As we approach the end of the year, I wanted to leave everyone with an encouraging note. Christianity and Islam are intersecting in ways they never have before. The advent of the Internet and the prolific nature of the ease of worldwide travel have caused each religion to face completely new and unforeseen challenges. These and other factors have resulted in unprecedented occurrences throughout the religious landscape of our world. One such occurrence is that Muslims in every part of the world are turning to Jesus Christ in record numbers. I have recently read two very similar books which document these movements.
The first book is entitled Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale. Trousdale is the Director of International Ministries for CityTeam. The book presents a tested and successful style of ministry that Christians are using to reach Muslims. While many Westerners may find the techniques odd, they are well-grounded and Biblical. The main focus of the book is to show the pattern and results of disciple making movements. This goes way beyond trying to reach people in order to bring them to salvation. Disciple making movements change the focus from salvation to making disciples. The idea is that one of the goals of true disciples of Jesus is to make other disciples. When disciples make other disciples, who make other disciples, exponential math takes over (2 Timothy 2:2). Just like compound interest starts earning the investor interest on interest, so too disciple making movements results in entire groups of people coming to Christ and spreading the good news to others that otherwise would never have been reached. Second and third generation churches develop in areas previously inaccessible to Christian missions.
There are too many aspects to the approach to list here. As an example, one stages is described as follows, “It’s about discovering and obeying; not teaching and knowledge”. [i] The author describes this part of the approach by analyzing Jesus’ method of using parables to reach people in His own time:
“Rather than simply telling them the answers, Jesus was patient and seemed quite content to let people process information, internalize it, and eventually understand for themselves what it required of their lives”. [ii]
The book focuses on the necessity of prayer, prepares its reader to appreciate the long term and messy nature of discipleship, and aids in understanding the tricky issues of contextualization.
Another book in the same vein is A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison. This book also delves into the many areas in the world where entire sections and subcultures of Muslims are coming to Christ in phenomenal ways. The book begins by looking at the first 1400 years of Islamic history, briefly stopping to note a few isolated cases where movements for Christ occurred. However, these cases can be counted on one hand and even then are often suspect because of the surrounding circumstances.
The author divides the world into nine geographic and political regions and then investigates the movements that are happening within each region. In each case, researchers had a methodical set of questions to pose to Muslims who came to Christ. Interviewers would let Muslims tell their own story in their own words, and then followed up on any unanswered questions. The anecdotal accounts that are retold mix well with a more academic and scholarly approach in order to understand just what is happening within the Muslim world. The author does a good job of recognizing and discussing the potential problems with any study on such a grand scale.
Garrison concludes the book by interpreting the overall results. In one chapter, he gives ten reasons why groups of Muslims are choosing Jesus Christ. I found the ninth reason particularly fascinating: dissatisfaction with Islam itself. As the author notes, “One of the great surprises in the Muslim movements to Christ we examined was that Islam is often its own worst enemy, containing within itself the seeds of its own destruction”. [iii] The author also discusses barriers to these movements and finishes with practical ideas for how each of us might respond this very day to join in what God’s Spirit is doing in the Muslim communities of our world.
I would highly recommend either of these books to anyone intrigued by what God is doing right now in the Muslim world. The news often reports on ISIS, beheadings, and sectarian violence, but never on communities that have been healed and transformed by God. It is so refreshing to learn about how God’s kingdom is arriving in the most unusual of places and ways. A Wind in the House of Islam is a bit more scholarly and backed by great research. Miraculous Movements contains more personal testimony. I would highly recommend them both.