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Urban Legends & the Great Commission PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 30 March 2008 13:40
There's a lot of wild weaving together of unverified statistics from a very specific situation with the Catholic world's discovery of Fr. Zacharias and the result is a major urban legend in the making.

The urban legend going round: That 6 million Muslims become Christians every year and that the hard-hitting TV broadcasts of Fr. Zacharias, a maverick Coptic priest, is responsible for large portions of those conversions.

I'm sorry, folks, but this is a scenario without any basis in fact.

First of all - the 6 million figure. Came from a interview on Al Jazeera by a Muslim cleric who asserted that there were 6 million conversions from Islam to Christianity in Africa every year.

There has never been any indication where this suspiciously round number came from - no studies, nothing. Just an assertion by one man a couple years ago on an Arabic language broadcast that is now being bandied about all over the world as though we knew it were true. And the idea that this was true of Africa alone has been conveniently dropped so now it is assumed to be a global figure.

The only people doing careful research in this area in the world are evangelicals and none of the major researchers have ever said anything of the kind. They note very carefully that there are really significant breakthroughs in large parts of the world - but they are inevitably the result of years or decades of sustained effort. For instance, a growth of 17,000 over a period of 15 years where no native Christians have ever existed before - that sort of thing.

No one is talking about 6 million new Muslim background Christians every year - and believe me, if growth at that level was taking place, evangelical researchers would be talking about it in detail - where, what people groups, and why!

What has happened - over the period of a century - is the Christianization of Africa. But most of the conversion to Christianity in Africa has been by members of African traditional religions - not by Muslims who live mostly in the north.

Here are some solid figures from the World Christian Database:

1900: 8.7 million Christians in Africa or 8 % of the total population

2000: 360 million Christians in Africa or 45% of the total population

2025 estimate: 600 million Christians in Africa or 47% of the total population

By 2025, Africa will be on the verge of becoming a majority Christian continent. There will be more Christians in Africa than in Europe and two and a half times more Christians in Africa than in North America. Only Latin American Christianity will be slightly larger.


Even if 6 million Muslims in the world did become Christian this year, it would only represent 4/10ths of 1 % of a total Muslim population of 1,412,000,000.

Oh, and the story circulating that the world wide Islamic population just passed the number of Catholics? Talk about old news! That happened back in the mid 90's without any Catholic comment that I could see. Some evangelical researchers noticed. I knew. But now what those interested in missions have known for years has been discovered suddenly by the media and turned into new news.

Just like Fr. Zacharias has suddenly been "discovered". Fr. Zacharias has also been around a long time. They were talking about him when I was an undergrad - although he was still in Egypt, I believe.

Here's a little data about Fr. Zacharias from an obvious supporter:

Father Boutros is an Egyptian Coptic priest who has peacefully inspired about 500 Egyptian Muslims to convert to Christianity, something considered a crime punishable by death in the Muslim world. For carrying out those conversions, he was imprisoned twice while he was living in Egypt in the early 1980’s and is now living in exile outside of the country.

Note: 500. Not 6 million.

Helping 500 Egyptian Muslims become Christian is a staggering thing. But apparently not nearly staggering enough to satisfy our newly awakened appetite for Muslim conversions.

To attribute, in the complete absence of any data, large portions of this new spiritual awakening in the Muslim world to one man's efforts is simply absurd. One man single-handedly turning the direction of a global-circling community of 1.4 billion people who speak hundreds of different languages through his in-your-face, detailed Arabic language critiques of specific Quranic passages that are available only to those who have access to certain TV broadcasts? Have we lost all sense of how small the target audience for that sort of programming is? This is an apologist's fantasy.

Not to mention that the majority of Muslims in the world don't speak Arabic.

The change we are seeing is the fruit of millions of Christians praying for (see my piece on the Praying Through the Window campaigns of the 90's There is also a related initiative: 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim world has been held every year during Ramadan for years) and tens of thousands of mission-minded Christians working all over the Muslim world for the past 40 years.

It is these evangelizers - almost all of whom are lay - living in Muslim communities, loving their neighbors, teaching school, healing the sick, founding and running businesses, planting thousands of evangelizing small Christian communities in hundreds of different language groups and situations, writing books, making radio broadcasts, building relationships, trust, and credibility with Muslims they actually know personally - who have been used by God to turn the tide. Fr. Zacahrias is one rather loud horn in a vast symphony orchestra - and he isn't even first chair.

Remember that study that Dudley Woodbury did about why Muslims become Christian? Of the 5 primary reasons that 750 MBBs gave - the central theme was love. God's love reflected consistently in the lives of Christians they knew. Being exposed to the love of Christ through the gospels.

Not media, Not TV. Not apologetics. Love. From tens of thousands of expat missionaries and hundreds of thousands of national Christians who are "Great commission" Christians.

Because one of the really significant changes over the past century is the number of Christians who David Barrett calls "Great Commission Christians" - Christians for whom the proclamation of Christ is central to the practice of their faith.

In 1900, only about 14% of Christians in the world could be called "Great Commission" Christians. Today, 31% of Christians on the planet are. 690 mllion according to 2008 Status of Global Mission.

The fact that the percentage of the Christians population who grasp that the primary mission of the church is to proclaim Christ has more than doubled in the 20th century had made all the difference.

690 million Christians committed to loving the world to Christ. Of which Fr. Zacharias is one.

How about you?
 
Snow & Divine Mercy PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 29 March 2008 22:02
Seattle. The end of March. The second Sunday of Easter

It snowed when I arrived. It snowed last night. It snowed tonight. It is snowing now. Huge sloppy flakes.

I have never seen anything like it. In Seattle anyway.
 
Christian "Hot Spots" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 28 March 2008 05:49
Christian "hot spots". The ten countries where Christianity is growing most remarkably or fastest. (Note: in all these countries, Christianity is still a minority. Sometime a tiny minority. We have to jettison our big battalion mindset to grasp the significance of these relatively small numbers. They all represent the growing edge of Christendom.) I like the fact that the author often includes specific figures for Catholics.

According to Justin Long, a missionary researcher, they are:

1. Nepal
2. China
3. Burkino Faso
4. Singapore
5. India
6. Vietnam
7. Benin
8. Russia
9. Bangladesh
10. South Korea

Notice 7 of the 10 are in Asia. Where Christians are about to outnumber Buddhists for the first time.

The whole article is relatively short and worth a read.
 
I Can Dream, Can't I? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 28 March 2008 04:32
Off to Seattle this morning till Tuesday to train some folks to do gifts interviews. Unbelievably, it is snowing there. It never snows past the first week of March in Seattle! (Here in Colorado we expect it to snow in March but what I'm not used to is what we got right now - freezing rain? Must bundle up. I am so used to Colorado's low humidity and sunshine that 36 and raining in Seattle feels much colder and bleaker than 20 here.

March is going out like a lion. I had hoped to see the glorious cherry blossoms on the UW campus (usually at their height on April 1). Hope I still can. Hope they still look like this:



Also doing a radio interview, then back Tuesday night for two days. Cramming in a Legatus talk and few other big things with Fr. Mike (who is also in town for a week before jetting off for his Easter missions.) and then off again to speak at the Evangelical Catholic Institiute in Madison, WI.

And I'm still not done with several major project overdue or due next week. So blogging from me will be sporadic at best this next week.

But after April 6, watch out. I'm home for 2 months in a row.

April being the time to turn one's thought to gardening in the high country. Nine of the 200 bulbs I planted last fall poking their heads above ground so far.
 
Muslim Background Christian in Azerbaijan: Growing and Suffering PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 March 2008 09:56
One face of the Muslim Background "new Christian" issue - in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is a small country between Russia and Iran where Islam is a dominant force. Just 17 years ago, there was no church in Azerbaijan. Now, there are more than 18,000 Christians-all of whom are Muslim-background believers.

One courageous church leader now urgently needs our prayers.

When Zaur Balaev gave his life to Jesus in 1992, he was the very first convert in the rural village of Aliabad to turn from Islam to follow Christ. And within a year he began a house church and started leading his neighbors to Christ. Zaur felt called by God to become a pastor, so he attended Bible college and became the first pastor in the Zaqatala region. He then built a small church building in his front yard and started holding two services a week attended by some 50 church members, all between the ages of 20 and 35. But the government would not recognize his church.

And the persecution began. “We’ve asked many times for registration since 1993 but we keep getting denied,” Pastor Zaur explained. “This means we can’t openly talk about our faith and we can’t share Christian literature with people. The local government, the police and the KGB all pressure us.” Pastor Zaur and ten of his church members lost their jobs because of their faith. And a new business that Pastor Zaur has been trying to open for three years has been consistently opposed by officials.“Even when I do exactly what they say, they always find something else wrong,” said Pastor Zaur. “The KGB threatened me saying, ‘We can find something wrong in your life and throw you in jail.’ It’s a constant pressure on me.”Just over a year ago Pastor Zaur pleaded, “Please pray for me. I believe in prayer and if we pray together, God will help.” But when Pastor Zaur shared these words, no one could have known just how much he would need prayer in the days ahead.

Jailed on False Charges

In May 2007, Pastor Zaur was detained by police and in August—despite the absence of evidence—he was sentenced to two years in prison for “violence against a state representative when carrying out official duties.” Pastor Zaur has been jailed in terrible conditions in a cell known as the “frog pool” which has no proper toilet or ventilation. Since his detention, Zaur has suffered two heart attacks and is experiencing kidney pain.

First Generation Church Under Fire

The young church in Azerbaijan is also in need of your prayers. It has only existed since 1990 and is made up entirely of Muslim-background believers. Although Azerbaijan is officially a secular state with religious freedom, Muslims are the dominant force in the government. Christianity is viewed as a threat to the country, and Christians are portrayed as traitors and criminals—often on national television.The government pressures converts by using surveillance, interrogation, arrest, harassment, media attacks and forcing believers out of their jobs. They are closely monitored by the police, KGB and local Islamic authorities. Indirect pressure is also used on the converts’ relatives and employers to try and coerce Christians to return to Islam. This pressure stirs up anti-Christian sentiment resulting in social ostracism and discrimination. It is almost impossible for churches to be granted official registration, so most churches operate illegally. It’s equally difficult to receive authorization for the import or publication of Bibles and Christian literature.

Young and Vulnerable

The church is at a critical stage; it’s a first generation church that is young and vulnerable… experiencing strong opposition from Islam and local authorities without the spiritual and material resources it needs.

Please pray for our very dangerous and secretive work with our Muslim-background brothers and sisters in Azerbaijan.
And please pray for Pastor Zaur and his family during this extremely difficult time.

Via Persecuted-Church
 
Novena to John Paul II PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 March 2008 08:51
Here's a lovely idea from Chris, a junior at Notre Dame

A Novena to John Paul II for the New Evangelization that starts on March 25 and runs through April 2, the date of his death - and as Christ points out, the presumed date of his future feast day.

Day 1 starts here. Chris is posting new installments each day.

Check it out.
 
The Grand Mufti on Freedom of Conscience in Islam PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 27 March 2008 06:14
Swirling hardly begins to describe the internet chatter about the whole topic of Muslims converting to Christianity. One topic that is discussed alot is whether or not the Grand Mufti of Egypt did state that a Muslim can choose a religion other than Islam?

So here's some information about the man himself and the text of the original essay in its original context.

The man:

Since 2003, Dr. Ali Gomaa has served as the Grand Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt, a position of religious authority second only to the Sheikh al-Azhar. As an Egyptian native and one of Islam’s most respected scholars of Islamic law, Dr. Ali Gomaa oversees Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s highest body for delivering opinions on religious law. Prior to his appointment as Grand Mufti, Dr. Gomaa served as a Professor of Jurisprudence at al-Azhar University, where he specialized in usul al-fiqh, the science of religious law. There, he published over 25 books on various topics in Islam. He has also issued a number fatwas during his tenure on topics ranging from gender equality to democracy. The Grand Mufti sets himself apart from peers by having earned his first academic agree, a B.A. in commerce, from a secular institution. In addition to regular media appearances on Egyptian television, the Grand Mufti has been especially vocal in reaching out to non-Muslim media outlets as a means of promoting Islamic institutions in the non-Muslim world. Western media outlets have heralded Gomaa’s approach to Islam as anti-extremist and aware of modern realities.

The context:

This Washington Post forum - July 21, 2007

The relevant text of the Grand Mufti's essay:

Freedom of Religion in Islam

The essential question before us is can a person who is Muslim choose a religion other than Islam? The answer is yes, they can, because the Quran says, “Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion,” [Quran, 109:6], and, “Whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve,” [Quran, 18:29], and, “There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is distinct from error,” [Quran, 2:256].

These verses from the Quran discuss a freedom that God affords all people. But from a religious perspective, the act of abandoning one’s religion is a sin punishable by God on the Day of Judgment. If the case in question is one of merely rejecting faith, then there is no worldly punishment. If, however, the crime of undermining the foundations of the society is added to the sin of apostasy, then the case must be referred to a judicial system whose role is to protect the integrity of the society. Otherwise, the matter is left until the Day of Judgment, and it is not to be dealt with in the life of this world. It is an issue of conscience, and it is between the individual and God. In the life of this world, “There is no compulsion in religion,” in the life of this world, “Unto you your religion and unto me my religion,” and in the life of this world, “He who wills believes and he who wills disbelieves,” while bearing in mind that God will punish this sin on the Day of Judgment, unless it is combined with an attempt to undermine the stability of the society, in which case it is the society that holds them to account, not Islam.



The summary:

So freedom of conscience in this lifetime (It's not illegal) and punishment in the future life (its still a sin).

The caveat: Is this conversion undermining the foundations of the society? If so, it then becomes a matter for the state.

This is very important since it reflects creeping recognition of the rights of individual conscience at some of the highest levels of Islam. Christians in the aftermath of the Reformation also wrestled with the issue of freedom of religion vs."the foundations of society" - because just like many Muslims today, earlier generations of Christians found it difficult to imagine a stable society that was not united religiously.

Of course, there is always the cultural kicker.

Three weeks after the Mufti wrote those words, the International Herald Tribune carried this story of a real life former Muslim in Egypt who was trying to change his religion on his identity card so that his unborn child could be officially raised as a Christian, marry as a Christian, etc. since in Egypt the official religion of the father automatically becomes the religion of the son. (Consider how American assumptions that healthy adults reconsider and re-choose their religious identity, if any, after they are grown - per the Pew Survey - is dramatically at odds with Egyptian practice.)

The problem is that 25 year old Mohammed Hegazy was the first MBB to attempt to change his legal identity in Egypt and a huge storm developed.

An Islamist cleric has vowed to seek Mohammed Hegazy's execution as an apostate, his family has shunned him, and Hegazy raised a storm of controversy when pictures of him posing for journalists with a poster of the Virgin Mary were published in the newspapers.

Hegazy said he received death threats by phone before he went into hiding, in an apartment bare of furniture where he lives with his wife, who is also a convert from Islam and is four months pregnant. He would not say where the apartment was located.

"I know there are fatwas (religious edicts) to shed my blood, but I will not give up and I will not leave the country," Hegazy said.

There is no law on the books in Egypt against converting from Islam to Christianity, but in this case tradition trumps the law. Under a widespread interpretation of Islamic law, converting from Islam is apostasy and is punishable by death — though killings are rare and the state has never ordered or carried out an execution.

Most Muslims who convert usually practice their new religion quietly, seeking to avoid attention, or flee the country to the West. In Egypt, at the very least they face ostracism by their families, but if their conversion becomes known they can receive death threats from militants, or harassment by police, who use laws against "insulting religion" or "disturbing public order" as a pretext to target them.

The overwhelming taboo against conversion has made even trying to get official recognition unthinkable, leaving it unknown if a court would accept it. Christians who become Muslims are able to get their new religion entered on their ID and face little trouble from officials — though they too are usually thrown out by their families.


So much more powerful than the law is entrenched culture and taboo. And interestingly, it doesn't just cut one way, While Christians who become Muslim get little flak from officials, Egyptian Christian families also tend to regard conversion as an unforgivable betrayal and throw the defiant child out.

Cultural norms that transcend law and religion?
 
Christians in the Muslim World PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 16:45
According to the World Christian Database, here are the approximate numbers of Christians in areas of the world that are majority Muslim as of 2005:

In Western Asia (or what most of us would think of as “the middle east”:

There are 13 million Christians or 6% of a total population of 214 million (189 million Muslims).

4 million are Catholic, 8 million are Orthodox. The majority of the rest of the Christian population (700,000) are Independents. (For more on Independent Christianity, go here)


In North Africa (which includes Egypt)

There are 17 million Christians or 9% of the total population of 191 million (167 million Muslims)

4 million are Catholic, 10 million are Orthodox. 500,000 are historic Protestants.


In western Africa (which would include Nigeria and Senegal):

There are 93 million Christians or 35% of the total population of 264 million. (122 million Muslims, 47 million traditional religionists).

32 million are Catholic, 33 million are Independents, 30.5 million are historic Protestants.


In south central Asia (which includes Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who are overwhelmingly Muslim, but also India, the center of Hinduism)

76.5 million Christians or 4.75% of the overall population of 1.6 billion. (555 million Muslims, 851 million Hindus)

23 million are Catholic, 30 million are Independents. 22 million are historic Protestants, 5.5 million are Orthodox.


Indonesia (the largest majority Muslim country in the world):

29 million Christians or 13% of the total population of 223 million. (125 million Muslims)

6.5 million are Catholic. 14 million are historic Protestants. 8 million are Independents.


So we end up with a rough figure of 229 million Christians in these 5 areas immersed in a sea of 2.5 billion people: 1.28 billion Muslims and 851 million Hindus – and various other smaller religious traditions.

Overall Christians make up 9% of the population in the 5 areas, Muslims 51%.

The 229 million Christians in the 5 areas are split pretty evenly between Catholics 69.5 million (30%), Independents 71.7 million (30.5%), historic Protestants 67 million (29%) with a significant minority of Orthodox 23.5 million (10.3%).

From another perspective, you could say that historic, liturgical Christians make up about 41% of the total and the Reformation heritage Christians about 59%.

Obviously, which Christian tradition dominates depends upon where you live. In western Asia and north Africa, the ancient centers of Christianity, it is historic Christianity that constitutes the majority. In the newly evangelized areas of western Africa, south central Asia, and Indonesia, Independents lead the way with historic Protestants a strong second.

One result: historic Christian communities who have lived in majority Muslim cultures for many centuries and experienced long, slow attrition under difficult circumstances, can have a different take on their situation than the relatively “new” Reformation heritage communities who only arrived in the area in the 19th century for the first time and have experienced sometimes remarkable growth in the past few decades.

To maintain our perspective, we must remember that Catholic Christians are a minority among a minority. 2.78% of the population in the majority Muslim world is Catholic but that number only represents 30% of the entire Christian population in the region. Our experience is important but is only one part of the whole.
 
Islam in the US: the Basics PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 16:26
(via Christianity Today)

Muslims in the United States, according to Pew: 2,350,000

Percentage of U.S. Population: 0.8

Number of people from Islamic countries who became U.S. citizens in 2005: 96,000

Estimated U.S. converts to Islam according to World Christian Encyclopedia: 50,000

Estimated U.S. Muslims who convert to Christianity each year: 20,000

Percentage who are African American: 59%
 
Why Do Muslims Convert to Christianity? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 15:31
There's a lot of talk about Muslims becoming Christians all of a sudden due to Magdi Allam's baptism but I'm also seeing some quite misleading connections being made by people who have little or no knowledge of the subject.

I have done a number of substantive posts on the subject over the past year which could provide a lot of helpful and solid background now that MBB's are suddenly fashionable.

I'd like to start with an extraordinary bit of research undertaken by Dr. Dudley Woodbury, Professor of Islamics, Fulbright Scholar, expert in medieval Arabic literature, consultant to governments, and one of my former teachers.

"So what attracts Muslims to follow Jesus? Between 1991 and 2007, about 750 Muslims who have decided to follow Christ filled out an extensive questionnaire on that basic question. The respondents—from 30 countries and 50 ethnic groups—represent every major region of the Muslim world. (Copies of the questionnaire are available from This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .) The participants ranked the relative importance of different influences and whether they occurred before, at the time of, or after their decision to follow Christ. While the survey, prepared at Fuller Theological Seminary's School of Intercultural Studies, does not claim scientific precision, it provides a glimpse into some of the key means the Spirit of God is using to open Muslim hearts to the gospel."

Woodbury's summary of the five most frequently mentioned reasons:

1) The lifestyle of Christians. Former Muslims cited the love that Christians exhibited in their relationships with non-Christians and their treatment of women as equals.

2) The power of God in answered prayers and healing. Experiences of God's supernatural work—especially important to folk Muslims who have a characteristic concern for power and blessings—increased after their conversions, according to the survey. Often dreams about Jesus were reported.

3) Dissatisfaction with the type of Islam they had experienced. Many expressed dissatisfaction with the Qur'an, emphasizing God's punishment over his love. Others cited Islamic militancy and the failure of Islamic law to transform society.

4) The spiritual truth in the Bible. Muslims are generally taught that the Torah, Psalms, and the Gospels are from God, but that they became corrupted. These Christian converts said, however, that the truth of God found in Scripture became compelling for them and key to their understanding of God's character.

5) Biblical teachings about the love of God. In the Qur'an, God's love is conditional, but God's love for all people was especially eye-opening for Muslims. These converts were moved by the love expressed through the life and teachings of Jesus. The next step for many Muslims was to become part of a fellowship of loving Christians.



That's the summary. Now the details. i will bold the reasons these real MBBs give for their conversion.


Since a reader had posted a query as to why Roman Catholics were not participating in a meeting on evangelization of Muslims, I thought it would be good to print the bulk of this article. It demonstrates the variety of ways in which Muslims are being drawn to Christ. The same means are also true for other non-Christians who seek baptism.

Seeing a lived faith

First, we can look at the experiences that most influenced Muslims. For example, respondents ranked the lifestyle of Christians as the most important influence in their decision to follow Christ. A North African former Sufi mystic noted with approval that there was no gap between the moral profession and the practice of Christians he saw. An Egyptian contrasted the love of a Christian group at an American university with the unloving treatment of Muslim students and faculty he encountered at a university in Medina. An Omani woman explained that Christians treat women as equals. Others noted loving Christian marriages. Some poor people said the expatriate Christian workers they knew had adopted, contrary to their expectations, a simple lifestyle, wearing local clothes and observing local customs of not eating pork, drinking alcohol, or touching those of the opposite sex. A Moroccan was even welcomed by his former Christian in-laws after he underwent a difficult divorce.

Many Muslims who faced violence at the hands of other Muslims did not see it in the Christians they knew (regrettably, of course, Christians have been guilty of interethnic strife elsewhere). Muslim-on-Muslim violence has led to considerable disillusionment for many Muslims, from those who survived the 1971 war between the Bengalis of East Pakistan and the Pathans, Sindis, and Punjabis of West Pakistan, to Arab and Berber tensions in North Africa, and to Arab herdsmen fighting black African farmers in Darfur.

The next most important influence was the power of God in answered prayers and healing. Like most of the factors that former Muslims list, experiences of God's supernatural intervention often increase after Muslims decide to follow Christ.

In North Africa, Muslim neighbors asked Christians to pray for a very sick daughter who then was healed. In Senegal, a Muslim marabout (spiritual leader) referred a patient to Christians when he was not able to bring healing. In Pakistan, after a pilgrimage to Mecca did not cure a disabled Shiite girl, she was healed following Christian prayer.

Closely related was the finding that some noted deliverance from demonic power as another reason they were attracted to Jesus. After all, he is the healing prophet in the Qur'an and has power over demons in the Gospels. In northern Nigeria, a malam (what some might call a witchdoctor) used sorcery against a man who was considering following Jesus. The seeker became insane, and his extended family left him. But then he prayed that Christ would free him, and he was healed.

It helps to note that a third of the 750-person sample were folk Muslims, with a characteristic concern for power and blessings. It is also worth noting that the Jesus portrayed in the Qur'an is a prophet who heals lepers and the blind and raises the dead. Not surprisingly, many Muslims find him attractive. Of course, power and blessings do not constitute the final word for Muslims. The Bible also offers a theology of suffering, and many Muslims who follow Christ find that their faith is strengthened through trials.

The third biggest influence listed by respondents was dissatisfaction with the type of Islam they had experienced. They expressed unhappiness with the Qur'an, which they perceive as emphasizing God's punishment more than his love (although the Qur'an says he loves those who love him [3:31]). As for Islam's requirement that liturgical prayer should be in Arabic, a Javanese man asked, "Doesn't an all-knowing God know Indonesian?" Others criticized folk Islam's use of amulets and praying at the graves of dead saints.

Some respondents decried Islamic militancy and the imposition of Islamic law, which they said is not able to transform hearts and society. This disillusionment is broad in the Muslim world. Many Iranians became interested in the gospel after the Khomeini revolution of 1979 brought in rule by clergy. Pakistanis became more receptive after President Zia ul-Haq (1977-1988) tried to implement Islamic law. And Afghans became more open after Islamist Taliban conquest and rule (1994-2001).

As with Paul and Cornelius in Acts, visions and dreams played a role in the conversion of many. More than one in four respondents, 27 percent, noted dreams and visions before their decision for Christ, 40 percent at the time of conversion, and 45 percent afterward. Many Muslims view dreams as links between the seen and unseen worlds, and pre-conversion visions and dreams often lead Muslims to consult a Christian or the Bible.

Frequently a person in the vision, understood to be Jesus, radiates light or wears white (one respondent, though, said Jesus appeared in green, a color sometimes associated with Islamic holy persons). An Algerian woman had a vision that her Muslim grandmother came into her room and said, "Jesus is not dead; he is here." In Israel, an Arab dreamed that his deceased father said, "Follow the pastor. He will show you the right way." Other dreams and visions occurred later and provided encouragement during persecution. A Turkish woman in jail because of her conversion had a vision that she would be released, and she was. A vision of thousands of believers in the streets proclaiming their faith encouraged a young man in North Africa to persevere.

The message is the medium

Next in attraction for Muslims is the spiritual truth in the Bible. The Qur'an attests that the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospel (commonly understood as the New Testament) are from God. Even though Muslims are generally taught that these writings became corrupted, they often find them compelling reading and discover truth that they conclude must be from God. The Bible helped one Egyptian understand "the true character of God." The Sermon on the Mount helped convinced a Lebanese Muslim that he should follow the one who taught and exemplified these values.

Respondents were also attracted by the Bible's teaching about the love of God. In the Qur'an, although God loves those who love him, his love is conditional. He does not love those who reject faith (3:31-32). There is nothing in the Qur'an like, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10), or, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

A West African was surprised by God's love for all people, even enemies. Likewise, although the Qur'an denies that God is a father (37:152), many Muslims find this a comforting concept. Particularly attractive to Muslims is the love expressed through the life and teachings of Jesus. The Qur'an already calls him faultless (19:19). Many Muslims are attracted to him by his depiction in the Qur'an and then go to the Gospels to find out more. A Saudi was first drawn to him at a Christmas Eve service in Germany—even before he knew German. Like many, an Iranian Shiite was attracted to Christ before he was attracted to Christianity. A North African Sufi found Jesus' portrayal as the Good Shepherd particularly meaningful. When Christ's love transforms committed Christians into a loving community, many Muslims listed a desire to join such a fellowship as next in importance.

Subconscious influences

For the most part, respondents did not say that political or economic circumstances influenced their decisions. But it's hard not to notice that Iranians, Pakistanis, Afghans, Bangladeshis, and Algerians became more responsive after enduring Muslim political turmoil or attempts to impose Islamic law. Christian relief and development agencies try hard to guard against spiritually misusing their position as providers of desperately needed goods and services. But natural disasters in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Sahel region inevitably put Muslims in contact with Christians trying to follow Jesus. It is no surprise that some of these Muslims also choose to follow Christ.

In many places, apostasy [from Islam] is tantamount to rejecting family, religion, culture, ethnicity, and nationality. Thus, many Muslim converts face persecution from family, police, or militants. Two friends were unable to fill out the questionnaire—one because he was apparently poisoned by his own family, the other because the government imprisoned him and later his tongue was cut out by a warlord so that he could no longer say the name of Jesus.

But Muslim converts to Christ know that such persecution can, in a mysterious way, be part of the best of times. Jesus, in fact, said it was a blessing. That's because with or without persecution, Muslims are discovering an experiential truth unknown to them before. As a Zambian Muslim exclaimed, 'God loves me just as I am.'"
 
Rome, Rome on the Range . . . PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 15:08
If you are in the Colorado Springs area, consider spending the afternoon of April 20 with us.

THE ROAD TO ROME: LOCAL CONVERTS SHARE THEIR STORIES!

Road Home Forum: Converts share their paths into the Catholic Church. St. Francis Apologetics will host this very popular event at St Francis Parish Hall, 2650 Parish View in Colorado Springs on Sunday, April 20, from 3:30-6:00 PM. Our panel includes Paul McCusker, developer of Adventures in Odyssey for Focus on the Family, John and Edith Morrison, former Nazarene ministry team, and Sherry Weddell, co-founder and co-director of the Catherine of Siena Institute. Hear their stories and join us for the Q&A.

The organizers asked me to help publicize this little gathering so I've done my bit.

Oh, won't Mark Shea's kids be jealous that I'm gonna be talking with the man who created Adventures in Odyssey - the kid's radio program they grew up with!

Yes, folks, there are Catholics working for Focus on the Family - I know several although they are definitely an out-numbered minority.

I so seldom get to do stuff like this that it will be fun.

What's also fun is that it doesn't involve a 3 am wake up call and an airplane.
 
The Endless Conversation PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 08:47
Abu Daoud:

I do want to respond to your latest post but am simply slammed with work and leave on Friday for yet another trip.

So it may be a while.

Arrabumaakum, y'all.
 
That Global Village Thang . . . PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 08:38
Speaking of missions, I continue to delight in things the internet makes possible.

This morning, I finally got around to answering the e-mail of a young lay Dominican lay woman and journalist in SIngapore who has been passed around our Called & Gifted materials for 5 years and now wants to be trained to facilitate discernment for others as her participation in the Order's work of preaching.

So I googled her and quickly found her picture and a bio written for a conference on faith and work that she had spoken at last year.

I wanted to let her know that a young Dominican priest in Hong Kong is also very eager to bring the Called & Gifted process to Hong Kong and China, so I googled him.

And immediately found the You tube video of his ordination in Hong Kong - two weeks ago.

Talk about a global village. Missionary work just ain't what it used to be.
 
Quotes of the Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 25 March 2008 12:06
In light of our conversation below, here are some great, classic, inspiring quotes by missionaries about missions:

"God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply" -- Hudson Taylor

"Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God" -- William Carey

"Why do we not expect great things of God? We serve one who is all powerful." --St. Teresa of Avila

"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose" -- Jim Elliot

"If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?" -- David Livingstone

"If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." -- C.T. Studd

"If God calls you to be a missionary, don't stoop to be a king" -- Jordan Grooms (variations of this also credited to G. K. Chesterson, Thomas Carlyle and Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

"Let my heart be broken with the things that break God's heart" -- Bob Pierce, World Vision founder

"The reason some folks don't believe in missions is that the brand of religion they have isn't worth propagating." -- unknown

When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying, "You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages." To that, Calvert replied, "We died before we came here."

"Missions is the overflow of our delight in God because missions is the overflow of God's delight in being God." --John Piper

"God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose." -- John Piper

"We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God." -- John Stott

"The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity." -- Mike Stachura

"If God's love is for anybody anywhere, it's for everybody everywhere." -- Edward Lawlor, Nazarene General Superintendent

"It is possible for the most obscure person in a church, with a heart right toward God, to exercise as much power for the evangelization of the world, as it is for those who stand in the most prominent positions." -- John R. Mott

"Missionary zeal does not grow out of intellectual beliefs, nor out of theological arguments, but out of love" -- Roland Allen

"If the Great Commission is true, our plans are not too big; they are too small." -- Pat Morley

"The history of missions is the history of answered prayer." -- Samuel Zwemer

"Tell the students to give up their small ambitions and come eastward to preach the gospel of Christ." -- St. Francis Xavier, missionary to India, the Philippines, and Japan

"Someone asked Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved? It is more a question with me whether we -- who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not -- can be saved." -- Charles Spurgeon

“It would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought: . . .can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame—what St. Paul called 'blushing for the Gospel'—or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it? " -- Pope Paul VI- Evangelization in the Modern World, 80

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