In a region where Christianity is the minority religion, it might sound like a curious inquiry. But more often than not, it isn’t. Your dress, your speech, even your ethnicity probably has already given you away. The question may simply be to confirm suspicions for caution’s sake. Or it may register an evangelistic interest to share a better understanding of Islam with you. Or it may be registering that you’ve been identified, be careful. You don’t always know.
But for sure you know it is your opportunity to open a window that will raise more questions or, at the least, leave some wondering.
Below a handful of MENA Tentmakers share how they would answer the question, and use the opportunity to open the inquiry to more :
“I’m an Adventist.” You might want to say that strange word Adventist clearly and meaningfully. It probably doesn’t sound familiar to most folk around you. Invariably they’ll ask, “What’s that?” Depending on the time you have together, you may only have the chance to say, “That means I am waiting for Jesus to return again!” Or “An Adventist believes God gives our world hope!”
“If I told you what I am, you’d be shocked!” This response–actually used with great effectiveness–requires that you have an answer that really is surprising to your listeners! “My faith looks forward to when I won’t be living here on earth.” Or, “My faith invites me to talk to God all day long.” It implies that you may not be Christian; they know you’re not Muslim. What you are could offer more to talk about later!
“I’m an Adventist Christian.” This answer offers your listener some context, but it opens the door to a different kind of Christian than they may know. To many Muslims, Christianity is identified with an ungodly, immoral life. So identifying as a Christian can be very effective, especially if you describe how you don’t want to fit the stereotype. And it’s not just a list of things you DO differently, but what God helps you BE that is different.
“If you really want to know, I’m something very different than you’ve ever heard.” In most cases, this is probably exactly true! Holy Spirit guidance knows what “difference” will be meaningful to your listener. Such as, when your faith gives you assurance that God loves you–that’s somewhat different than how many feel about God. Or if you believe God is prepared to end the existence of evil in our universe, that’s not what many expect.
“I’m a follower of Jesus and I’m learning to be like Jesus.” This is an especially powerful and clear testimony if your relationship to the individual has been a Christ-like witness of kindness and service. It is the character of Jesus that wins people’s hearts to Him. By associating so personally with Him, you accept the sobering responsibility of representing Him as faithfully as possible, and praying for His grace to cover your inadequacies.
“Yes, I am a Christian. Our company/hospital/business hires Christians.” This gives a meaningful context for the service you are giving. The care you show your customers or patients is related to your Christian values! As you show deep respect for the majority faith, you are witnessing to the reality that living out your Christian values is part of your job!
“I’m a Seventh-day Adventist Christian!” Yes! That gives everyone a lot to think about. Like identifying as an Adventist Christian, it places you in a special expression of Christianity that may raise their curiosity. In some regions a reference to “seventh-day” may identify you with Jews. But it also gives you a chance to explain how your faith carries on the Creation Week story where the Jewish nation failed. You can witness of the eternal principles in the Sabbath that God gave all of us–honoring Him as Creator, trusting Him for our needs, centering our lives around Him.
“Yes, I live for Jesus.” This places your life as an example of what He must be like. It obviously communicates to any non-Christian that you follow Christ. But it also says that He shapes how you live. You become a real-life demonstration of who Jesus is, how He treats people, and–whatever the Spirit wants to say through your life.
“Are you a Christian?” Never assume that such a simple question is for routine information. Or just polite conversation. Answer it with a prayer, with confidence, with joy. Answer it so that anyone listening knows you are sharing an identity that is precious and hopeful. Let it be a window into your hope and assurance in all that Jesus Christ has done for you. A testimony of what He can do for them!