Dr. Ergun Caner, whose ethnic background is deeply rooted in Turkey and whose religious background was firmly founded in Sunni Muslim, was the eldest son of a committed Muslim family until his salvation at the age of eighteen. His father was somewhat similar to an Islamic priest, a scholar of an Islamic sect called Ulima. In 1978, his family moved to the United States so his father, an architect, could build a Mosque in Columbus, Ohio. Like many other children who love and respect their fathers, Ergun wanted to be just like his dad. One day, however, he came to know Christ as his Savior.
His entire testimony of salvation is credited to one of his new American friends persistently begging him to come to church with him for four years. His friend shared with him a simple and short message: “Jesus loves you. You should believe in Him. I am praying for you.” After he became a Christian, his family disowned him. In the ten years following his conversion to Christianity, his whole family except his father came to know Christ; both of his younger brothers became pastors.
This short article is the testimony of Dr. Ergun Caner, President of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He was the first former Muslim to become a leader of an evangelical seminary, when he was named to this position in 2005. After a recent visit to South Korea, Dr. Caner stated that it is a very real possibility that all Muslims could come to believe in Jesus as he did. In regards to this statement, Caner is quoted saying, “The message that changed my life was the simple but profound message of the gospel. The gospel has power. It is the mission of the church to preach the gospel.”
This man with such an extraordinary background has two focuses in his ministry as he travels the world. His first focus is the aspect of his preaching; he is constantly exhorting and admonishing Christians to revolutionize their mode of witnessing to the world. His second focus is the ministry of debating religion. He has been involved in debates on a variety of religions and denominations—Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Shamanism, etc. In his different experiences, Caner has encountered countless heated battles, the least of which being the Muslims who were known for cursing at him. But this is not an aspect of ministry in which he wishes to be pitied, for Caner considers it to be one of the most significant areas of his service for the kingdom. He knows that this is the only time that some of these people will ever hear the pure and undefiled truth of the gospel.
Apologist Dr. Caner says that the present day is a religious and spiritual age, further emphasizing that this atmosphere gives Christians a sense of hope and challenge. “In history, people never talked about and cared about religion as much as they do today. We need to bring the gospel to the world—to the religion without Jesus, spirituality without Jesus, and morality without Jesus.” So, Dr. Caner stresses the significance of apologetics, which starts with prayer. Apologetically praying asks: “Lord, how can I witness to my neighbor? Teach me to know the hearts of my neighbors and understand their religious beliefs so that I can be a better witness for you, my Savior.”
Dr. Caner further emphasizes this by saying to the church in Korea, “The church needs to find more ways to be witnesses of Jesus,” to a population that is rapidly increasing in numbers of foreigners and being more and more internationalized. “You cannot expect your neighbors to always be Korean anymore. If we don’t talk and ask about Jesus, they will never hear about Jesus.”
Dr. Caner suggests two evangelistic strategies: quietly evangelizing and boldly evangelizing. These two strategies are witnessing boldly to people through apologetics, and quietly witnessing by living life as Jesus’ followers, showing a wholesome and pure life.