Project Prayer: Ramadan 2016 - Day 13
Day 13: Something is happening! New ways for new movements
Used with permission of “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” (www.pray30days.org)
Islamic State! Al-Qaeda! Boko Haram! These radical Islamic terror groups invade our news every day in stories of destruction and fleeing refugees that will make history. But there’s an even greater story unfolding across the Muslim world.
Islam is the fastest growing major religion, and has been growing since its inception in the Arabian Desert nearly 14 centuries ago. Every year, Islam adds more than the population of Canada —some 37 million people —to its ranks. While today most of this growth is the result of a high birth rate, historically Islam has also been a conquering and converting religion. Demographers predict that by 2030, Islam will have more than 2 billion adherents (some 26 percent of the earth’s population), and by 2050 will surpass Christianity as the world’s most populous religion. In the midst of this unparalleled growth, another story is unfolding, one that has escaped the headlines:
Muslims are turning to faith in Jesus Christ!
Since the birth of Islam in AD 622, Christians have challenged the advance of Islam with military might and missionary methods, but with little result. Just as Christian militias have been rolled back by Islamic armies, so too have Christian apologists found scarce fruit among Muslims. Until now.
In the first seven centuries of Muslim-Christian interchange only three movements of at least 1,000 Muslims to Christianity were recorded. Then, five more centuries passed without a single Muslim movement to Christ. All the while, Islam was growing exponentially, largely in traditionally Christian lands in the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe. Until now.
Defining terms: Movements are corporate in nature and possess their own internal momentum. The corporate expression, for this study, is limited to turnings of at least 1,000 baptized believers over the past one or two decades or 100 new church starts over the same time frame within a given people group or ethnic Muslim community. (David Garrison, A Wind in the House of Islam)
The tide began to turn in the late 19th century, when 10-20,000 Muslims in Indonesia left their religion and were baptized into the Christian faith. After two additional isolated movements in East Africa and North Africa, Muslim movements to Christ halted before further breakthroughs began to occur in the latter half of the 20th century. Between the years 1967 and 2000, tens of thousands of Muslims converted to Christianity in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iran, Algeria, and Central Asia.
The greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history, however, has been reserved for the 21st century. Since 2001, there have been a further 72 movements of at least 1,000 Muslims turning to Christ, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. It is no small coincidence that this great awakening in the Muslim world has coincided with an unprecedented prayer movement for Muslims such as the one you are participating in now.
This year, we continue to pray through the House of Islam, recognizing that the Spirit of God is moving through Rooms where thousands of Muslims are encountering Jesus and committing to follow Him for the first time in history. As always, we pray that we might better understand and contribute to this great ingathering of Muslims into the family of faith in Jesus Christ.
New ways for new movements
In the past 150 years, we have witnessed 82 movements of Muslims to faith in Jesus Christ; some of these have recorded hundreds of thousands of converts. Why now? What are we doing today that is helping to produce so many Muslim converts to Jesus Christ?
Sometimes the question is not, “What are we doing?” but rather, “What did we stop doing?” For centuries, Christian approaches to Islam have been unchanged. We often lead with an “our religion vs. your religion” approach. The problem is, Muslims do religion pretty well. Muslims who consider leaving Islam are rarely looking for a better religion. They know that religion cannot offer salvation, or they would simply retain their own version.
Christians have also tried “our military vs. your military.” Though “Christian” armies at the dawn of Islam were vastly superior to the rag-tag band of jihadi cavalries that streamed out of the Arabian Desert, these Christian forces found themselves defeated again and again. In fact, Islam excels as an underdog in a hostile environment. It’s a potent religion of protest against real and perceived injustices and has no difficulties rallying its adherents to religious holy war or jihad.
Christians, on the other hand, have difficulty rationalizing invasions, justifying empires or championing colonial conquests. Such efforts do not reflect the pioneer of our faith who said, “Love your enemies … that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). After failed attempts at medieval Crusades, and equally fleeting gains during the 19th-century colonial era, Christians today are less inclined to see conquest as a sustainable future.
Today Christians are engaging Muslims as individuals who, like us, are lost without a Savior. Rather than following the historic path of Crusades, colonization and conquests — pathways that had more in common with Islamic jihad than the way of Christ — we are seeking to win hearts and minds to a Savior who offers a spiritual kingdom, the Kingdom of God.
Likewise, missionaries are learning that it’s not our religion that offers salvation to Muslims; it’s our Lord! Testimonies of Muslim-background believers from West Africa to Indo-Malaysia reveal a common theme. It’s not our religion, politics, economy, or civilization that is prompting them to surrender their lives to a new faith; it’s the Lord Jesus Christ.
The “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” movement (www.pray30days.org) has produced a prayer guide for Ramadan for the past 23 years. Climbing For Christ is blessed to serve alongside those who work on this prayer guide in an international network of ministries seeking to engage unreached Muslim people groups.
- Pray that Christians will resist the temptation to imitate the Islamic model of military advance, conquest, and conversion (Zechariah 4:6).
- Pray that Christians will follow the supreme example of Jesus, who, though “being in very nature God … made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7).
- Pray that we will stop following failed strategies of the past, but rather lift up the person of Jesus Christ who is fully able to draw all men, including Muslims, to Himself.