Voices from the Field
Two Jewish missionaries to Muslims
Martin Goldsmith was born into a middle-class Jewish home in the UK. He showed a propensity for foreign languages and became a Russian interpreter with the Royal Navy. Through the Student Union movements, Martin came to faith in Yeshua, subsequently working with Overseas Missionary Fellowship in Muslim evangelism in South Thailand and Singapore. He pastored a Chinese church in Malaysia and also worked in Indonesia, with responsibility for teaching, training, mobilizing and envisioning. He and his wife Elizabeth then lectured at All Nations Christian College in Ware, England for 24 years and are still associate lecturers. Martin is much sought after as an Islamicist and a missiologist. Today he continues to travel worldwide throughout the year.
P. J. was born in Paris to a Sephardic Jewish mother and an atheistic Gentile father and grew up with a strong Jewish identity. Her grandmother, her mother and her father all became believers in Yeshua at the same time. She herself came to faith at age fourteen. Like her mother, P. J. became a lawyer. She married Andrew, a young New Zealander who had a heart for the peoples of Islamic countries, and after six years in the legal profession, became a missionary living and raising her children in Morocco. Describing how Jews and Arabs often relate in conversation, P. J. explains, “The sun heats up quickly and then it cools down … quickly!”
Havurah addressed the following question to Martin and to P. J.:
When Jewish believers encounter Muslims, do you have suggestions on sharing the gospel?
Martin: I would recommend just to share your own faith and what it means to you to be a follower of Jesus. As with Jews, we need to avoid the words “Christian” and “Christ,” but use “follower of Jesus as the Messiah.” If possible, avoid saying that you are Jewish, as it just raises an unnecessary barrier to faith in Jesus. But if it is unavoidable, then just emphasize that Jews and Arabs are both Semitic and have so much in common. Judaism and Islam are also very similar in many ways, so our background as Jews can be helpful in relation to Muslims.
Martin gives one example of a common objection in this anecdote from his book, Beyond Beards and Burqas: Connecting with Muslims.
In conversation with a Muslim contact, Martin is told: “‘You Christians make Jesus a god.’ … So I was able to remind him gently that actually Christians don’t believe that the man Jesus became a god, but rather that God determined to come to earth and be incarnated as a human” (pp. 21-22).
P. J.: I would not start by talking about Jesus; the deity of Christ is usually the last battle Muslims fight against before becoming believers. Rather, I would start with the Old Testament, showing them that, right from the beginning, God loved the Arabs and protected Hagar in the desert. I would go on with the promises of blessings for the Gentiles, then on to the prophets, and finally Jesus.
One common argument Muslims raise is that the Bible has been falsified and that Jesus is not the Son of God because God cannot have had a sexual relationship with Mary. In response to the first argument, just ask them to give an example of which book or paragraph in the Bible has been corrupted and how. They will be totally unable to prove their statement. Concerning the second argument, if nothing is impossible to God, why wouldn’t He able to take a human form and go down to humankind to show them the way? And actually we should be very upset when they talk about God having sex with Mary, because it is indeed blasphemy! And sometimes, leaving Muslims with a thought of wisdom will have a deeper effect on them than would a logical statement. Before and after all else, pray for them!
There have been Jewish missionaries to Muslims in the past as well. Lejb Feldman is one example. Born in Poland in 1907 to a poor family, his Jewish education was provided by his Hasidic grandfather. Though showing progress in his studies, he became disillusioned with the Talmud and eventually went to Belgium to explore the wider world, and then on to France. There he decided to join the French Foreign Legion, and while stationed in North Africa, he read the New Testament and came to faith in Yeshua. He served the Gospel Missionary Union (today known as Avant Ministries), where he evangelized among both Jews and Muslims in North Africa; later in life he worked for The Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel. He wrote a book, La Bible et le Coran (The Bible and the Koran).