Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Muslims Converting to Christianity?

Image: Courtesy, WIGTake Resources

In "Why Muslims Are Becoming the Best Evangelists" (Christianity Today, April 22, 2014), Timothy C. Morgan interviews career missiologist David Garrison on Muslim conversions to Christianity:
Muslim background believers are leading Muslims to Christ in staggering numbers, but not in the West. They are doing this primarily in Muslim-majority nations almost completely under the radar -- of everyone . . . . "What did God use to bring you to faith in Jesus Christ? Tell me your story." This was the core question Garrison asked . . . . In Algeria, after 100,000 died in Muslim-on-Muslim violence, 10,000 Muslims turned their backs on Islam and were baptized as followers of Christ. This movement has tripled since the late 1990s . . . . Garrison estimates that 2 to 7 million people from a Muslim background worldwide now follow Christ . . . . [According to Garrison,] "Muslim-background believers [say] that they had met Jesus[,] . . . . people whose lives had been shaken and rattled by their encounter with Christ . . . . They look into their Koran and they see references to Jesus. In the Hadith, they hear stories about Jesus . . . . Abdul-Ahad, a Sheik from Mogadishu, Somalia . . . . had been involved in drug running, prostitution, and extortion . . . . [but] the Sheik was saved . . . . [and he] said, "You know when you see people like me with the beard and with the prayers, skull cap, you stay away from us because you're afraid of us . . . . The truth is we want you to be afraid of us . . . . But when you see people like me you need to know that we're empty and we're lost" . . . . [Garrison] often see[s that fear,] anger and hatred . . . . The sad thing is this fear is grounded in reality. You've got 14 centuries in which tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of Christians have been gobbled up into the world of Islam. It makes communism look like just a cheap parlor trick. Communism came and went in a century . . . . One reason Muslims are responding today is [their new situation]. They are in independent nations. They don't have colonial powers occupying them. As a result, they're turned in on themselves. They don't get along very well with one another. Several of the big movements . . . across the Muslim world coincide with Muslim-on-Muslim violence, horrible violence like in Algeria, Bangladesh, or Indonesia . . . . [as] self-government in Muslim-majority nations has triggered violence between Muslim factions . . . . Muslims are fighting Muslims both in the name of Allah, [but a]fter a while, people say: "Can this really be Allah's will? Can this really be his ideal for mankind? If this is Islam, I don't want any part of it" . . . . [For instance, i]n Afghanistan, one man who had been an imam said, "We were killing everybody in this village because they were a different branch of Islam than us. I took this little girl, one-and-a-half years old, in my arms. We had already killed her parents. She held my finger, looked me in the eye, as I stuck a knife into her and killed her. That was the beginning of my conversion [from Islam]" . . . . [As] for Christians[, says Garrison, t]his is not a time to . . . fear Muslims. This is a time to love, win, and reach Muslims . . . . [I]n the house of Islam, . . . [there are] movements breaking out in multiple places . . . . [One hears about Muslim dreams of Jesus, and Muslims take dreams very seriously.] It's part of the reality of their world. Mohammad listened to dreams, and he gave Muslims the impression that God could speak through them. So they do listen to them, and they do talk about them . . . . [Many of the Muslims interested in Jesus] are having dreams of a living being glowing with bright light and drawing persons to him or just exuding love or offering them a book to read . . . . [One evangelist would hear Muslims speaking of such dreams, and he would hand them a Bible, point to Matthew 17:1-2, and ask them to read.] They would start reading. "After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light" . . . . Muslims [would] read that and [say,] . . . . "That's the guy. That's the guy in my dreams. Who is this? And how do I know more about him?" . . . . A Muslim's direct encounter with the Bible seems crucial . . . . [Of these Muslim-background converts, t]here is a range [of views on Islam] . . . . Some Muslims who come to Christ and seem on the surface to be the most Islamic, hate Islam. They hate Mohammad. They would . . . [say]: "We will wipe this virus out from our people. It's just destroyed our people." And yet if you were an outsider, and you met them, you'd never even know they were a Christian, because they continue to live in the culture. And some of them are even imams and Sheiks who stayed in their culture. For many Muslims, Islam is central to the way their people function. It was their mother. It was their family. It was their community. And they had no [problem] . . . with Islam [as a culture]. What they want to do is to follow Jesus and to love their parents better and to draw them into faith. I found very few people who wanted to take on Islam. They just felt like that was a secondary battle. The real battle was to follow Jesus and to spread Jesus.
This is interesting, but even if we assume the high estimate of seven million Muslims converting every year from Islam to Christianity, that's a very low percentage out of one and a half billion Muslims, so I can't quite see much general impact, hardly the "staggering numbers" promised at the outset of this article . . .

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