic prayer,” Molina was quoted as saying.
The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is the state’s branch of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), America’s largest evangelical denomination and one of its most conservative.
The SBC has recently been ringing the alarm bells of decline, an issue we blogged on in June. Its research arm LifeWay Research said then that its numbers, currently around 16 million, would fall nearly 50 percent by 2050 “unless the aging and predominantly white denomination reverses a 50-year trend and does more to strengthen evangelism, reach immigrants, and develop a broader ethnic base.”
In Texas, the SBTC has put a lot of effort into reaching out to the state’s fast-growing and predominantly Catholic Hispanic population — which is no doubt a good strategy for long-term demographic viability. (They would argue it is also a strategy to win over a large group for Christ).
But reaching out to Muslims this way — who do share with Christians the Abrahamic tradition of monotheism –seems a new take and one that involves even more cultural (and perhaps political) minefields. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that about 0.6 percent of the adult U.S. population is Muslim and in Texas about 0.5 percent, making it a very small group.
But Southern Baptists like other evangelical Christians are keen on “engaging Islam,” which is not the same as various the inter-faith dialogue efforts being pursued by different groups across the span of religious beliefs. When U.S. evangelicals talk about “engaging Islam” they usually mean winning Muslim hearts, minds and (they would believe) souls for Christ.
Winning Islamic converts is no doubt seen as especially vital to some conservative American evangelicals who question the patriotism and loyalty of U.S. Muslims against the backdrop of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the “war on terror.”
On Sept. 25-26, the SBTC will host a seminar in the Dallas suburb of Grapevine exclusively for women on reaching Muslim women, taught by Rockie Naser, a Jordanian-born American who became a Christian 11 years ago after she moved to Texas from Chicago.
(Photo: The Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, May 13, 2005. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook RC/HK