Tony Thompson and the team at Hope Church Luton are pioneering work equipping believers in the UK to engage well with their Muslim neighbours; both in building genuine relationships, and in learning how to effectively contextualise the good news of Jesus. In this blog article, Tony shares about the first year of the ‘Understanding Islam’ course, and why this aspect of cross-cultural mission is so vital for the church in the UK today.

 

We are coming to the end of our first years training on our ‘Understanding Islam’ course, and it’s been such a positive start. Around 20 people from across the country have gathered to learn more about Islam to enable them to be more effective reaching out to their Muslim neighbours in our multi-cultural nation. With opportunities to receive teaching from Muslims from different backgrounds, Imams and lay people as well as from Christians with vast experience of working with Muslims in this nation and overseas, there has been a tremendous breadth and diversity to the course and feedback has been so encouraging from those attending.

 

In our own context in Luton, a quarter of the population in the 2011 Census said they were Muslims. This had grown quite consistently over the 10 years from 2001, and every indication is that this is likely to continue in the future – something which is mirrored in more and more places around the UK. This is a wonderful opportunity for the church! We are part of a vibrant and diverse community, and the more we are able to engage with others, the more barriers are broken down and the more relationships can be formed. Perhaps you find yourself in a similar context?

 

It’s crucial that we respond wisely to this mission field – ensuring that we listen before speaking in order to build genuine relationships with Muslims and to learn how to contextualise the message of Jesus for them. That’s the heart behind the ‘Understanding Islam’ course. Those who have attended this year have shared that it was particularly helpful to hear sessions exploring how Muslims feel about being a Muslim in the UK and what life can be like for them, to hear teaching on the Quran from an Imam, to learn about the differences between honour/shame and forgiveness/guilt dichotomies, to understand the importance of contextualising stories and language, and to see how history shapes perceptions.

 

We are running the course again this year over ten Saturday sessions between October and July, and it is ideal for anyone who is interested in engaging meaningfully with Muslims in their local context and with Islam more generally. Further information can be found here, and to register an interest or ask any question you can email jane@hopechurch.co.uk and we’ll be happy to chat things through with you.

By Tony Thompson

Tony has been involved in many church plants over the years, including Hope Church in Luton, which he still leads. He is the co-chair of FACES, an interfaith organisation working against child sexual exploitation, and is also a keen runner; having run the London Marathon on many occasions.