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Darfur Emanuel mit Sheikhs in Cafeteria 2007_edited.jpg
Darfur Emanuel mit Sheikhs in Cafeteria 2007.jpg

When sharing the Good News, we need to be aware that before we have even opened our mouth, our listeners have already made judgements about us that greatly influence whether their response to our sharing will be positive or negative; whether they conclude it’s good news or bad news. Therefore, we need to pay close attention to some key dimensions in our lifestyle, so that we as people and our entire lifestyle come across as good news to them; which will increase the likelihood that they will develop a favorable attitude toward us as Gospel messengers.

David Watson challenged us to live a “conspicuous spirituality” (2014:24). In this article you will learn about the key dimensions of this lifestyle. I call it “radiant spirituality”: a spirituality that is visible and attractive to those around us. You will read about practical approaches that have proven helpful in the ministries of fruitful Gospel messengers among the world’s major religious blocks: Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, animists, and secular people.

Developing radiant spirituality

Communications theory holds that the messenger is the message. This means that an audience judges the message anyone shares by their perception of the messenger. If they respect and like the messenger, they will much more likely also respect and like their message. If they disrespect and dislike the messenger, even if she carries the most amazing message, the recipients will likely be unable to see the message for what it is. They will only see it through the lens of how they perceive the messenger.

I had learned this from cultural anthropology in my preparation for field ministry in Sudan. Therefore, I considered carefully how my team and I wanted to be perceived as Gospel messengers.

As a result, I looked different when ministering to Muslims in Sudan than I do today. I don’t mean I had less grey hair, although that is also true. I had facial hair: a goatee. Why? Sudanese Muslims don’t shave off their beards. Only Christians do. Muslim religious leaders especially wear their beards proudly; the more devout they are, the longer their beard. Outside of office hours, I also regularly put on a jalabeja, the white cloak customary in Sudan. People loved it, wherever I went. I noticed how most people instantly warmed up to me, as they saw a foreigner appreciate their local dress.

Once, while living with a Sudanese family, I had a conversation about prayer with Muhammad, one of my “uncles” in the family that had adopted us. He made this stunning remark: “You Christians have it easy. You pray only once a week, on Sunday morning. We have to pray five times every day.” Christians pray only once a week? Hmmm. That was his perception. Then it dawned on me: of course it was! He never saw a Christian pray publicly, other than on Sundays. Therefore he concluded that Christians only pray once a week. Once versus 35 times. Not very impressive. Not very spiritual, those Christians. 

How could I demonstrate to Muhammad, and to the other thousands of Muslims I wanted to witness to, that I was a spiritual person who actually prayed all the time (at least, aspired to doing that)? By praying in ways visible to them. I started praying in our courtyard. The landlord and his family noticed. I prayed on the street when all men of our neighborhood broke the Ramadan fast and shared a meal. When praying, I knelt on a rug and lifted up my hands to God. I didn’t go through the ritual Islamic prayer postures (called rukuu’), concluding that if I did, my witness would be absorbed by them as mimicking them or as having become a Muslim. Yet, I needed to find a posture that expressed to them that I was praying. I also prayed during work hours in front of my Muslim staff. Once or twice during clinic hours, I removed myself from the busyness of our mobile clinic in tents, and sought out a quiet corner of the compound. I knelt down to pray in the shade of a tree.

In encounters at work, in the neighborhood, and on the streets, I wanted to stand out as a spiritual person. Therefore, I used a lot of religious vocabulary. As very common among devout Muslims, I would often speak blessings over people and use phrases like al-hamdulillah (Thanks be to God), insha’allah (God willing), masha’allah (This surely is the will of God), and the like – not as empty words, but spoken with deep conviction.

I vividly remember the moment when Dr. Hassan, the medical doctor of our NGO and a very devout Muslim, fell silent and his chin dropped, staring at me with his mouth wide open. He had invited me to come along to staff lunch, and I simply responded: “Thank you, but I’m fasting today.” From that moment I had his respect.


If the community around us never sees us praying, they will conclude we never pray at all.


Today I live in secular London. I no longer wear a beard, but I wear a cross as necklace. I want everyone to immediately view me as spiritual person. I relate to people very warmly, to be perceived as likable. I still talk about spiritual matters all the time. My community is different but my desire the same: to be Good News. So that the Good News I share is perceived as GOOD news.


Radiant spirituality in Jesus’ teaching

Jesus challenges us to make our spirituality visible to others: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mat 5:16).

The light we shine before others is our Being, our entire life as a witness. Jesus had previously stated: “You are the light of the world” (Mat 5:14). Disciples as persons are light.

Notice the implication of visible spirituality, of letting our light shine before others, that Jesus has in mind: “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mat 5:16). People will give glory to the Father of those whose light they have seen – the Jesus disciples. They will acknowledge the Father’s greatness, as they have seen some of it displayed in the lives of His children.

The relevant verse much more often quoted concerning visible spirituality is Jesus’ statement in the same context: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them” (Mat 6:1). What Jesus rebukes is not the practice of making one’s spirituality visible, but rather the motivation: the desire “to be seen by them” and the reward in that.

Jesus’ exhortation, “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray” (Mat 6:5) must be seen in the same context. Often when I share about living a radiant and visible spirituality, this is raised by someone in the audience as objection. Again, Jesus rebukes wrong motivation, not the practice as such: “to be seen” is “their reward” (Ibid.)


Applications for ministry among various world religions

Together with my church planting team, I have thought through how to apply this to ministry among Muslims. In trainings I have facilitated around the world, I have done the same together with trainees for ministry to other religious communities. I will now share with you what we have developed together: what it can look like to live a radiant spirituality in everyday life and ministry.

The descriptions for “Christian Workers” are of course generalizations. Not all Christian workers are the same. Wide differences exist and for some, these descriptions do not apply or barely apply. However, they describe aspects of large numbers of Christian workers. I have discussed them with my team and with workers who minister among these various religious blocks, and we have concluded that the following is a fair description of many Christian workers.

Christian workers are often perceived as busy managers, not as spirituals leaders one would go to for spiritual guidance.


You may jump straight to the table of the religion of the people you serve.


Christian Workers

Wear modest clothing, with the women wearing a veil. In some countries, men have beards

Do not always dress in a way considered modest. Men don’t always grow a customary beard

Do not eat pork or drink alcohol

Eat pork and sometimes drink alcohol

Use religious language all the time

Sometimes hesitate to refer to God and spiritual matters naturally as part of their everyday conversations when outside of church

Recite prayers publicly five times each day

Are seldom seen praying by the community because they usually pray in private or silently

Seek the power and help of God, especially in the mosque or with people who have spiritual power (barakah)

Should pray for God’s help anywhere, including asking for miracles, healings and deliverances in the name of Jesus

Fast from food and water from sunrise to sunset in the month of Ramadan

Fast from eating food away from the public eye. May be seen eating food or drinking during daylight hours in the month of Ramadan

Give charity publicly on Fridays, or their holy day, as a requirement to earn spiritual merit

Are often generous but tend to give quietly and privately, away from public display

Spiritual leaders lead contemplative lives and are perceived as scholars (in high Islam) or mystics (in folk Islam)

Often lead lives full of hectic activity, and are perceived as busy managers


Christian Workers

Monks wear orange robes, (maroon in Tibet), as it is believed to be the color of enlightenment which is the goal of Buddhism

There is no color or attire that distinctly marks them as Christians. Do not always dress in a way considered modest

Seek to live humbly, sacrifice position and power in an effort to obtain spiritual life

Sometimes appear to want to exercise their authority; sometimes consume media, movies, or music that appear worldly

Have a passive disposition. Spiritual leaders are perceived as contemplatives or mystics.

Often lead lives full of hectic activity, and are perceived as busy managers

May pray to the jewel in the lotus flower for wisdom or comfort. Many don’t pray for anything, instead they chant facing a Buddha statue, seeking to center themselves mentally by letting go of everything

Are seldom seen by the community as praying people because they often pray in private or silently.

Buddhists give charity publicly as a requirement to earn spiritual merit

Are often generous but tend to give quietly and privately, away from public display


Christian Workers

Wear modest clothing, the women wearing a wide scarf

Do not always dress in a way considered modest

Value simplicity, seek spirituality by displaying a still and quiet soul. Spiritual leaders are perceived as contemplatives or mystics

Often lead lives full of hectic activity, and are perceived as busy managers

Devout Hindus pray three times a day, gathered with their families in their homes and bring offerings of sweets, fruits and flowers to shrines

Are seldom seen by the community as praying people because Christians often pray in private or silently

Strictly follow many rituals out of fear, in order to avoid death, illness or bad luck, especially during major events of birth, marriage, harvest, death

Sometimes ignore these rituals as silly or stupid;

Sometimes join in “just for fun,” thinking them harmless;

Sometimes adopt local superstitions into their belief systems

Seek the power and help of the gods, especially at places of power.

Can pray for God’s help anywhere, including asking for miracles, healings and deliverances in the name of Jesus


incl. African Traditional Religion

Christian Workers

Wear power objects like amulets and keep charms in an effort to ward off evil spirits or spells

Sometimes disregard the power objects considering them a display of ignorance, instead of ministering to the underlying felt needs and pointing to spiritual power and protection in Jesus

Strictly follow many rituals out of fear, especially during major events like birth, marriage, harvest, death, in order to avoid bad luck, misfortune, illness, or death.

Often fail to offer functional substitutes for these rituals that do not engage in magic but center on the lordship of Jesus in all events.

Sometimes adopt local superstitions into their belief systems

Shamans require sacrifices and conduct power rituals, to break curses, bring deliverance from demons, or healing

Sometimes shy away from ministering deliverance for lack of courage or experience, but can pray boldly for miracles, healings and deliverances in the name of Jesus

Sometimes have a passive, fatalistic disposition. Spiritual leaders are perceived as power people

Often lead lives full of hectic activity, and are perceived as busy managers


incl. Atheists and Agnostics

Christian Workers

Have no confident belief in God or any higher being or power. Evolution started by a big bang is the narrative

Are confident of their faith that the God of the Bible is the Creator and living God, and that His salvation throughout history is the ultimate narrative

See religion as a human invention – either useful for the evolution of mankind in a utilitarian sense or as bad for the progress of society

State that the Bible is God’s self-revelation and God as our Maker knows best what is good for our ultimate wholeness. Sometimes promote a religious belief system more than the person of Jesus

Claim tolerance as a value. Are tolerant of all religions and individual beliefs, except ones they judge as intolerant

Sometimes tend to be judgmental of others’ beliefs, rather than building on truth in others’ beliefs

Value their inclusivity of all religions as being progressive toward higher consciousness. They believe that all religions lead to the same God eventually, if there is one.

Tend to focus on the exclusive claim that in Jesus only is the way of salvation, rather than sharing the Gospel as inclusive, meaning that God offers his abundant love freely to all.

Claim no absolute truth, that no spiritual path can be confidently declared the right one for everyone. Everyone should just be true to themselves. The meaning of life is defined by each person individually for themselves.

While maintaining that the Bible contains absolute truth, many fail to acknowledge that Christians know truth only “through a dim mirror.” Many try to prove the truth of God, rather than inviting others to experience God.

As there is no salvation, the goal of life is to maximize well-being. All power for wholeness is in humanity. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and similar calming exercises are useful to bring mental well-being and health.

Have the strong conviction that we are created to live in dependence on our Maker. Often shy away from opportunities to offer prayer for felt needs, rather than doing so with expectant faith for God to reveal himself

Strictly divide the realms of science and faith, facts and opinion. Faith is seen as a private matter that does not belong in the public domain. Generally, wishes to be left alone with one’s thoughts about religion.

Sometimes just keep quiet about our faith, for fear of what others will think. When we do, we make the Gospel irrelevant to others’ felt needs. We should boldly share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Certainly more descriptions could be added to each of these tables. I have limited them, to highlight key points. I would love to hear from you what you would add. If you have ministry experience in any of these religions, please write me privately or use the comment function below to add points that you think could be added.

Irrespective of religious context, following are the questions you and your team will need to address to develop a radiant spirituality in the context of your focus community. So that you are Good News, and more people outside the kingdom perceive the message you share as truly GOOD news.

The key questions to answer when developing a radiant spirituality

  1. What is the outward appearance of a spiritual leader, like clothing, facial hair for men, or expressing modesty for women?

  2. Consuming what kinds of foods and drinks would disqualify us as spiritual people?

  3. How can we make our spiritual practices, in particular prayer, visible to the community around us?

  4. What are considered “good deeds” by our host society? How can we express them and excel at them?

What are your thoughts?

I would love to hear from you. What are YOUR thoughts? What is your experience? Leave a comment below! If you prefer to private message me, you can use the contact form.

Learn more about the other Catalytic Qualities besides radiant spirituality in my book Movement Catalysts. You can order your copy here.

If you found this helpful, how about you share this blog with your network?

Emanuel Prinz – Father’s Beloved & Movement Activist


Watson, David, and Watson, Paul. 2014. Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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