Couple leads church in reaching Muslim neighbors
August 9th, 2016 / By: JC Davies / comments
Five years ago, Grant and Kimberly Goodrich were content serving the local church through youth and children’s ministry, but while participating in an apartment ministry, the couple’s eyes were opened to a people group in their own backyard in desperate need of the gospel.
“We found out we had a large group of Somali refugees that were living in our apartment complex and in the apartment complex next door, probably about 30 families. We didn’t know anything. We didn’t know anything about culture, worldview, traditions, Islam, nothing,” Kimberly said.
Though the couple had no background working with Muslims, God soon burdened their hearts for their neighbors, and they saw that the need was greater than they ever realized.
Grant and Kimberly began learning from a church planter with the North American Mission Board, who helped the couple understand and practice how to share their faith with their Muslim neighbors. While making weekly home visits to apartment units in their complex, the Goodriches soon met hundreds of Muslims from all over the world.
Two short-term trips overseas followed, offering Grant and Kimberly a chance to be immersed in Islamic culture and further softening their hearts for Muslim people. The Goodriches committed their lives to reaching Muslims with the good news of Jesus.
“Everyone has a place in this. ... No one is exempt.
Though they were burdened for the millions of unreached Muslims overseas, Grant and Kimberly saw how God also was bringing the unreached to their own community in Texas, so in 2013 the Goodriches began attending MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, where they began a Muslim outreach program.
Irving is home to thousands of Muslims, Grant said. But despite growing numbers of Muslims, the Goodriches said many in their congregation had never before interacted with someone of the Islamic faith.
Early in their ministry at MacArthur, Grant and Kimberly learned that Muslim ministry would be a long-term investment. For Muslim hearts to change, the hearts of church members would first have to change, including laying aside any misconceptions or stigmas about Muslims.
“If there’s no transformation of hearts, they will never truly get behind it. They may agree that the church is to pray when we’re called upon in church to pray for (Muslims), but for it to extend to something we’re regularly doing there has to be consistency,” Grant said.
Their ministry began with only a few church members committing to pray alongside them. They now lead a group of MacArthur church members on a prayer walk around their community twice a month and are seeing God change hearts through the simple act of praying together for their Muslim neighbors.
“Different people have come, and the amazing thing is even though their heart might be still hard toward the Muslim people group, … it has been so powerful to watch as we’re standing there praying together, the Holy Spirit transform people’s hearts, even in the middle of their prayers,” Grant said.
Grant and Kimberly also lead seven-week training sessions for church members who want to learn more about how to effectively engage their Muslim friends, neighbors and coworkers with the gospel. They host weekly roundtable discussions to help answer questions Christians have when faced with opposition to the gospel by their Muslim friends.
No matter what steps individuals take, Grant said his desire is that everyone in the church would do something, would take some step toward loving their Muslim neighbors.
“Everyone has a place in this. That’s what we want to communicate. No one is exempt. Not everyone has to be called to do this for their life, … but if they can be lead in their hearts to at least pray, at least be willing to consider these people in Christ,” he said.
MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church pastor Josh Smith said Grant and Kimberly have been an “invaluable gift” to the church and have equipped the congregation with three major tools—awareness, engagement and training. Prior to the Goodriches arrival, Smith said the congregation had no established ministry geared toward engaging and reaching Muslims in the Irving area.
“They’ve helped take away, I think, some of the fear I know a lot of people have about Muslim people,” Smith said. “People now, particularly in the metroplex, live around Muslim people but don’t have a clue anything about them, don’t get to know them. One of the things I appreciate about Kimberly and Grant is their consistent goal to say, ‘Go get to know a Muslim person.’”
Smith said reaching Muslims in their community is the “God-given assignment” of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church. Currently, an Islamic mosque is being built less than one mile from the church building, serving as a fresh reminder that now, more than ever, Christians in their church need to rise up and engage the thousands of Muslims who share their community.
“We’re not just trying to be a multi-ethnic church. We’re trying to be a church that reflects our community, and our community is one of the most diverse zip codes in America, so we don’t have an option. If we’re going to achieve our God-given assignment and reach our community, we’ve got to figure out how to reach Muslim people,” Smith said.
One of the Goodriches’ long-term goals is to have the mosque leaders and attendees know MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church by name and to know its members by the love they show.
That goal is being accomplished on a smaller scale as believers begin on a personal level, by intentionally seeking relationships with the Muslim people in their own lives, and by investing time into those relationships. Grant said this most often looks like an individual or couple from the church inviting a Muslim friend or couple into their homes to share a meal and get to know one another.
“Gospel conversations flourish in a setting of security and safety, and that’s usually in a home. What we’ve found is there are so many misconceptions, so many wrong ideas about what Christians stand for, what we believe and what is the gospel,” he said. “To have that opportunity to clarify and begin to introduce the gospel or stories from the Bible and what we stand for, it really happens on a one-on-one level in a home where they can trust.”
As they help lead the MacArthur congregation in obedience to the Great Commission, Grant and Kimberly also continue to learn more and more about what it looks like to accomplish this goal among Muslims.
“What we’ve learned the most is to be patient, loving people and seeing them as a person and a friend and not a project. In church ministry we talk a lot of programs. Everything is program-based. Muslim ministry has no program,” Kimberly said.
Though the couple strongly supports international mission work, the Goodriches believe God is providing unique opportunities for the gospel to reach the nations from right here in Texas, and they are committed to remaining here to be part of that work, in hopes of raising up a future generation of believers who will love and share Christ with their Muslim neighbors.
“We’re the first generation of the church that’s having to deal with this changing look of America, the change of Texas, but the youth right now are going to grow up and never know life without children of all these other cultures and faith backgrounds in their classrooms at school,” Kimberly said.
“So we have to be raising up our children and our youth in a church that stands upon the gospel and that loves other people. That’s the only way, long-term, beyond any of us, for this to be successful.”