Imagine a room with Muslim women and Christian women just after a business meeting. One of the Muslim women asks a Christian woman to explain the Trinity to them – no antagonism, just a naturally developing conversation coming out of an already established relationship. This situation sounds ideal for those who seek to reach people far from Christ. How does this kind of thing happen?
I recently had a conversation with Ken Bresser, a friend of mine who attends Grace Community Church, an NAB church on the east side of Detroit, Michigan. It was during this conversation that he told me about such an interaction that actually took place.
Ken owns a staffing company that focuses on business as missions. The goal is to meaningfully engage with the immigrant population – mostly in Hamtramck, a city enclosed by Detroit – by providing a service and engaging people with the Gospel through the relationships that are built. Ken’s company sets up contracts with businesses that need entry-level, unskilled workers. Not surprisingly since it is in Detroit, most of the jobs are in the auto industry. It appears to not be that tough a sell; Ken has found that if he can talk to the right person in the company, most businesses would work with them because, in this climate, companies are desperate to stay open – workers are needed. Ken is leveraging the current business climate as a Gospel opportunity.
Ken’s staffing company gets workers by going to the immigrant community and either networking in the mosques or finding a well-connected person who can be a go-between for the staffing company and possible employees. They are primarily working with the Bengali community.
Back to the room with the two women. This room, in Hamtramck, was at Muslim Family Services, an organization that housed Ken’s staffing company for about three months when they needed space. The Christian woman was one of Ken’s employees.
How does this kind of thing happen? It was Ken’s work in the Muslim community that led to that conversation.
Though conversations like these result from the presence of Ken’s business, the biggest fruit has been in developing relationships with the go-between, the connector. Ken has had spiritually meaningful conversations with the people who have served as connectors to others. One such well-connected individual, a Muslim man, has become Ken’s friend, even to the point of spending time in Ken’s house and with his family. During one particular breakfast, they had a long conversation about Jesus, at the end of which he expressed gratitude for Ken sharing with him.
Ken notes that Christians can share their faith in ways that are offensive or not offensive. He has found that – even though Jesus is misrepresented in many ways – the Koran is favorable to Jesus. For instance, despite not believing Jesus rose from the dead or that he is Savior or the Son of God, Muslims still hold him in high regard, in their own way. Ultimately, Jesus’s call for his followers to love our neighbors should drive us to see the other as our neighbor and creatively discern how to love them with Christ’s love.
Ken has been reaching people for Christ for some time now. He went to Russia in 1992, where he participated in a church plant; after coming back to the States for seminary, he went back to Russia in 2004, teaching at a Bible college. He later started a ministry called The Harbor, which assisted older orphans who have aged out of the orphanage system. Ken and his team helped them live independently through teaching them job and life skills.
As part of his work, Ken has walked into mosques without knowing anyone and asked to speak to the imam. When they talk, Ken tells his story about working with orphans in Russia. He tells the imam that God loves the widow and the orphan and the stranger, as written in the Torah, since Muslims have a sense of honor for the Torah. Ken tells them that, as a follower of Jesus, he wants to show God’s special love for those who are “strangers” in our country by helping them get good work.
Ken is creatively engaging across cultures to provide opportunities for Gospel-centered conversations. And they are happening. This kind of intention flows from the love God calls us to have for our neighbor.
May the church of Jesus Christ continue to find creative ways to make space to share the Gospel of Christ.