Dear Pastors Jones and Sapp,
Congratulations on the headlines you have created around the world this week. Not only did you burn a Koran but your actions led to the death of UN workers in Afghanistan, many of whom were not even Americans. May I ask what this has accomplished: has the Gospel been advanced amongst Muslims because there is one less Koran in the world? Are the Muslims of Gainesville beating down your door to know how they can be saved? It seems your actions were worse than futile, they were damaging to the work of the Gospel and to the lives of God’s servants.
I am not denying the responsibility of the Taliban and Islamists who actually perpetrated the recent acts of murder and terror. There is no doubt that they will answer to God for this, and let’s hope they will also be held accountable by the legal authorities of their nation (if they can catch them).
But there is no doubt that your actions instigated this new wave of violence against Westerners in Central Asia. There is no doubt that you have placed at risk every American working in any capacity in the Muslim world. Worse, you have compromised the Gospel witness of thousands of Christian workers seeking to share the Love of Christ all over the Islamic World.
What right do you have before the Living God to jeopardize the work HE has called Christian men and women to do in HIS name for HIS glory? They may have chosen to risk their lives for the Gospel, but it is not your place to exacerbate that risk.
How can you justify putting such lives in peril in the name of Freedom of Speech, while God’s real servants and true believers put their lives on the line for the Gospel, and while your nation’s military serves in Harm’s Way in the Muslim World to protect that freedom?
Missionaries have enough work to do responding to the theological arguments of those who deny the deity of Christ, who believe the Bible has been changed, who do not believe Jesus died on the cross, and who argue for the superiority of Mohamed. But those conversations eventually lead to meaningful conversations on spiritual things and a sharing of the Gospel. Now, however, Christian workers have to waste time explaining why a church which supposedly believes what they do would commit such an egregious act, and convince people that they would never do the same. It takes a long time to build trust with a Muslim and you may have cancelled the work of years for some missionaries.
I examined your church’s website to see the extent of your missions outreach, especially your outreach to Muslims. And I found nothing. How can a church which has the name “World Outreach” in its name have no world missionary program? How can “an apostolic church with a world vision” which is so concerned about the evils of Islam be doing nothing about that evil in the manner prescribed by Jesus: “Go ye and make disciples of all nations”???
On the home front, what is Dove World Outreach Center doing to reach the 1,500 Muslim residents of Gainesville? Is there any campus outreach to the 600 Muslim students at UF? Have your members been trained to reach out to their Muslim neighbors in ways that are respectful, culturally appropriate and pleasing to the Lord, not alienating?
Have either of you, Pastor Sapp or Pastor Jones, ever had a normal conversation with a Muslim? Guess what: they are people like you and me, with many of the same concerns: how to make ends meet, raising their children to be men and women of faith and morality, whether their team will make it to the Series. Evangelical Christians often have more common ground with observant Muslims than with our American neighbors, who may be only nominal Christians or practice no religion at all. Instead of a hostile approach focusing on differences, why not try to “love your neighbor,” and extend hospitality and friendship to them? Through such relationships, you will eventually have the opportunity to discuss your religious differences in an atmosphere of trust.
There is no way to undo this pointless, egregious act. But you can move forward by first repenting before the Lord Jesus Christ for your damage to the work of the Gospel, and then apologizing and seeking forgiveness of those whom you offended, making it clear that the Lord whom you claim to serve would never have acted in such a manner. Finally, you can focus the efforts of your church from now on to reaching your neighbors and the world with the Gospel of our Loving Lord and Savior, who gave his life for sinners, of whom you and I are chief.
Jennifer A. Bowers