Following Isa: movements of Muslims turning to Jesus
The number of Muslims deciding to follow Jesus around the world is at an unprecedented level, according to the author of a new book ...
Detailed research is revealing an extraordinary global story of Muslims turning to Christ. RUSS BRAVO investigates …
The number of Muslims deciding to follow Jesus around the world is at an unprecedented level, according to the author of a new book.
Dr David Garrison from the University of Chicago interviewed 1000 Muslim background believers to find out their stories for his book A Wind in the House of Islam, and believes that we are at a critical point in history.
“Muslim movements to Jesus Christ are taking place in numbers we’ve never seen before,” he says.
Defining a movement as 100 new churches started or 1000 baptisms that occur over a period of 20 years, “in more than 70 locations in 29 nations, new movements of Muslim-background followers of Christ are taking place”.
The momentum behind these movements becomes clear when he explains there were only 16 such movements in the 1000 years up to the year 2000 – and 11 of those were in the 20th century.
Is this just a case of us having better information and ability to research?
No, stresses Dr Garrison, whose work has come after some 30 years of mission and ministry to Muslims in India and the Middle East.
“I have a PhD in church history – the Jesuits and Franciscans kept remarkable records, and whenever Muslims came to Christ it made news. I challenged church historians ‘surely there were more movements?’ but we just don’t have them – quite the opposite: we have tens of millions of Christians who became Muslims over those centuries, with the advance of the Ottomans across much of the Mediterranean world.”
So why is such a significant change happening now?
“Well, some of the findings are not that surprising. Some 85% of the movement of Muslims to Christ recorded in history have taken place since the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World began. And translations of the Bible into many more languages, as well as video and audio versions – still quite a recent phenomenon.”
Many of the conversion stories featured in the book mention dreams and visions?
“Some explain they were troubled by a dream where they kept seeing this being, this face that glowed like the sun. They couldn’t make out who it was, then they maybe read Matthew 17, the transfiguration, and realised ‘My goodness, this is Jesus’.
“What’s new is not the dreams – God has spoken to people in dreams for centuries – what’s new is they had Matthew 17 in their own language.”
Other factors that have proved significant include violence (“this has been a major factor in Muslims turning away from Islam”), and the role of the translation of the Quran into the heart language of many readers.
“It has led many Muslims to read the Quran with understanding for the first time and to realise they have no assurance of salvation. One man told me ‘In the Quran I found no title of honour for Muhammad but 23 honourable titles that Allah gave to Isa (Jesus). Muhammad’s dead, but Isa is alive. Four times the Quran speaks of Muhammad, and 97 times about Isa. Muhammad’s not called ‘Saviour’ but Isa’s very name means Saviour.’ Quite an amazing story.”
Garrison recounted the inspiring story of one woman. “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.’”
He continues: “Conversion is hugely costly for many Muslim background believers. Many are rejected by their families and have to flee. Many are oppressed and persecuted. Some who manage to stay in their communities feel they are very much called to win as many of their family and friends to Christ before they themselves were either killed or forcibly expelled.”
Dr Garrison toured the UK in June, speaking at churches, in the Hope for Muslims tour, supported by a wide range of missionary organisations, and also promoting the work of the Mahabba Network, which mobilises ordinary Christians in the UK to love and pray for their Muslim neighbours.