Five Misconceptions Christians Have of Muslims

Five Misconceptions in Ministry to Muslims

Since the onset of the refugee crisis in 2015, we have seen a sharp increase of Muslim peoples living in Europe. Due to war, religious persecution, and political unrest, millions of Muslims have relocated to Europe in search of peace in a new home. Muslims currently account for five percent of the population across Europe and many project that by 2050, that number could double or even triple.

In urban areas, the numbers are even higher. As one Greater Europe Mission global worker stated, “You can expect ten percent of the population in many major cities across Europe to be Muslim.”

In contrast, according to The Joshua Project, most countries in Europe have less than three percent of people claiming to follow Jesus; most cities have well under two percent.

For these reasons, GEM seeks to love and serve our Muslim neighbours, and to equip our global workers to best share the light and love of Christ with followers of Islam. In the ever-changing face of Europe, we cannot ignore the millions of Muslim souls, many of whom have never heard the good news of Jesus.

But ministry to Muslims is difficult, isn’t it? Aren’t Muslims hostile toward Christians and unwilling to talk about matters of faith? Assumptions like these are common in the West. But are they true?

Stereotypes often keep us from friendships with Muslims. But as followers of Jesus, we want to rewrite these misconceptions with truths that better equip us to love our Muslim neighbours with proper tools and right understanding.

Within GEM, we have dozens of global workers who focus their ministry on living with and serving Muslim people. According to their experience and wisdom, here are five popular misconceptions Christians have of Muslims.

Misconception #1: Muslims are hard to talk to about spiritual things.

Many people assume because of the differences between Christianity and Islam it must be difficult to talk about spiritual things. This couldn’t be further from the truth! 

As Landon, a GEM global worker who most recently served in Manchester, England stated, “It’s way easier to talk to a Muslim about God than an atheist.”

Muslims believe in God. They believe in many of the same prophets as Christians do, they believe in Jesus, and even that God inspired the Bible. With each of these commonalities, a plethora of connecting points allow Christians to build bridges from scripture. 

Misconception #2: Christians must be discreet in how they talk with Muslims about Jesus.

Though there may be times when you may have to share Jesus more delicately, due to a pluralistic and secular nature of most European societies, believers often enjoy freedom in discussing spiritual things and explicitly talk about Jesus.

“Faith is so central to the life of most Muslims,” said Luke, another global worker in Berlin, Germany. 

“It’s been my experience that if you’re honest with someone about being a follower of Jesus, most Muslims are quite willing to talk with you about him.”

Landon shared a story from his time volunteering at a local library. One day a Syrian man came in. When discovering that Landon is an American, he asked curiously, “Why are you here?”

“God told me to come here,” Landon answered confidently. 

The man was shocked that God would talk to Landon and he prodded further with surprise and intrigue, “Are you a prophet?”

Landon laughed and told him no. He then proceeded to share about prayer and how we can all talk with God. This man was so attracted to Landon’s openness to talk about Jesus that it drew him in to learn more.

Misconception #3: Muslims are antagonistic toward Christians and only want to debate.

This is a common caricature people in the West have of Muslims. But as Emily, a global worker in France, emphatically said, “This is not true!”

Certainly, some people may be antagonistic, or may simply love to debate—as can happen in Christianity or any other faith. But many Muslims have genuine questions and are seeking to understand. 

“The Lord alone knows their hearts and motivations,” Emily continued. “But the key here is loving discussion, not debate. We must avoid the temptation to want to ‘win’ a debate.”

“Where I live, they are more willing to listen and discuss than debate,” echoed Forrest, a GEM global worker in Stockholm, Sweden. “In our suburb, over 60% of the population are immigrants—many of whom are Muslim—and most will listen to your answers and are open to discussing and not just debating.”

five misconceptions Christians have of Muslims

Misconception #4: You must know the intricacies of the Quran to share the gospel.

Did you know that while many Muslims have large chunks of the Quran memorized, most don’t know how to read or interpret it? Muslims believe the words from Muhammad are corrupted if translated and, for this reason, the Quran has not been adapted to modern forms of Arabic and any translation into other languages is deemed unholy.

For an example of what this would be like, take a look at John 3:16 in the first English translation of scripture:

You might be able to read this, but imagine a book written in the 7th century. If the English language has changed this much in 500 years, how much more has Arabic in 1,400 years?

While the cultural lessons learned are beneficial, he recommends spending more time immersing ourselves in the life and teachings of Jesus and honing the skill of telling stories to share the gospel.

“It’s unlikely that we’ll ever know the Quran as well as our Muslim friends,” said Emily. “Some do have this particular calling but, for the rest of us, we might be better off just studying our Bibles more rather than the Quran!”

“It’s vital we don’t view our Muslim neighbours as ‘projects’. They will know immediately if you just want a functional relationship or if you genuinely want to be their friend.”

Jay, a GEM global worker in France

Misconception #5: Muslims don’t want to be friends with Christians.

The religion of Islam is a communal faith, and most Muslims live interdependent lives upon friends and family. Through community centres, sports, kids play groups, or any number of other connection points, Muslim people can be very easy to befriend.

And this is at the core of GEM: discipleship starts with friendship.

For this reason, “It’s vital we don’t view our Muslim neighbours as ‘projects,’” noted Jay, a global worker in France. “They will know immediately if you just want a functional relationship or if you genuinely want to be their friend.”

Inter-faith friendships lead to inter-faith discussions and chances for gospel seeds to be sown. 

“Muslims often seek friendships with Christians,” said Forrest. But sadly, many Muslims have never been befriended by disciples of Jesus.

“They might be surprised that you as a Christian want to hang out with them because that hasn’t been their experience and it certainly is not how Christianity is portrayed in the media,” added Luke.

Just like any religion or culture, no two followers of the Quran are identical. And as Luke noted so aptly, we must “be careful not to reduce people to a stereotype or a project.”

As Islam continues to spread across Europe, may we not respond in fear, but in faith—trusting the Lord to use His Church “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Let us seek to build friendships with our Muslim neighbours. And may we, in our day to day lives, be fervent to pray for Muslims to encounter Jesus as Lord and be active agents of peace, reconciliation, and hope to all we encounter.

About the authors: Grant and Naomi serve in Birmingham, England.