For years, Open Doors founder Brother Andrew has been saying Christians should consider Islam to stand for I Sincerely Love All Muslims. Now in his new book Secret Believers, he tells the stories of Muslims who turn to Christ. RUSS BRAVO finds out more …
They say you should never meet your heroes – you’ll only be disappointed. Well, I have, and I wasn’t.
Brother Andrew, at the extraordinary age of 83, is just as I imagined him: passionate, animated, driven and yet with a twinkle in his eye that shows how a calling from God and a bit of Dutch cheek has continued to land him audiences with figures the West fears.
We’ll come on to his trips as visiting lecturer in Christian truth to the Taliban later, but first I wanted the inside story on his new book. More than 80% of it takes the form of a novel – why did he and co-author Al Janssen decide to write it that way?
“Everything in it is true,” says Al, “but we set the story in an unnamed country to protect the people we were talking about. If we named them it would put a death sentence on them. For years they had been asking us to tell their story.
We wanted to put a face on these persecuted brothers and sisters.”
For Muslims turning to Christ in Islamic countries, a number of things are almost inevitable: rejection by their families and friends, prohibition from sharing their faith, and persecution – threats, violence and often death at the hands of extremists while the authorities turn a blind eye.
“We set out four challenges for the Church in the West to respond to,” explains Al. “One, rather than hating Muslims shouldn't we seek to win them to Christ? Two, rather than seeking revenge shouldn't we offer them forgiveness? Three, the best thing we can do is to live authentic Christ-filled lives. The Muslim looks at the carnal, decadent West and thinks they are seeing Christianity. And four, engage in the spiritual battle. And it's not against Muslims or Islam. The real enemy is the Devil who has deceived so many people.”
Brother Andrew is blunt: “Our reaction to 9/11 was self-defeating and self-destructive. We saw it as God's wake-up call, but we hit the snooze button! We declared war on a nebulous concept – ‘terror’ - but we don't know where these people live. They need Jesus – and that is the Church's job. If we would do that, Muslims would not be such a threat to our society. It would be a different world.
“The truth is - we simply haven't tried it.”
Al Janssen underlines this: “We have assumed Muslims aren’t interested in the Gospel. They are. We have found interest with Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban. Brother Andrew has been asked to lecture on what real Christianity is. The doors are wide open, but we hadn't realised they were open.”
Brother Andrew is unapologetic about his time spent with those many would describe as ‘the enemy’: “I speak to their faces - I do know that we have baptised scores of ex-mujahedin. We don't condone but we don't judge from a distance. So many people would not think of going there, but we do. We have our own evangelical blacklist of people we don't want to deal with, but God says ‘No! That is what the blood of Jesus is for!’ Matthew 1 says he will save his people from their sins.
“Osama Bin Laden is maybe how he is because no-one has prayed for him, and there are some Christians who say he deserves to go to hell. Well, Jesus died for him as much as he died for me or for you.”
Among plans to help UK Christians support their brothers and sisters is a website – www.secretbelievers.org – to build a prayer campaign, to equip believers to befriend and reach Muslims, and to find other ways of supporting persecuted Christians.
I asked him, pretty much knowing the answer, if he ever thought of retiring …
“My vision is increasing - I will carry on as long as I can, and as one of my friends is 93, I think I have a few more weeks ahead of me! As we get older we have more faith, more experience, more answers to prayer. We get better with age, like Dutch cheese. Or maybe good wine!”
Secret Believers by Brother Andrew and Al Janssen is published by Hodder & Stoughton at £6.99 – and we have 10 copies to give away. Just e-mail your name and address to us by 10 December. UK residents only.
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