On the cover of this magazine, a man wears a red fez, the brimless hat traditionally worn in Muslim countries such as Egypt and—before its secularization in 1924—Turkey. But this man is not in Egypt or Turkey. He is in the United States, in the nation's capital. The occasion was the 1995 Million Man March, an event that paraded African-American Islam before white America more prominently than any other event to that point.

This year is the thirty-fifth anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. Black Islam is still expanding in U.S. cities as it offers discipline and hope, and helps people live drug-free, productive lives that many Christians would admire.

One of those who understands the appeal of Islam in the African-American community is Carl Ellis, who was interviewed for this issue by CT associate editor Ed Gilbreath (see "How Islam Is Winning Black America," p. 52). Carl ministers to those who are attracted to Islam's way of life, but he does it by offering biblical answers to their questions.

Carl was deeply influenced by evangelist-activist Tom Skinner (see Gilbreath's excellent portrait, "A Prophet Out of Harlem," CT, Sept. 16, 1996). But he was also influenced by apologist-philosopher Francis Schaeffer. As a student leader with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the summer of 1967, Carl realized a cultural revolution was afoot, a sea change in student consciousness that meant people were no longer asking the questions to which he had the answers.

How to think through those new questions with biblical answers? Canadian theologian Clark Pinnock suggested that Carl go study with Schaeffer at his Swiss retreat, L'Abri. So it was off to Huémoz, Switzerland, in 1971. Schaeffer helped Carl to think "worldviewishly," and Carl tried to help Schaeffer break free of his Northern European mindset. Carl dreamed of setting up a L'Abri kind of retreat for disillusioned revolutionaries. But the church in America wasn't ready to support that kind of effort.

Today, Carl calls Islam "the most serious threat to the church in America." He should know, since he has observed and interacted with Islam for more than three decades. "From my earliest days as a Christian, I've shared my faith on the street with Muslims," he says. In that process, he got in touch with the core issues of Black Muslims and began to search for biblical answers to their concerns. By 1975, Carl came to believe that a significant number of people would be disillusioned with Islam and looking for a spiritual alternative.

That desire to provide culturally specific answers eventually led to the founding of Project Joseph in 1992. About that time, Ellis and a colleague held a theological question-and-answer session for skeptical young students at an African-American university. About half-way through the two-hour session, Carl noticed the students' hostility toward Christianity begin to melt and metamorphose into a more positive, inquisitive spirit. "Why didn't we learn this in church?" one student asked.

Staying with the hostility until it melts is part of Carl's method—and his philosophy of ministry. "I don't go after them when they're attacking me," he says. "I let them exhaust their stuff and then calmly respond with biblical truth." In apologetics and evangelism, patience is a virtue.

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