The "Understanding and Answering Islam" summit: Andy Bannister reports

Atlanta skyline

Atlanta skylineI’ve returned from a two week trip to North America, where I still do quite a lot of work with RZIM. The trip began with a big “Understanding and Answering Islam” summit in Atlanta. One of the huge challenges facing the church in coming years is going to be how we engage with Islam. The number of Muslims in the West is growing and Christians are often hugely under-equipped for sharing their faith with their Muslim friends. It’s been great to see that conference grow, year-on-year, and this year we had about 400 people and another 15,000 watching on the live-stream. We were equipping people with a lot of background information on Islam, often drawing on the latest academic research; but we were focussed on outreach and evangelism.
I always get nervous when Christians just react to Islam, saying ‘Islam is to be feared’ or whatever, rather than seeing that Muslims are people who need Christ explained to them in a way that is compelling and compassionate. The way to respond to the challenge of Islam isn’t to react in ignorance, but to learn how to effectively share the gospel with Muslim friends—and that is what the conference is about. That’s why for the last 20 years I’ve put so much effort into understanding and engaging with Muslims (I’m unusual for a Christian academic, in that my PhD isn’t in Christian theology, but in Qur’anic Studies). It’s been hugely exciting to see Muslims come to faith in Christ over the years as they hear the gospel presented in a way that takes their questions seriously.