Hashim Amla is a South African cricketer – and fast becoming a legendary one too. He is sublime to watch, and is having the most phenomenal season. He is also universally acclaimed, by teammate and opponent alike, as the nicest, humblest, gentlest guy you’ll ever meet. A real sportsman’s sportsman.
And he is devoutly Muslim. He has the most fantastic beard, and by all accounts, in all ways, he takes his Muslim practices very seriously.
I only mention his religious faith and one of its outward expressions, because he has caused me to think about something that Christians do quite a lot. If, as Christians, we discover that some famous star – be they a sportsperson, singer, actor or celebrity of some kind – is also a Christian, we tend to venerate them a bit. And then we often devise evangelistic campaigns featuring that person.
I lost count as a child how many events I went to that featured some or other Christian sports personality telling me how his or her faith really helped them to become a famous sports star. Since I have two left feet – and that’s just counting my hands – and have never been good at any sport, these talks were never quite as inspiring as they should have been. But I wasn’t the target demographic I suppose. I still don’t think that they were the best approach.
My question is this: does Hashim Amla’s success combined with his most remarkable character and aura of calm, humility, authority, respect, class and confidence (a heady mix of all the things I think are best in humanity) make me want to become a Muslim? If a local mosque had an evening featuring Hashim Amla as guest speaker, I would definitely consider going. I’d sit enthralled, I am sure, as he spoke. And then, I’d politely sit through whatever short Islamic message that followed. I respect Islam, have some Muslim friends, understand the religion, have visited a number of mosques and a holy Islamic shrine, and even own a Koran (which I have read). But I highly doubt whether anything that Hashim Amla did or said would convince me to become a Muslim.
My point is not about Islam – it’s about Christians. I am not sure we trust our religion as much as Muslims trust theirs. We seem to sometimes rely more on gimmicks, as if it’s OK to trick people into accepting our faith. Or maybe it’s because we measure things like response cards and raised hands and bums on seats at meetings, rather than character, devotion, discipline and consistency. It seems to me that maybe Muslims find more value in the things that really matter than we do.
I think Hashim – or # as he is affectionately known – is a first rate guy. If I had a son, I would hope that he would grow up to be like Hash (minus the beard, if I’m honest). But that doesn’t make me want to become a Muslim. In fact, it actually makes me want to be a better Christian. I wish I could be as much of a Christian as Hashim is a Muslim, and I wish the world would see in me what I see in Hashim, and if they did I hope they’d connect it to my faith. I pray that my faith would impact my life, and make it shine and make it attractive and noteworthy.
Maybe next time your church or youth group is thinking of doing some “funky” type of “outreach” event and is looking around for some Christian celebrity to headline the act, you could have a word in someone’s ear and suggest that possibly it is Jesus who should be headlining the show, that our own lives are the Gospel’s best witness, that our love – for each other and the world – is what will cause unbelievers to take notice, and that we don’t need gimmicks.
Oh wait… I’ve just worked out the problem. I suppose some churches DO need the gimmicks after all. That’s a shame.