Published June 7, 2007
RICHMOND, Va. — In his book, The Camel – How Muslims are Coming to Faith in Christ!, Kevin Greeson reveals an old Muslim proverb, declaring, “… Allah has one hundred names. And … he has revealed 99 of his names to the sons of men that they may know and worship him. But one name, the one-hundredth name, he has told only to the camel. And, the camel, he is not talking.”
Greeson contends that the one-hundredth name for God is Isa al-Masih (Jesus Christ) and the Camel Method of witnessing to Muslims involves taking a passage from the Qur’an (the Muslim bible) referencing Isa al-Masih, and using it as a bridge to the Bible and to sharing God’s plan of salvation.
Greeson states that IMB missionaries didn’t invent the Camel methodology of witnessing to Muslims, but he is the one who captured this method of witnessing from Muslim-background believers and gave expression to the method in his book The Camel.
One missionary in the Arab Muslim world was introduced to Greeson’s book by a co-worker and admitted, “I had never been a big fan of using the Qur’an in my witnessing, so I threw the book [The Camel] in my ‘to be read later’ pile.
“A couple of weeks passed. One night, as I was preparing to go to bed, I noticed it sitting there and picked it up. From the opening pages I was hooked. As I began reading about the sheer numbers of Muslims who were coming to Christ I was in a state of disbelief. Here I was on the frontline for almost ten years and had never witnessed anything resembling this.
“As I continued to read I felt God speaking to me of the possibilities that existed through this methodology. I could envision Muslims giving their hearts to Jesus at the rate of one a day, perhaps ten, or even a hundred.”
In an interview with The Christian Index IMB President Jerry Rankin commented, “This is not a method of witness that we have contrived in order to reach Muslims. It is something that Muslim-background believers were using effectively to share their faith within their Muslim communities. There is one group in South Asia that reported over 100,000 Muslim background believers being baptized and becoming Christians.”
Greeson explains, “As missionaries, we have observed this method at work, examined it in light of the authority of God’s Word, and found it to be a powerful tool in reaching Muslims everywhere with the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
Mike Hamlet, pastor of First Baptist Church in North Spartanburg, S.C., has written an endorsement for Greeson’s book. “I have been with missionaries who were using the Camel overseas,” he explained. “I was very impressed and thought it was very effective when I saw it used. The missionaries used it to start a number of discussions. The people were open to this type of conversation.
“On a couple of occasions I could tell that as we got close to the truth, some would become uneasy about the discussion,” Hamlet continued. “I do not believe this was due to the method, but because they were beginning to see the clarity of the gospel and it was the beginning of conviction.”
Rankin provided another illustration.
Jesus in the Qur’an
“There is the story of the missionary in the Middle East who had been there for 20 years and had never won a Muslim to faith in Christ,” said Rankin. “However, once he learned the Camel Method, he soon led six Muslims to the Lord in the local Mosque. There are all kinds of thrilling stories sweeping the Muslim world from Pakistan, all across the Middle East, to Northern Africa.”
One of the books in the Qur’an is surah al-Imram. In chapter 3 of this book there are 13 verses that speak of Isa al-Masih (Jesus Christ). These verses declare that Jesus would be born of a virgin, that He would do miracles; that He would be a sign to the whole world; that Allah (God) would cause Him to die and raise Him again to heaven.
Greeson uses an acronym to help us remember the key points regarding Christ:
Mary was Chosen to give birth to Isa;
that Angels announced the good news to her;
that Isa would do Miracles;
that he knew and is the way to Eternal
The Camel Method does not suggest that the Qur’an be employed to present the way of salvation; but any use of it gives grave concern to some theologians and Bible scholars. Greeson vehemently proclaims that the use of the Qur’an in this Camel methodology is not meant to be a “parking lot,” but a “bridge” to reaching Muslims.
George Robinson, former IMB missionary and member of Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, testified, “In May I was in South Asia and I used ‘the bridge’ to show Muslims at a university campus that it was okay to discuss Jesus and the Injil (New Testament). Following that brief ‘bridge,’ I shared my testimony of coming to faith in Christ and then basically preached a sermon on biblical salvation. By starting with ‘the bridge’ I was able to disarm them at the beginning of our conversation so that we could continue and so that their understanding could be raised.
“When they asked me what I thought of Muhammad, I simply pointed out to them what he said of himself in the Qur’an: ‘As for the destiny of me and my followers, I do not know what will happen’ (The Sandhills 46:9). Then I pointed them to John 14:6 and asked them who they would trust with their eternal security.”
Stephen Haber, from Marietta’s Eastside Baptist Church and an IMB missionary in Burkina Faso, stated, “The goal of the Camel Method is not to lead a Muslim to salvation in Christ. Its purpose is to draw out a person of peace according to the counsel of Luke 10:1-16 and build a bridge to the Muslim community. When you find a Muslim willing to listen, you set the Qur’an aside and take him to the Bible. I have just started to use this method and it is opening doors for me that otherwise would have never been opened.
“This practice of using other so-called holy books is not new. Back in the late 1700s William Carey himself used to ask Hindus about their book and then when he got their attention he would immediately take them into the Bible and give them the gospel. This method is not much different.”
Hamlet related, “When The Camel was first written, it was meant to be a tool to be used by missionaries. As a result, the first edition had some gaps or areas that needed to be addressed. To a great extent, I believe that has happened in the new edition. I am convinced that there is a way to use it here in the states if presented in a way that pastors or informed lay people can be trained.”
In the 2007 edition of The Camel Greeson adds an appendix that attempts to answer many of the critics’ objections to the methodology he espouses. Space in this paper will not permit a thorough review of all objections, an analysis of each one, and an adequate response. However, attention will be given to the major concerns.
Make the unknown known
One major concern has to do with Christians using the name Allah for God. There are those who seem to think IMB missionaries who refer to God as “Allah” are affirming Muslim theology and endorsing the Muslim concept of Allah.
In response to those who hold to that view, Rankin stated, “Such a view is preposterous. In a cross-cultural witness you use the language of the people and you use whatever terminology they have for God. In reality Muslims cannot exclusively claim ‘Allah’ as their name for God. Although [Allah] has been adopted by the Qur’an and by Muslims, it actually pre-dates Muhammad and the religion he established.
“The Arab Christians used ‘Allah’ as their name for God in pre-Islamic days. Today ‘Allah’ is still the name used for God in many translations of the Bible where the Muslim religion predominates. For example, in the Indonesian Bible, ‘Allah’ is the name for God.”
Rankin continued, “What our missionaries are doing with The Camel is much like what Paul did when he went to Athens. He saw an altar ‘To The Unknown God’ and stated, ‘him declare I unto you.’ In seeking to reach the Muslims, you start with where they are and with their worldview and bring them to the bridge, to the passage in the Qur’an that speaks of Isa (Jesus) and then take them to the gospels. Of course, the Bible is the inspired Word of God and you pray and trust the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth about Christ to them.”
Ed Jump, director of missions for the Corpus Christi Baptist Association in Texas, had Greeson share his insights on reaching Muslims with some people in his association.
“I believe Christians sharing the gospel with Muslims is the most critical issue of our time,” Jump commented. “I was uncomfortable with the idea of referring to God as Allah, but Kevin gave the historical context for a Muslim background Christian referring to God as Allah. He told us that Arab Christians referred to God as Allah long before Islam was a religion.”
Greeson reminds us that no one should dare get his/her understanding of God from the Qur’an and that in the Camel Method of witnessing to Muslims it is just a bridge. “If our doctrines and understanding of God come from the Qur’an, then we will certainly not end up with a Christian view of God,” he adds. “If, on the other hand, our authoritative source about God is the Bible, then our doctrine of God will remain true, regardless of which language we use to call His name.”
Straight theology, shifted allegiance
“The only way anyone can come to know God in America or in the Middle East is through Christ,” Rankin reiterated. “You cannot know God and His nature without knowing Christ, but once you know Christ and receive Him, He will straighten out your theology and reveal the true nature of God. So, for anyone to say that a born again Muslim is always going to have a perverted theology is to denigrate the power of Christ to reveal truth.”
A second criticism leveled at the Camel Method is that it does not require a Muslim who trusts Christ for salvation to renounce his or her Muslim identity, and it suggests that the new convert will continue to view God and Christ through a Muslim worldview.
“The Camel Method does not advocate that, but advocates being Christian while retaining your ethnic identity in that Muslim culture,” Rankin asserts. “Missionaries have always had a methodology of extraction. For example, if you go to Indonesia you will find villages of Christians who were formerly Muslims, because when they embraced Christ they were extracted from their own village or community.
In addressing this issue Greeson writes, “… Surveys revealed that these Muslim-background believers had clearly shifted their allegiance from Islam to Christ. For this shift in devotion, virtually every one of them has faced severe persecution. Some had been tortured and even killed. There was no question among the Muslims around them that these Isahi (followers of Christ) have left Islam.”
Surely, there are Muslims who after professing to be Christians fail to count the cost of following Christ, who are not properly nurtured, or who are reconverted to the Muslim religion. Greeson admits that this has not been uncommon through the years. (But then Southern Baptists in the U.S. must seek to interpret what it means when more than five million of our members are classified as non-resident.) Then Greeson adds, “[A] 2002 study revealed few Muslim-background believers who even knew of anyone who had reconverted to Islam after baptism. The reason for this may be found in the indigenous nature of the movement associated with the Camel Method.”
A cross-cultural consultant at First Baptist of Lilburn proclaims, “We have seen the Camel Method to be a very effective tool for witnessing to Muslims here in America. There has been fruit. Some are using the method in our community on a daily basis and are seeing great response. God has been faithful to show us how to meet Muslims where they are and then use this method to point them to the good news of Jesus Christ.”
A preferred method
“The church in America seems to be sleeping through an amazing opportunity to demonstrate the power of God’s love,” the consultant added. “There are Muslims living in almost every community in America, and many more moving here. There are thousands of Muslims attending our colleges and universities as international students. And the church in America seems to be afraid of them … avoiding them.
“But our privilege is to follow the model of the Lord Jesus … engage them in friendship. Through friendships and through relationships, God will open the door for us to share His love and He will draw many to saving faith. God is passionate for His name to be known and proclaimed among the precious Muslim people, and He is calling us to be on mission with him among Muslims both here in America and overseas.”
Perhaps there is some room for criticism regarding the Camel Method of witnessing to Muslims. But there is a story from the life of the 19th century evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, which may be apropos at this point.
A woman once came up to Moody and told him she didn’t like his method of sharing his faith. He replied, “I don’t much like it either. What method do you use?”
She answered, “I don’t have one.” To which Moody then replied, “Then I prefer my method.”
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