It’s not a joke – that’s what happened last Friday. My wife and I and 27 of our friends attended the Friday prayers and sermon at the local Denver mosque with about a 1000 Muslims. Several things were interesting about this experience.
Not sure if you’ve ever attended a Friday service at a mosque, but here’s what happens. (It’s a lot like church). About 10% of the people arrive early. They are the committed ones. They help set up chairs. They arrange for the lunch which is served afterwards in the fellowship hall. They chat, talk about their week. I heard one fellow telling another that he had a fight with his wife on the way…I’m not kidding.
About 20% show up late. Rush in at the last minute only to find their are no places left inside so they have to go to the overflow room where they watch on the big screen.
The women come inside and go upstairs. Some of the kids go with them. Some children stay with the men in the main area. Some run around. Some sit quietly. Chris had a nice talk with a mom and her 11 year old girls upstairs. The girl liked what Chris said so much that she grabbed her, wrapped her arms around her and wouldn’t let go. Chris has that affect on kids.
It started with prayers. The formal kind. Then the Imam preached for about 25 minutes. Talked about the adversity of others hurting us, the devil tempting us and even having abundance. And how we deal with each of them through forgiveness, patience and humility. It was a good talk. Take out the references to the Quran and a little Arabic sprinkled throughout – and you could download it on your podcast, listen and be encouraged. (They do have them all on podcasts).
Then they closed in some more corporate worship prayers. Everyone filed out. Some left in a hurry – trying to get back to work on time. Others lingered and chatted. And some joined us in the fellowship hall for Q and A. It was quite pleasant. Everyone was over-the-top hospitable.
Sounds a lot like church.
BUT…..not so fast Mr.-I-love-Muslims-Guy! Lots of our Christian friends were upset. For sure they voted against this idea with their feet. They were no-shows. I invited about 500 of my friends through an email, Twitter, Facebook and my blog. And then we invited 5 million people through radio. Okay, so the potential listening audience is 5 million. The actual one may have been 5. But we told all of Denver and the far surrounding regions about this event for two weeks. EVERYONE should come we kept saying. And 27 showed up? Really? That’s it?
So some were busy and others forgot. Fair enough. It’s in the middle of the day on a Friday – not exactly a conducive time to take an hour and a half off work or our busy lives. I understand. But 27 people? I told the Imam to prepare for 200. I know, I’m always the overly-optimistic one thinking that everybody will love this idea – and I’m usually wrong about that.
The common push-backs have been:
1. Why would a Christian go to a Mosque in the first place?
2. What if they try to convert us?
3. I’m afraid.
And I’d say the last one is fair and honest. But the best way to get over fear is to step into it. It’s love that drives fear out. Which leads me to answering the first concern.
WHY would we go? Oh so many reasons. Mainly because the greatest of all commandments is to love God and love our neighbors. These Muslims are our neighbors. We can’t love someone we don’t know. And what a cool opportunity that we can show up at a place on any Friday and just meet a bunch of them. Perhaps we’ll actually start loving some of the ones we meet. But we for sure won’t love them if we don’t meet them.
And will they try to convert you? Some might. They think it’s good thing for you to become Muslim. So they’re loving you the way they know how. I didn’t experience that but one person from Friday said that someone (very nicely) asked if he’d ever considered becoming Muslim. The guy said “No” and the conversation continued on. Not too scary. And…are you afraid they MIGHT convert you? I wouldn’t think you’d be afraid of that, but….?
Actually the one tough question that the Imam couldn’t answer clearly was when I asked him who his favorite basketball team was. He stumbled around a bit on that one. I KNEW something fishy was going on there, and I found it. He doesn’t have a favorite team. Don’t worry, I called him on it!
We’ll do this again. You should go to a mosque in your city and take some friends. Here’s how you do it. Step by step.
Step #1. Call your local Islamic Center and ask to talk to someone. Say your name. (Not mine). Tell them your an ignorant Christian who wants to learn about Muslims and meet some real live ones.
Step #2. Set up a time to go meet with someone there and arrange the time to bring your friends to the Friday Service.
Step #3. Go to the Friday service.
(Optional Step #4). Write a blog about it.
Get out a little and have some fun!