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Should Christians Convert Muslims? The words blazed across Time's June 30, 2003, cover. Articles inside presented a fairly positive, accurate picture of Christian relief work in Muslim countries. The authors did their homework, interviewing a broad spectrum of respected missionary leaders. They uncovered uncertainty, even within the evangelical community, about whether Christians should overtly share their faith. Some leaders stated that evangelism often closes doors, thwarting attempts to deliver food and health care. Others believed that attempts to share the faith sometimes foster political instability. Although the gist of the articles seemed sympathetic to Christian missions, the general message seemed to be, "Shut up and get on with the good deeds."

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So then, should Christians convert Muslims-or anybody else for that matter? Perhaps Time asked the wrong question. First, we have to get our theology straight. Christians don't convert anyone. That is the Holy Spirit's job (Jn 3:5-8; 6:63; 16:8-10). Just what does God expect us to do?



Jesus commissioned the post-Resurrection church, saying, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). God calls us to be powerful witnesses. As witnesses, we tell the truth about what we have seen and heard. We give credit where credit is due. In other words, if we offer health care and humanitarian aid because the love of God compels us, we say so. Otherwise we simply glorify ourselves.


This witnessing may get us into trouble, even when sensitive, appropriate and accompanied by good works. The New Testament records the first missionary ventures. Early missionaries faced everything from imprisonment to political instability. Peter and John, on trial for healing a disabled man in the name of Christ, boldly insisted, "We must obey God rather than any human authority" (Acts 5:29). Paul wrote to his friends in Corinth, "Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning" (2 Cor 11:24-25). Yet he did not hesitate to speak clearly of his conversion to Christ before the political leaders who imprisoned him (Acts 26).


Make Disciples

Second, immediately prior to Christ's crucifixion, he told his disciples, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19-20). Making disciples involves long-term involvement with a handful of people. Jesus didn't tell his disciples to distribute tracts, to preach on street corners or to fly into remote areas, patch people up and leave. Although these activities could pique interest in Christ, they appear insensitive and ineffective. If we look at Jesus' model for disciple-making, we see him patiently mentoring twelve men for three years. Although his public ministry included healing and speaking to crowds, his most intensive work took place among a small band of disciples. We also see a progression in this Great Commission-making disciples (basic teaching), then baptizing and then the advanced course ("everything that I have commanded you"). Jesus did not make disciples to foster dependency but to empower them to become leaders who would, in turn, prepare more leaders (2 Tim 2:2).


What might disciple-making entail for nurses? For me, it includes traveling internationally to teach nurse educators and leaders how to incorporate a Christian nursing meta-paradigm into their teaching, and then mentoring them individually through e-mail and occasional visits. For others, disciple-making takes place long term, in-country, through patient teaching, modeling and encouragement. Some short-term missionary nurses partner with local Christian churches and agencies to provide needed health services. Still others work on a broader scale, partnering with large international health care organizations and institutions.


Heal in Christ's Name

Third, when Jesus commissioned the first batch of missionaries, he charged, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way[horizontal ellipsis]. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you'" (Lk 10:2-9). Their job description could be summed us as pray, work hard, live among the people, accept their hospitality, heal and proclaim the gospel. If they don't welcome you, move on.


Overall, a healthy, Spirit-filled church is a church in mission. Every Christian is a missionary. Christ has given us our mission-to be his witnesses, to make disciples, to heal and to proclaim the gospel. We are to do that with boldness and sensitivity, loving and respecting the people we encounter. However, our agenda must be set by God's standards, not by the world's expectations. When a disabled man sought a hand out from disciples Peter and John, Peter answered, "I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk" (Acts 3:6). That caring act got them into big trouble with the governing authorities. As Christian nurses, we offer the same gift to those in our care-at home or abroad-quality health care in the name of Jesus Christ. And it just might get us into trouble.


Discussion Questions See for discussion questions on this editorial.