26 June 2015
The greatest turning in history
IS. AL Qaeda. Boko Haram. These radical terrorist groups invade our news every day, but there is another story unfolding across the Muslim world, a story that needs to be told.
Over the past three years, I travelled more than a quarter of a million miles into every corner of the 'House of Islam' – the name that Muslims have long given to an invisible spiritual empire that stretches across the Muslim world, from West Africa to the Indonesian archipelago – to investigate unprecedented reports of multiplying movements of Muslims who are turning to faith in Jesus. The House of Islam encompasses 1.6 billion Muslim men, women, and children. For nearly 14 centuries, Islam has been expanding, drawing into its orbit millions of followers. Today, for the first time in history, we're seeing a change in this growing tide of Islamic advance.
My research revealed that we are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Jesus Christ in history. Where is this occurring? How is it happening? And why is it happening today?
I interviewed Nadia, a 43-year-old Iranian widowed mother of three. She said: "From my childhood I have been very curious about Jesus. I felt there was an empty place inside of me. I learned that one of my cousins had become a Christian. I asked him for a New Testament and I read it. Inside I was in a revolution. So I prayed: 'God, show me what is really true'. As I read it, I felt my heart open like an old door. From that time on, Jesus' work started inside me. It was a strange happiness like nothing I'd ever known."
Gathering interviews from more than a thousand Muslim-background followers of Jesus Christ like Nadia, I discovered that something historic, unprecedented, is happening. My core question to these Muslim-background followers was this: "What did God use to bring you to faith in Christ?" What I learned was that God is orchestrating something profound. God is using events and avenues that are unique to our day to bring about this turning. To understand the gravity of this historic moment, though, we need to look back over the past 14 centuries of Muslim-Christian interaction.
Since Muhammad first launched his monotheistic religion, tens of millions of Christians, as well as Buddhists, Hindus, and Animists have been swept into the House of Islam. What I wanted to know was when the opposite occurred? When have we seen a movement of at least 1,000 Muslims from an Islamic community turned to faith in Jesus and been baptised? Baptism is important as an indicator of true faith; any Muslim will tell you that he or she loves Jesus. After all, the Qur'an exalts Jesus as a noble prophet. But to submit to baptism, an act that clearly indicates death to an old life and resurrection to a new life as a follower of Jesus Christ, one has to be firmly convinced. After all, conversion from Islam is a death sentence for Muslims. Apostasy is not an option if one wishes to continue to live with Muslim family and neighbours.
Perhaps this is why Muslim movements to Christ are so rare. My research revealed that the first hints of conversion did not occur until the year 982, which is 350 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The next don't appear until the 11th and 13th centuries, and these movements were short lived, as Islam continued to expand. Then we see another five centuries of drought without a single movement to Christ. Finally, in the closing decades of the 19thcentury, two movements appear: one in Indonesia (1870-1924) and the second in northern Ethiopia (1890-1910). The 20th century saw the West embroiled in its own turmoil with two world wars and a great economic depression. At the end of the 20th century, however, things begin to change. With social and political upheaval in Iran, Algeria, Bangladesh, and the collapsing Soviet Union, Christianity sees the addition of 11 new Muslim movements to Christ. Something was happening.
Then, in the opening years of the 21st century, the monolith of Islamic resistance to the gospel begins to crumble. In just the first 12 years of the 21st century, we can identify and document a surge of 69 additional movements of at least 1,000 Muslims coming to faith in Jesus Christ and believers' baptisms. Behind the veil of violence and conflict that so plagues the Muslim world, thousands of Muslims are walking away from Islam and placing their trust in Jesus as the Son of God and unique pathway to salvation.
How is this happening? On the one hand, it is the ageless story of men and women encountering the living Lord in humble submission. On the other hand, it is the unique confluence of Bible translations, the prayers of God's people, the rise in global interconnectedness through the internet, satellite television and radio, and the faithful witness of God's people. God is orchestrating all of these factors together in our lifetime to bring about the greatest turning of Muslims to faith in Jesus Christ in history.
David Garrison's book, A Wind in the House of Islam, is available now, published by WIGTake Resources.