What is God Doing in the Muslim World?

is-the-quran-the-word-of-god UNDERSTANDING ISLAM AND TERRORISM THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM.png
janosik
DANIEL JANOSIK: Director of Islamic Studies, Adjunct Professor of Apologetics, Historical Theology, and Islamic Studies at Southern Evangelical Seminary, and the adjunct professor in Apologetics at CIU Columbia International University (A.B., College of William and Mary; M.Div., Columbia International University; M.A., Columbia International University; Ph.D., London School of Theology) Dissertation: John of Damascus, First Apologist to the Muslims.

Islam seems to be on the move around the world, exerting its influence through terrorism and the spread of Sharia, as well as immigration and political persuasion. Some reports conclude that Muslims will outnumber Christians by the end of this century,[1] and other sources predict that Christianity will recede into obscurity as Islam rises in power and influence. However, Christian leaders around the world are pointing to revivals occurring in a number of developing nations, especially in the Global South, where millions are turning to Christ and churches are booming. In addition, unprecedented numbers of Muslims are converting to Christianity, with many reported instances of miracles as well as visions and dreams leading Muslims to Christ.

These are just some of the very exciting things going on in the Muslim world today that will be discussed in this chapter.  As we approach this topic, however, it would be helpful to first have some background on what’s happening and what people are thinking before we get into the big questions.  We will first look at the issue of how Islam and Christianity as world religions today compare in size.  Together, they make up the two largest religions in the world.  They also make up more than half the population of the world at this point.  In addition, we will look at which of these two religions is creating the most converts at this time.  Are more people converting to Christianity, or are more turning to Islam today? What does that mean for Christians here in the West? Another area to consider is the reason that Christians themselves convert to Islam. If they were true Christians, could they turn from Christ and embrace Muhammad? We also want to understand how many Muslims have converted to Christianity and why.  What are the bridges that ultimately lead Muslims to Christ, and how can these bridges inform our understanding of God’s work today?  What are the barriers that keep Muslims from becoming Christians, and what can be done to eradicate those barriers? These are all important questions for Christians to answer if they are truly interested in reaching out to Muslims.

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Growth and Conversion

First, we will consider the significant issue of which religion is the largest, and which is currently growing the fastest in the world today. Christianity has in fact been the largest world religion for some time.  Since 1900, Christians have comprised approximately one-third of the world’s population. These figures include Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, and all other denominations and groups.  Currently, these groups total about 2.2 billion people (31%). This number includes all people who self-identify as Christians and does not probe the depth of their faith. On the other hand, it is estimated that there are about 1.6 billion Muslims around the world today 23%).[2]  However, in 1985 there were only about 600 million Muslims, so Islam has more than doubled in the last generation or two.  It is, therefore, in terms of percentage and world-wide spread, the fastest growing religion in the world today.[3] In fact, forecasts for 2050 from the Pew Research Center conclude that the global Muslim population is expected to grow at a faster rate than the overall population.[4]  Therefore, it is believed that the number of adherents to Islam will surpass those who follow Christianity beginning in 2070.

What is the reason for this rapid growth of Islam in the world today? Could the increase of Muslims in the world be due to Christians converting to Islam?  According to various reports, it is estimated that around 20,000 to 30,000 Americans convert to Islam annually in the United States.[5],[6] Most of these converts are African-Americans, and many of the remaining number are women who have married Muslim men. In Britain, it is estimated that around 5,000 people convert to Islam every year, and most of these are women.[7] In France, where there are an estimated six million Muslims, about 100,000 are thought to be converts.[8] According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, worldwide there are over 800,000 conversions to Islam from all other religions per year, including Christianity.[9]

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Reasons for Conversion

     Why do Christians convert to Islam? This is another important issue to consider as we seek to understand the Muslim world today. Christianity Today, in its August 20, 1990 issue, listed the following main reasons.[10]  First, Islam’s doctrine is simple and rational, not involving complex doctrinal issues such as the Trinity.  Second, many believe that in Islam all believers are equal, in spite of its extensive history as a slave trading culture.  Additionally, Islam is seen as a practical religion which requires adherence to five simple pillars.  Islam’s lack of a priesthood is also appealing.  Conversion to Islam does not require confession of sins or teach a need of salvation.  It is a religion simply of good works and bad works, which is attractive for many.  While adherents have no assurance of salvation, they nonetheless seem to prefer to feel their salvation is in their own hands. It may also be that certain ethnic or cultural groups find certain aspects of Islam to be particularly appealing; for instance, African-Americans may convert at least in part due to historical factors such as racism, segregation, and racial division.[11]  For Anglo-Americans, Islam gives direction and discipline, which their own upbringing may lack.  A number of white American converts have been driven to Islam by the degradation of the West, seeking instead an orderly religion that would lead to a higher way of living.  Others have been attracted to Islam because conversion to Islam does not require confession of sins or the need of salvation. Unfortunately, some may have been drawn to Islam because they never really understood what true Christianity teaches, or they never had the gospel clearly explained to them.

On the other side of the equation, why do people convert to Islam? Put another way, shy is Islam a growing religion today? One factor in Islam’s growth has been through conversion, but it turns out that this has actually had little permanent impact on the total Muslim population since the number of people who convert to or depart from Islam in any given period are roughly equal. Thus, the 2010 Pew Research Forum stated that “this report excludes the religious conversion as a direct factor from the projection of Muslim population growth.”[12] Essentially, this means that the “back door” is apparently just as large as the “front door.” According to Muslim scholars who have researched this phenomenon, from 50% to 70% of converts to Islam leave Islam within a few years, mostly because they find it difficult to fit into the new culture presented through the mosque.[13] Thus, those entering Islam from Christianity or secular worldviews often decide that Islam is not right for them after all.[14] If conversions are not the real reason for the growth of Islam, then what is?

Another factor of growth is simply fertility rates.  A number of scholars say the primary reason for the present growth of Islam is that Muslim families generally have many children, and every child born into a Muslim family is considered a Muslim from birth.  This is a matter of simple demographics.  Eric Kaufman, a professor of politics at the University of London, is one of many who argues that the main reason why Islam is expanding is not because of conversion to Islam, but because Islam tends “to be ‘pro-natal’ and they have more children.”[15]

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot

Muslims have the highest birth rate in the world at an average of 3.1 per woman (2.7 in North America, 2.1 in Europe, and over 3.5 in Africa). In comparison, Christians come in second with an average birth rate of 2.7 per woman (2.0 in North America, 1.6 in Europe, and a greater fertility rate in Africa). Due to the overall Muslim growth in population, which is said to be twice the rate of the world’s overall population growth because of general young age and a high fertility rate, research groups such as the Pew Research Center project that by the end of the century Islam will outgrow Christianity. The report states that in 2050, the two religions will be near parity, with Muslims numbered at 2.8 billion, or 30% of the population (from 23% at present), and Christians still having a slight advantage at 2.9 billion, or 31% of the population. However, the projection is that by 2070 the Muslim population will equal the Christian population, and by 2100 Muslims will reach 35% of the world’s population while Christians will number only around 34%.[16] Of course, these projections are based on the present rate of births for the two religious groups, rather than conversion rates or any other factors. However, with the charts unclear due to limited and outdated figures, this is a precarious basis of prediction because there are already many parts of the world that have seen seriously declining birth rates. For example, there is a precipitous decline of birth rates in the non-Muslim areas of Europe, which is the main reason that many demographers predict that Islam will soon overwhelm Europe. However, the fertility rate worldwide is falling.[17] In fact, a new study by demographers Charles Westoff and Tomas Frejka suggest that the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims is shrinking and that the decline of the Muslim fertility rate may be taking place at a faster rate than among non-Muslims.[18] Since the projections made in the Pew Research Report of Muslims outnumbering Christians by the end of the century are based on past fertility rates of Muslims and these rates are already falling, perhaps a recalibration is in order.

Interestingly, in his book How Civilizations Die and Why Islam is Dying Too, Daniel Goldman recognizes the risks facing the non-Muslim areas of Europe and believes that when the fertility rate of a nation falls below replacement levels, its civilization eventually disappears. However, he also argues that Islam may be in the greatest danger of dying out. He states the following:

Thanks to collapsing birth rates, much of Europe is on a path of willed self-extinction.  The untold story is that birthrates in Muslim nations are declining faster than anywhere else and at a rate never before documented.  Europe in its decline may have the resources to support an aging population, if at a terrible cultural and economic cost.  But in the impoverished Islamic world an aging population means a civilization on the brink of total collapse, something Islamic terrorists know and fear.[19]

Thus, Goldman counters the Pew Research Center’s demographic predictions.  He posits that the fertility decline in the Islamic world is actually beginning to happen at a much more precipitous rate than that of the Western world due to the rapid exposure of Muslims to Western culture with its education, technology and freedoms.  He even argues that the increasing violence of Islam is due to in great part to this rapid implosion, and the “looming demographic collapse may encourage Islamic terrorists to ‘go for broke.’”[20] If he is right, Islam will actually shrink in numbers in the decades to come, and Christianity will remain the largest world religion. However, if the Pew Research Center is right, Islam will become the largest world religion by 2070.

Are Muslim and Christian Conversions the Same?

On the other hand, there may be a different perspective on how we should think about these theories and the reasons for the growth of a religion.  This chapter started out by noting that Islam is on the move in the world today. However, it may be more accurate to say that God is on the move, and there are a number of Evangelicals who give testimony to several exciting worldwide movements that give credence to this perspective. One of the most exciting aspects of this movement is in regard to the number of Muslims converting to Christianity. There may be a large number of non-Muslims converting to Islam, as was noted above, but there are more people in the world converting to Christianity. This is an important point because there is a tremendous difference between conversions in Islam and in Christianity.

In Islam, every child born into a Muslim family, or at least to a Muslim father, is considered a Muslim by birth. Conversion, then, would only apply to those outside of Islam who make a conscious decision to say the Shahada and follow the words of the Qur’an and Muhammad. In Christian circles, however, there is a saying that “God has no grandchildren.” This means that we are all individually responsible to God and when we are saved, we are adopted as his sons and daughters. In Christianity, at least in a basic sense, every man, woman, and child need to be “born from above” in order to be considered a true part of the family of God. Since conversion is part of becoming a true Christian for everyone, it makes sense that Christianity ranks first in net gains through conversion in the world today for those who come to Christ outside of a Christian background. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, approximately 2.7 million people convert to Christianity annually from another religion, including from Islam.[21] This means that there are over 7,000 people a day, from all non-Christian backgrounds, turning to Christ in faith around the world. According to Miller and Johnstone, in their article “Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background,” it is estimated that over 10 million Muslims converted to Christianity around the world between 1960 and 2010.[22] As we shall see, the conversion rate of Muslims turning to Christ since 2010 has continued to rise at a significant pace.

While some people from Christian backgrounds who convert to Islam may be rejected by their former friends, most new converts find acceptance by both their new Muslim umma as well as society in general. In contrast, Muslim converts to Christianity are far more likely to experience persecution from their Muslim friends and family members.  In fact, Muslims who convert may face job loss, family ostracism, beatings, and even death for apostasy.  The Hadith records Muhammad saying, “If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him,”[23] and the Qur’an states clearly that those who turn away from Islam are apostate, and should be killed wherever they are found (Qur’an 4:89). This attitude is still prevalent in many places in the world today. For example, in one of the largest surveys conducted across the Muslim world, the Pew Research Center discovered that 76% of South-Asian Muslims and 56% of Egyptian Muslims believed that anyone who leaves Islam should be killed.[24] Bernard Lewis, a scholar on Islam, summarizes the apostasy issue this way:

The penalty for apostasy in Islamic law is death. Islam is conceived as a polity, not just as a religious community. It follows therefore that apostasy is treason. It is a withdrawal, a denial of allegiance as well as of religious belief and loyalty. Any sustained and principled opposition to the existing regime or order almost inevitably involves such a withdrawal.[25]

Not all Muslim countries carry out death penalties for those accused of apostasy, but the punishment is often severe. Even those who do not face such threats still face the heartbreak of broken family relationships or other professional and educational penalties.  For these reasons, many Muslims convert in secret and keep their new faith a secret from friends and family.  They may still go to the mosque, but they pray to Jesus as God and study the Bible alone or in small groups of trusted friends.  Fortunately, despite the persecution and hardships, Muslims are continuing to turn to Christ in unprecedented numbers. It may even be that the harshness of a convert’s circumstances discourages insincere converts or those who convert for merely social reasons, meaning that Muslim converts to Christianity will more likely take the decision seriously. This would lessen the number of converts who “slip” back to their previous faith, in contrast to those who convert to Islam looking for an easy religion but ultimately leave it in discouragement.

A Fresh Wind: The Significance of Global Muslim Conversions

     There are currently some very encouraging signs that the number of Muslim conversions to Christianity is growing in amazing ways. David Garrison, a missionary pioneer to the Muslim world with the Southern Baptist International Mission, writes in his compelling book, A Wind in the House of Islam, about the extensive interviews he has conducted with Muslim converts all over the world.[26] Garrison has worked among Muslim people groups for 30 years, studying many languages and traveling through dozens and dozens of countries. His focus has been on movements of Muslims to Christ, defining a “movement” as including 100 new church starts or 1000 baptisms occurring over a period of two decades.  He notes that just within the last 20 years, movements to Christ among Muslims have taken place simultaneously in more than 70 separate locations in 29 nations.  To put this in perspective, we need to realize that before the 19th century there were no voluntary movements of Muslims to Christ at all.  In the 19th-century, there were two movements, one in Indonesia and one in Ethiopia.  In the 20th-century, there were 11 additional movements.  In the first years of the 21st-century alone there have been an additional 69 movements.  In his remarkable summation, Garrison estimates that there have been between two and seven million converts to Christianity in the past twenty years, the numbers being prone to underestimates due to the severity of persecution in the Muslim world.  Others actually estimate that there have been some 10 million, or even as many as 15 million, with up to 500,000 in Iran alone.[27] This means that more Muslims have come to Christ in the past 20 years than in the preceding fourteen hundred years!

If this is the case, then where are these conversions taking place? Garrison has documented these movements occurring in what he calls the Nine Rooms in the House of Islam. While there are a number of Muslims turning to Christ in the West, Garrison focuses on the rest of the world and names the following nine areas where movements are taking place: North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, Arab World, Persian World, Turkestan, Western South Asia, Eastern South Asia, and Indo-Malaysia. These are very different regions, but it is the same Spirit that is moving across the land and doing something wonderful and powerful.

Bridges for Muslims

How and why are these Muslim movements taking place today?  What is the Lord using to bring hundreds of thousands of Muslims to Christ?  Why is it happening now and not for the last 13 centuries?  How can we be a part of it? In his book, David Garrison refers to ten discernable bridges that God is using to reach the Muslim world.[28]  The first is faith, especially the faith of the missionaries who carry the gospel into the House of Islam, and the faith of the converts who often face persecution.  Think about how many more doors could open up if more Christians lived a life of bold obedience and joined the ranks of those reaching out to Muslims. As Garrison says, “It is that higher call of faith, that biblical call, that leads the faithful to discipleship and service in the House of Islam today.”[29] May there be many more servants of Christ willing to follow this path of faith.

The second bridge is prayer, the primary weapon in spiritual warfare and the primary strategy used when entering new territory. Ephesians 6:10-18 gives us a moving picture of what it means to confront the spiritual forces of evil in the world today, and we certainly need to have the full armor of God in place in order to stand firm against the strongholds that hold Muslims back from hearing and receiving the Gospel of Christ. Garrison comments that prayer is the “great unseen force that has both stimulated Christians to venture into the House of Islam and pierced the hearts of Muslims whom they encounter there.”[30] The third bridge is Scripture, which is increasingly becoming available in local languages and is impacting the hearts of Muslims. It is revealing that in the Ephesians 6 passage mentioned above that the one offensive weapon, besides prayer, that is given to the Christian to fight against the forces of evil is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph. 6:17). It is often the case that when Muslims finally get to the point of reading the Bible seriously, especially the gospels, the Holy Spirit quickens their understanding, and they soon commit their lives to the Lord. This is why it is so important for Christians to make Bibles available to Muslim friends in their own heart language, for most Muslims have never read the Bible before.

The fourth bridge, the activity of the Holy Spirit, has become one of the most influential forces in bringing Muslims to Christ. The pervasive presence of the Holy Spirit is very powerful, and God is visiting Muslims through dreams, visions, and answered prayers in the name of Jesus. A number of researchers have concluded that a quarter to a third of all Muslim conversions over the past 20 years involve some type of dream, vision, or supernatural intervention by God. If there are between 10-15 million Muslims who have come to the Lord over this period of time, then that means that millions of Muslims have had these experiences that often lead them to seek the One who has revealed Himself to them. Dreams and visions are very much revered by Muslims, and they find them very meaningful. It seems that God has found a special way for the Holy Spirit to “blow” through the House of Islam.

The fifth bridge that Garrison mentions is the testimony of faithful Christian witnesses. There are also millions coming to Christ inside the Muslim world because of faithful Christian witnesses both within and without. The sixth bridge, Learning from the Body of Christ, and the seventh, which involves Communication, also impact many Muslims through new as well as traditional approaches such as translations of the Bible, Muslim-focused outreach of various types, contextualized witness,[31] the Internet, satellite television and radio broadcasts, prayer walks, and Quranic bridging.  The eighth bridge involves allowing Muslims to discover the truth of the Bible through discussions as well as reading the Scriptures in a group setting. Garrison says that Muslims don’t like to be told they are wrong, so it is often better to let them “discover” the truth through their own exploration. In this case, we always need to be ready to give an answer when they ask us to be part of the discovery process (1 Peter 3:15).

Interestingly enough, the ninth bridge involves Islam itself leading many to Christ.  A professor friend of mine once said that Osama Bin Laden was one of the leading evangelists for Christianity.  Why?  Because there were so many who were repulsed by what he said and did, and they wanted nothing to do with that type of Islam.  Islam, in fact, is often its own worst enemy. Due in part to the rejection of radical Islam today, more Muslims are ready to listen to the gospel.  In addition, having the Qur’an in their own language actually turns some Muslims to Christ, because when they read and truly understand the meaning and implications of the words, they realize that much of what they had learned from their Muslim leaders about the Qur’an is not accurate, nor does it offer them much hope for the future. For example, the Qur’an offers no assurance of salvation; salvation is found in Christ alone.  When Muslims understand that Christianity offers something that Islam does not have, they are drawn in.  Moreover, when Muslims are confronted with the many mistakes and changes in the Qur’an and the inaccuracies of their early history, they often begin to view Islam from a more critical position. They may also look at the life of Muhammad from their own sources, and they realize that he was not even qualified to be a prophet.   In other words, accurate history, primary sources, and scholarly discussions on the problems of Islam and the Qur’an may open eyes and lead Muslims to the truth.

The last bridge concerns the role of indigenization.  This takes place when new believers within a culture own and advance the gospel to their own people group, taking discipleship to deeper levels.  There are some excellent indigenous Christian leaders today within the Muslim world, and we need to come alongside and help them.  Outsiders and missionaries can take support roles, serving as encouragers, servant-leaders, trainers, and shadow pastors.  In this way, the Holy Spirit can “lead them into all truth” (John 16:13).

Dreams and Visions in the House of Islam

As mentioned earlier in the chapter, a number of researchers have concluded that over the past 20 years around a third of all Muslim conversions have involved some type of dream, vision, or supernatural intervention by God. Certainly, such a positive movement must be the result of God’s Holy Spirit working in powerful ways to break down the spiritual walls that keep Muslims from accepting Christ. There are a number of Christians, however, who are still suspicious about this type of spiritual activity and feel that supernatural movements were no longer needed after the New Testament was put into circulation and God’s revelation became available to all people. It must be pointed out, though, that there are many people today who remain outside of Christ and do not have access to God’s Word, especially within the world of Islam. Perhaps God has decided it is time to do something amazing among Muslims. If this is the case, then at least Christians should be aware of this new wind blowing through the House of Islam.

One very helpful book dealing with the work of the Holy Spirit today is Jerry Trousdale’s Miraculous Movements.[32] In this book Trousdale, the Director of International Ministries for CityTeam International, recounts the miraculous way that the Holy Spirit is preparing hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Africa to be transformed by the truth of Jesus Christ. Through dreams and visions, as well as the result of witnessing miracles, men and women are experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and many of these turn to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Through his many interviews with former Muslim leaders, Trousdale has found that one of the main reasons that Muslims have been so open to these supernatural events is that they have become very disenchanted with Islam. He relates that,

 Inside Islam, disillusionment and discouragement are widespread and closely related to the Qur’anic teachings, Islamic cultural pressures, social mores, and so forth. The church of Jesus Christ is largely not aware that God Himself is working inside Islam, orchestrating events that are even now beginning to crack the foundations of Islam and prepare hearts to discover the loving God who sacrificed His Son that they might know Him.[33]

Thus, God is even using the negative features of Islam to prepare hearts so that they are open to witnessing the power of God in the world today. This clear movement of the Holy Spirit is very likely one of the reasons David Garrison has seen a burst of movements of Muslims toward Christ in the last two decades. There is indeed a revival in many parts of the Muslim world.

In regard to this unprecedented activity of the Holy Spirit in the Muslim world, Trousdale comments, “From first to last, these movements are about God doing what only God can do, and inviting His people to join Him in the process. He is taking the initiative so that, by the time Christians are on the scene, Jesus has already strategically prepared hearts to engage.”[34] God is preparing Muslims through the activity of the Holy Spirit, but Christians are still very much involved in the process. As Trousdale realizes, God is opening the doors and now it is up to Christians to “learn how to cooperate with His work of invading the impossible with love.”[35] This is our opportunity. This is the time.

Chip Ingram, senior pastor of Ventura Christian Church, says this work of the Spirit is a “paradigm shifting movement of God” [36] that is turning the Muslim world upside down. Trousdale describes this movement in his book and explains how God is preparing the way.

What is remarkable today is that, in a world where unnumbered Muslims have no access to the good news – no Bibles in their language, no churches, no known Christians, few or no Christian radio or television options in their language — they are living and dying without any exposure to Christ. So God introduces Himself personally and gives birth to something in a Muslim man or woman’s heart that causes him or her to begin a journey of discovering and obeying God, seeking to find followers of Jesus to help them complete that journey.[37]

Thus, one way that God has chosen to reveal himself to Muslims has been the movement of the Holy Spirit through the dreams and visions of Muslims. This supernatural work of God may be controversial for some, but Trousdale says that in his interviews with former Muslim leaders, “about 40 percent reported a dream or vision of Jesus that prompted them to begin a search to know more about Isa al Masih (Jesus the Messiah).”[38] Certainly, we should at least be open to something that God seems to be using to break down the walls and bring many Muslims to Himself. Finally, Trousdale concludes by reminding us that, “These dreams are dramatic evidence that the missionary God of the Bible is doing dramatic things to rescue Muslims from Islam. They often create questions in the heart of the dreamer, and Christians are needed to be there when the opportunity comes, to help the dreamer understand their meaning.”[39] It is important to note that even though this is a movement begun by God, laborers are very much needed to reap the harvest.

There are other researchers who have studied this new wind in the House of Islam. In his article titled “When Muslims Dream of Jesus,”[40] Darren Carlson, founder, and president of Training Leaders International, recounts a study published by Dudley Woodberry in 2007 that listed reasons for converting to Christianity from 750 interviews with former Muslims. Among the expected reasons, such as “the love of God, a changing view of the Bible, and an attraction to Christians who loved other,” one of the other main reasons was experiencing dreams and visions.[41] A study by Mission Frontiers magazine reported that around 25 percent of 600 Muslims converts experienced dreams that led to their conversions.[42] In his book, Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? Tom Doyle says that “about one out of every three Muslim-background believers had a dream or vision prior to their salvation experience,” though he also mentions that other researchers report a number closer to 25%.[43] This is still very significant, especially for Western Christians who generally discount or deny the need for the occurrence of dreams and visions in a religion with a clear Scriptural record. These cautions are justified in the cases of asylum seekers who use “borrowed” stories in order to claim a Christian conversion experience in order to seek favor in the application process, or others who may be waiting for a dream or vision before they will listen to the gospel or read the Bible. However, passages in the Bible, such as Joel 2:28. recount that a time will come when the LORD will pour out his Spirit through dreams and visions. There are those who say that dreams and visions could not be for today and therefore must be a ploy of Satan, but they need to read Matthew 12:22-36 where Jesus reminds us that Satan would not use miraculous means to honor Christ. Whether or not we believe that the Holy Spirit works today through dreams and visions, we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that between 25-33 % of Muslim converts to Christianity say that dreams and visions have had a significant role in leading them to Christ.

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One of the more interesting angles to this phenomenon is that Muslims, especially Shia Muslims, are often very open to dreams and have support from their culture and the Qur’an for seeking answers to their needs through the interpretation of dreams. Thus, dreams about Jesus Christ are regarded as significant and even prophetic. Nabeel Qureshi was even guided by his Muslim mother, who believed that Allah spoke through dreams, to seek interpretations for his dreams which ultimately contributed to his conversion to Christ.

Darren Carlson, through his interviews, lists the following categories of dreams:

  • Jesus speaking Scripture to them, even Scripture they had never heard before.
  • Jesus telling people to do something.
  • A dream or vision that led to a feeling of being clean or at peace.
  • A man in white physically appearing.[44]

One of the most widely reported visions is a man appearing in bright white clothes and using Scripture to witness to the person, such as “I am the way and the truth. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He may tell them to “follow him” or “believe in him.” He will also tell them that he is “Jesus, the Son of God,” or even that he is the “Alpha and the Omega.” One Iranian man at a refugee center recounted seeing a man dressed in white tell him to “stand up and follow me.” When the Iranian man asked, “Who are you?” the man in white replied that he was the “Alpha and the Omega,” and the “only way to heaven.” Later, when the man was talking to an Iranian pastor, the pastor opened to the Book of Revelation and read to him the verse where Jesus identifies himself as the “Alpha and Omega.” The man was convicted and asked how he could accept this Jesus. The pastor gladly led him in a prayer to accept the Lord and then gave him a Bible. Later, the man came back with 10 other men and said they would like to have Bibles as well.[45]

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There are a number of other ways that Jesus reveals himself, but one of the more unique stories I have found regards the “God who walks on water.” Carlson relates that during a crowded boat crossing of the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Athens, a 7-year old girl fell off the boat. The frantic parents rushed around the boat asking others to help find her. Suddenly, they found her on the other side of the boat, dry and claiming that a “man who walked on water” rescued her and put her back on the boat. The parents were overjoyed at finding their daughter but dismissed her story. When they arrived at the island of Lesbos, they met a Christian who, without knowing why, asked them if they wanted to know about a God who walked on water. They were astounded at his words and wanted to know more. The Christian turned to the Bible (Matt. 14:22-33) and read them the story of Jesus walking on the water. Amazed, they recounted the story of their daughter’s rescue by the “man who walked on the water” and they all rejoiced.

Whatever we think of God using supernatural dreams, visions, and miracles to bring Muslims to Himself, there are millions of faithful former Muslims in the Kingdom today because these activities led them to seek the source of their experiences. This may be one of the more powerful ways that God is working in the House of Islam today, but there are still other ways that we can be a part of this movement.

Barriers for Muslim Conversion

Garrison also tells us that we need to recognize that there are five barriers that may hinder these movements. The first is contentious Christians.  When Christians are divided and at war amongst themselves, Muslims do not see Christ in them.  Fear and hatred are barriers, so we need to remind people to critique Islam but love Muslims themselves.  Another barrier is an attempt by Christians to imitate Islam.  Islam is a highly legalistic religion that prescribes every aspect of life and conduct. Christians need to demonstrate true “freedom in Christ” and not bondage to the law. We also cannot afford to respond to Islamic violence in kind. In addition, we must recognize that we cannot overlook injustice to Jews, minorities, and other social groups. Injustice within Islam has turned some Muslims toward Christianity. Finally, we cannot respond in ignorance and apathy.  Remember, “Radical Islam is not the problem; lukewarm Christianity is.”  Most Western Christians know little about Islam or the ways that God is at work in our world to reach Muslims.  Many don’t even care.  We must always be asking ourselves, “How can I be a part of what God is doing?  How can I contribute? How can I reach out to Muslims in love with the gospel of Truth?” These are exactly the subjects we will be dealing with in How Do You Reach Muslims with Both Truth and Love?.

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[1] The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-20150. Pew Research Center, April 2, 215. http://www.pewforum.org/files/2015/03/PF_15.04.02_ProjectionsFullReport.pdf, 14.

[2] Ibid., 6.

[3] Ruth Gledhill, “Islam is world’s fastest-growing religion, will equal Christianity by 2050” (Christianity Today, 2 April, 2015) Retrieved 7 May 2016. https://www.christiantoday.com/article/islam-is-worlds-fastest-growing-religion-will-equal-christianity-by-2050/51321.htm.

[4] The Future of World Religions, 70. “Why Muslims are the world’s fastest-growing religious group.” http://www.pewresearch.org. Retrieved 5 May 2016.

[5] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/24/post-911-islam-converts_n_935572.html

[6] http://standpointmag.co.uk/features-may-10-why-do-western-women-convert-julie-bindel-islam-female-conversion

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/11/islam-converts-british-women-prejudice. Retrieved July 1, 2018.

[8] https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/04/world/europe/rise-of-islamic-converts-challenges-france.html

[9] http://www.bible.ca/global-religion-statistics-world-christian-encyclopedia.htm

[10] “Why Muslims are the world’s fastest-growing religious group”. http://www.pewresearch.org. Retrieved 5 May 2016.

[11] https://www.religion-online.org/article/turning-to-islam-african-american-conversion-stories/

[12] “The Future of the Global Muslim Population, Related Factors: Conversion”, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 27 January 2011.

[13]https://imamluqman.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/seven-out-of-every-ten-converts-leave-islam-by-imam-luqman-ahmad/ (Retrieved 1/23/19).

[14] It is interesting to compare Islam to Mormonism in this regard.  There are approximately 11 to 15 million Mormons worldwide, and this number has been consistent for many years.  Many Christians become Mormons but eventually realize that Mormonism, in spite of its claims, is not true Christianity, and they eventually depart again.

[15] http://vancouversun.com/news/staff-blogs/think-religion-is-declining-look-at-who-is-going-forth-and-multiplying. Retrieved 7/1/2018.

[16] The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-20150. Pew Research Center, April 2, 215. http://www.pewforum.org/files/2015/03/PF_15.04.02_ProjectionsFullReport.pdf, 14.

[17] David Goldman, How Civilizations Die and Why Islam is Dying Too, (Regnery, 2011), ix-xxiii.

[18] “Do Muslims Have More Children Than Other Women in Western Europe?”. Population Reference Bureau. https://www.prb.org/muslimsineurope/ (Retrieved 8 May 2016).

[19] Goldman, How Civilizations Die and Why Islam is Dying Too, 4.

[20] Ibid., bookjacket cover.

[21] David B. Barrett; George Thomas Kurian; Todd M. Johnson, eds. World Christian Encyclopedia (Oxford University Press, 2001), 360.

[22] Duane Miller and Patrick Johnstone. “Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, Vol. 11 (2015), Article 10, 17.

[23] Sahih Bukhari (52:260).

[24] The Pew Forum, 30 April 2013, The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society.

[25] Lewis, Bernard (1998-01-21). “Islamic Revolution.” The New York Review of Books. https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1988/01/21/islamic-revolution/ (Retrieved 1/23/19).

[26] David Garrison, A Wind in the House of Islam: How God is drawing Muslims around the world to faith in Jesus Christ (Wigtake, 2014).

[27] Duane Miller and Patrick Johnstone. “Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, Vol. 11 (2015), Article 10, 17.

[28] Garrison, A Wind in the House of Islam, 240-249.

[29] Ibid., 240.

[30] Ibid., 241.

[31] “communicating in a manner that is clearly understood in the culture and worldview of those who are intended to hear it.”

[32] Jerry Trousdale, Miraculous Movements: How hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus (Thomas Nelson, 2012).

[33] Ibid., 71.

[34] Ibid., 73.

[35] Ibid., 73.

[36] Ibid., book cover

[37] Ibid., 133.

[38] Ibid., 133.

[39] Ibid., 134.

[40] Darren Carlson, “When Muslims Dream of Jesus,” International Mission News, Lightstock, May 31, 2018.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Tom Doyle, Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), reviewed by Mark Kreitzer in Global Missiology, January 2015.

[44] Carlson, “When Muslims Dream of Jesus.”

[45] Carlson, “When Muslims Dream of Jesus.”

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