Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sanctuary Visit

“I love your sanctuary, Lord, the place where your glory shines.” Ps. 26:8

It’s not easy for a Muslim woman to visit a church service. A Muslim woman usually feels comfortable attending an ESL school in a section of the church premises but she will view the sanctuary area as different. Christians will state that the church is people, not a building, but Muslims certainly attribute the building to more than stones and wood. It is connected to a belief system.

For years I invited numerous Muslim women to Sunday morning services. A few of them asked on their own accord but usually it was I who invited them. They mostly were curious to see what happens in church. They would notice men and women sitting together – sometimes cuddled up and not always covered sufficiently according to their standard of modesty, hear beautiful singing about God accompanied by drums and guitars, hear announcements about things they didn’t understand, see people go up front for prayer, listen to a long sermon of which about 10-50% was understood, and witness sharing communion and not know what to do or what it was all about, etc. There would be distractions and questions. They were afraid to let their children go to children’s church as they weren’t sure they could entrust their children to strangers and so would keep them with them but they would get restless and be anxious to leave. I have found Iranians and Turkish the easiest to introduce church to but most others find it a leap too big to adjust to. Not every city has a fellowship made up of their people group.

However, after saying all that, I have discovered that Muslim women are sometimes willing to visit a quiet sanctuary in the middle of the week. I attend a church across the street from my house. When I bring women home for tea I will sometimes ask them if they would like to see inside my church. Recently I brought Fatima home for tea. When I asked if she would like to see inside my church she said yes. At first she hesitated, as some do, but finally she decided to go in. I took her into the dimly lit sanctuary. All was quiet and peaceful. “Let’s sit down, Fatima, and talk.” She unloaded her pain of being hurt by Muslims who accuse her of how she dresses and reprimand her for whom she likes to hang out with. She was afraid that coming into the sanctuary meant she had become a Christian and that she would lose her ethnicity. I assured her it was impossible to become a Christian by coming inside the building and she would never stop being her ethnicity. She relaxed. We talked more. Then I asked if I could pray for her. True, she did not see worship in action, hear a sermon, or experience big group fellowship – but she did experience peace and hear something brand new about spiritual Life. Perhaps we may need to introduce our Muslim friends to a quiet sanctuary time before they experience the overwhelming Sunday morning service. Busy western Christians underestimate the transcendent mystique of a quiet sanctuary. Soul stirrings can suddenly arise.

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for beautiful “sanctuary times” with Muslim friends. In Jesus’ name, Amen.