June 17, 2003
JEFFERSON CITY – After spending 12 days in the cauldron of the Muslim world – Afghanistan – Scott Brawner isn’t sure he wants to call himself a Christian any more.
The Missouri Baptist Convention’s youth evangelism specialist isn’t about to convert to the Muslim faith. It’s just that the media – movies, magazines, television – has warped the Muslim view of Christianity to such an extent that those going into the Muslim world are forced to call themselves “believers” or “followers of Christ.”
“They think of a Christian as someone who watches pornography,” Brawner said. “They come to America and see Baywatch and all the other things on TV. They think that Christianity is corrupt or bankrupt.
“The only way we’ll be able to reach the Muslim world is to build relationships and let them see that our faith is genuine and real. They will have to see that what we have is not manufactured by TV or by Hollywood.”
The Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board (IMB) sponsored Brawner’s trip to the war-torn country.
“I was asked by the IMB if I’d be interested in leading a team to Afghanistan,” said Brawner who was accompanied by three college students who were recruited from Baptist Student Unions. Two of the students were from Tennessee and one from Georgia.
“I went over to teach English. We worked in the northern part of the country and also helped get together water well drilling materials.”
What Brawner saw was not a hatred coming from the Afghans his team encountered.
“There is a spiritual hunger in the hearts of those people,” he said. “They have suffered the last 30 years, ranging from the war with the Soviets in 1979 to civil war to the Taliban. There is a hunger in their heart for value, for self-worth and for the truth of who God is.
“And just as the chins of oppression have been removed from the feet of the people, so are the chains of bondage being broken. The American military went in and broke the physical bondage. Now it is time for believers to go in and break the spiritual bondage.”
Concern has been expressed by Missouri Baptists about the safety of teams going into the Muslim world to take the Gospel. But Brawner sees the safety issue from a different perspective.
“Even in the places many people would consider dangerous, I saw a concern among the people for my protection,” Brawner said. “They were willing to die for me. They could see love in my heart and a willingness to come to them to teach English and drill wells.
“In missions, however, safety is not the highest value. That doesn’t mean we take unnecessary risks, but going to a place like this is a risk itself. Even sharing Christ with someone in your hometown can be a risk.”
Brawner said American-style evangelism will not work in those areas, but he believes the Gospel is trans-cultural. “When we go and earn the right to be heard, that’s when they will hear what we have to say is truth. That’s when they will be willing to accept it and give their lives to Christ,” he explained.
Brawner said he saw the Gospel take root in one man’s life during the trip.
“I had nothing to do with it,” he explained, “but there was an American who had been in Afghanistan for several months. I saw the friendship the American had developed with this man. One evening the Muslim man came into the house and asked, ‘What makes you different than all the other Americans I meet.’
“The American sat down and shared his faith with this guy, and that Muslim man accepted Christ as his savior.”
Brawner predicts reaching the Muslim world will be a long process.
“We’re going to be breaking down spiritual strongholds through prayer,” Brawner said. “We’re going to have to cut down some trees and hoe up some rocks to prepare the field for planting. It’s going to be a long-term process.”