Amid acts of violence, terror, and increased numbers of refugees, something beautiful is happening in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Muslims are converting to Christianity by the thousands.
Last year’s Momentum Conference, hosted by the Voice of the Martyrs (Canada), featured persecuted Christian speakers from around the world, and highlighted the growth spurt of the church in Muslim countries and communities, undoubtedly at a higher rate than in America.
Consider the recent State of the Church report published by research firm Barna in September 2016. The report highlights that approximately 73% of Americans identify as Christian, that there’s an overall decline in America’s church attendance, and how only 46% of American Christians believe they have a duty to share their faith.
International Christian worker and evangelist, Bassma Dabbour Jaballah, was one speaker at Momentum, who works on the front lines of sharing Jesus Christ in the very Muslim communities she was raised.
Knowing full well the risks and the ultimate cost of converting to Christianity, Muslims are being exposed to the love and liberty that is the embodiment of Jesus Christ, accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior – even at the threat of losing their families, jobs, friends, heritage…their lives.
Winning Souls Who Have the Most to Lose
Brothers and sisters in Christ with Muslim backgrounds, like Bassma, risk their lives to share Jesus Christ in countries where the name of Jesus is not welcomed.
“Unspeakable peace, unspeakable joy prompts you to share Jesus everywhere.”
– Bassma Dabbour Jaballah
Watch this interview with Teammate Bassma as she shares the freedom to follow and share Jesus:
After hearing her heart and listening to her sermons and interviews, I noticed a stark difference between the passion and commitment of Muslim converts to Christianity and the Christian church in America.
Our brothers and sisters in Christ who are living or serving in Christian-hostile countries are steadfast and unmovable! With scarce resources, little to no theological education, and zero public platforms, Muslim converts are living faithful lives that honor Christ under the most extreme circumstances.
Story after story, testimonies abound
David Garrison, a missionary pioneer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, has traveled to every corner of the Muslim world. The purpose of his work is to research the conversion from Islam to Christianity and interview courageous Muslim converts.
‘An African evangelist gave me an Injil (New Testament) in the Arabic language. Because the Injil was in Arabic, God’s language, I knew that it must be true, so I began to read it.’ That night Hasan had a dream. ‘I saw a tall minaret. I was disturbed to see a man with an ax chopping the minaret down. When I looked closer, I saw that the man…was me!’
The shock of the dream awakened the sheikh in a panic. ‘I had the same dream three times,’ he said. ‘The next day, I found the evangelist who had given me the Injil. “What does this dream mean?” I demanded. He looked at me and smiled. “You will win many sheikhs to faith in Jesus Christ.”
Today, Sheikh Hasan travels from village to village, speaking to sheikhs, who are leaders of the Islamic community. ‘So far,’ he told me, ‘I have led 400 sheikhs to faith in Jesus Christ.’
Has the threat of violence, poverty, or death slowed down Bassma or Hasan?
We know the body of Christ in America has not seen the turmoil of our brothers and sisters in MENA. But what will be our response when we do?
Can the church in America afford to be complacent and believe that Christian persecution only happens “over there”? Have we not seen the handwriting on the wall – how America has become more hostile to Christian values and Biblical standards?
The time is now for the church in America to take a page from our Muslim-background brothers and sisters. Though some are even babes in Christ, they carry the gospel with such bravery and boldness. It puts the church in America to shame.
Christian Characteristics of Muslim Converts – What Can We Learn?
Let’s not simply look at persecuted Christians in Muslim countries with admiration and no action. What patterns of Christian living have these converts mastered, that if we were honest, we can admit we still have work to do? How can their iron sharpen us?
Here are 5 Christian lifestyle characteristics or convictions I’ve noticed, and I encourage us all to take prayerful notes and implement any needed change:
1. Win others with love.
Christian workers in Muslim countries have a keen understanding of the word serve, and their service in love, with emphasis in combating social injustice, is what draws people away from Islam to Christ. But, not only their love to those they’re trying to win, but they have deep honor and respect for one another (John 13:35). They are unified in the work of faith, which wins the trust of those to whom they witness.
Do Christians in America stand united against social injustice? Can the church in America effectively win souls for Christ divided and bickering? When we attack and dishonor each other, will the world run to our doorsteps to receive this Jesus we preach about?
2. Glory in persecution.
Muslim converts enter the family of God under the threat of imminent persecution. There is no reprieve, no grace period – upon hearing of their conversion, they can face the immediate penalty of death. Oh, but what honor they find in being persecuted for the risen Savior (Matthew 5:10-12)! Many have been beaten and jailed for their faith in Jesus Christ, released, and go right back to proclaiming the gospel!
Are Christians in America equipped to handle persecution for Christ’s sake, when many of us barely maintain our faith when faced with gossip? How often does the church in America ascribe persecution as a “trick of the enemy” vs. an honor and privilege?
3. Honor discipleship training.
When asked how the church can pray for those on the front line, Bassma replies, “There is a need for discipleship training and resources… When the Christians are trained and disciples, they have a huge impact on their Muslim neighbors who are seekers.” The plight for souls does not end at the sinner’s prayer. Muslim-background evangelists understand the need for actual training that will build the faith of new converts, and replicate the process of evangelism with new witnesses.
Does the church in America place enough emphasis on discipleship training? Are new converts even interested? Has the American church painted the picture that “receiving Christ as Lord and Savior” is the end of the story? How does your church prepare members for witnessing or evangelism?
4. Come as little children.
Bassma says, “It doesn’t need too much theological understanding to follow Jesus. That’s why He called us to be like the little children.” The simplicity of salvation – confess that Jesus is Lord and God raised Him from the dead – is available to all who hear it. From there, like a loving Father, God will nurture and increase that seed to maturity.
Do we in the American church add too many restrictions, requirements, and clauses to accepting Jesus Christ? Do we accelerate babes in Christ to unrealistic levels of knowledge and duty – becoming stumbling blocks to the work of Jesus Christ in them?
5. Pray without ceasing.
Muslims have mastered the discipline of prayer, with the call to pray five times per day. The seed of prayer is well instilled in the life of Muslim converts to Christianity, for most since childhood. Though former prayers to Allah are now prayers to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the understanding of the importance and power of prayer still rings true in the life of these believers.
When’s the last time you or members of your church had a massive turnout for a prayer service? How many times per day, per week do you pray? Is the house of God in America a house of prayer, or so many other things (den of thieves)?
So, What’s the Play Call?
Check your commitment to Jesus Christ. Ask God if there are places in your heart, in your life that you haven’t fully committed to Him. Then, fully re-commit all that you are to God.
Be loyal to the end, Team. As our sister, Bassma, puts it, “The peace, the joy of eternal life…it’s worth the price.”
Please pray without ceasing for persecuted Christians all over the world.