middle east street scene

How Not to Be Weird: Living Lives That Make Sense

by Patrick Lai

When we first started working with Muslims we had a traditional approach. We tried to meet people on the streets and in our neighborhood to share the Gospel. We’d ride buses, go to the gym, hang out in parks. When we could get people into a conversation we’d try to turn the discussion to spiritual things and then Jesus. Despite our efforts we did not have great success. 

When we stepped back and considered our approach we realized not many people engage in discussions with strangers in public places. For example, how many lasting friendships do you have that first started on a bus? What we were doing was not natural, it’s not the way people meet other people. Most people build friendships either through their extended family, their place of worship, or their place of work. The way we were meeting people was weird.

When you think about it, in most countries people do not know their neighbors either. Even so many of our mission strategies are focused on reaching neighborhoods.

Not only were our ways weird, what we were sharing with those Muslims we met made no sense. They did not understand our message. For example, we would engage someone in a discussion on a bus, and then quickly turn the discussion to spiritual things and they’d tune us out. Why? Our ways were weird and our words were weird. There was no connection between what they heard from us and what we were saying. We’d talk about love and forgiveness but they never saw it or experienced it. They had no way to connect what we were saying with real life.

In addition, our model was not sustainable. I led Joe to Jesus and Joe wanted to be like me. So I discipled him and then supported him to get Bible training. Then I supported him to be an evangelist to his people. Joe soon led Zul, Mohammed, and Aris to Jesus. They then wanted to be like Joe, who of course was like me. So Joe discipled them, and then I supported them to get Bible training and then I supported them to be evangelists to their people. Because I was supported by the West and I was their model for being a Christian, everyone wanted to be like me. The scenario was, become a Christian and you’ll be paid to get an education and then paid to do a job for the church, with monies from America! Do you see where this is heading? Is it any wonder that many churches planted among Muslims don’t grow very big? Maybe it’s because that’s all the people the mission worker can afford to support!

Since going into business, this has not been a problem. When a Muslim comes to Christ, because they see me working my job, they continue to work their job. Discipleship, and outreach to others takes place in the real context of normal life and work.

When we live among the people in integrity and with transparency that makes sense to the local community, we are free to be authentic, bold and conspicuous in how we live out our faith in Jesus. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:2:

Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God

Read more from Patrick in his new book:

B4T Patrick LaiBusiness for Transformation focuses on answering the question: “How do you start a business that transforms communities of unreached peoples?” Starting a business cross-culturally involves thousands of decisions. Until now, BAM and B4T practitioners have been lacking a tool that explains how to start a business that engages unreached people for Jesus’ sake. This book draws on years of experience from scores of OPEN workers who are BAM/B4T practitioners. BAM/B4T are among the faster growing segments of the worldwide mission movement. It is written for new workers and coaches who need practical guidance in setting up and doing business in hard, church-less areas.

BAM is about shaping business for God and the common good; bringing solutions to global issues like human trafficking, poverty, creation care, and unreached peoples. Patrick Lai’s book is an important guide for those who are serious about transformational business, especially in areas where the name of Jesus is rarely heard. This book is very practical with tools, stories and resources. Read it, use it!

Mats Tunehag – Co-Chair, BAM Global Think Tank and Senior Associate of BAM, The Lausanne Movement

eBook now available from Amazon

Patrick Lai first and foremost describes himself as a slave of Jesus Christ. During his thirty-one years in Asia, the Lord enabled his team to gather four groups of Muslim believers and start several small businesses. He authored Tentmaking: The Life and Work of Business as Missions, as well as numerous articles on BAM. He founded the OPEN Network, a network of over 700 B4Ters, BAMers, and tentmakers. Currently Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach B4T workers in unreached areas and teach extensively around the world on this new paradigm for doing mission in a changing world.

Material first published on Patrick Lai’s blog here and here. Reposted with kind permission.