David, BJU Alumnus
Twenty-eight years ago, I moved from BJU–Brokenshire to a Muslim-majority country. I remember my first evenings here. At dusk I would climb onto the roof of an orphanage and hear the muezzins wailing out their calls to prayer. Since then I’ve heard that call some 40,000 times, but by the grace of God it still brings a lump to my throat. The first line of the call says, “Allah is great,” but it is the fifth line that grips me deeply: “Hasten to the salvation!” This saddens me as I consider how many are running to the wrong prophet, but it gives me hope to think about Our Loving Salvation’s finding those who seek Him, even if they are currently hastening to the wrong direction, knowing not Whom they really need.
As I write this in my study, I count some thirty-some books about Islam on my bookshelves (these are just the ones I’ve decided to keep). I’ve read the Quran, many of the hadith, and histories of the world from an Islamic perspective. I’ve studied Sufism and observed howling dervishes in their tekkes (dizzying stuff!). To learn more about Islam, I prefer going to their bookstores, not ours.
Beyond my research, I’ve talked to and shared the Gospel with countless Muslims, mystics, and scholars—even former Guantanamo Bay detainees and a few confirmed terrorists. I don’t consider myself an expert on Islam, but I was happy for the invitation to write on this theme—the dos and don’ts of talking to Muslims. I hope it helps:
Dr. Jacob Pursley, Friend to the Muslim World
Mass Muslim Conversions
We Christians have a problem. For over 1,200 years there was no movement of Muslims to Christ. Muhammad died in 632 A.D., but his new religion spread and thrived, unhindered. That is until the 19th century onward. David Garrison in his book, A Wind in the House of Islam, explains that a movement of Muslims to Christ means, “at least 1,000 baptized believers of the past one or two decades or 100 new churches are established over the same time frame within a given people group or ethnic Muslim community.”
The Christians’ problem is not the lack of movements to Christ from 632-1870, but rather the explosion of conversions from 1870 to the present. There were two movements in the 19th century, eleven movements in the 20th. century, and now in the 21st century there have been sixty-nine movements (recorded from 2000-2012).
So what are the exact numbers of converts today? This is hard to say. According to strict figures, in North America alone, there are estimated to be 493,000 Believers from a Muslim Background (hereafter BMBs), and worldwide that figure grows to 985,300.
Due to persecution and anonymity, it is difficult to estimate the actual number of Muslims coming to faith in Christ. Some have suggested that in Iran alone, there are as many as one million converts, though more conservative figures estimate around 450,000. According to David Garrison, there has never been a time in history wherein so many Muslims have come to faith in Christ (his figures are somewhere between two and seven million).
So why are the number of conversions a problem for Christians? It is because we are called to disciple them, and we are not equipped to do so. When Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations and teach them to observe all that he commanded us (Matt. 28:19-20), this includes all of these new converts. Those from a western background, who are not familiar with the impact of the Islamic primary sources (Qur’an, Hadith, Sirat) and Muslim culture on BMBs, are faced with unique challenges to fulfill Jesus’ commandment. We must prepare ourselves for this harvest and its unique challenges.
I have been in ministry among Muslims now for over 20 years (during this exponential growth of BMBs). My ministry has primarily been among Kurmanji speaking Kurds, Persians, Zazas, and Turks. I found apologetics and evangelism among Muslims to be much easier than with westerners. Muslims want to talk about the two taboos in the West—politics and religion. They usually bring up the subject of religion first, and almost every encounter with a Muslim may lead to answering their objections to Christianity and presenting the gospel. Let’s look at some fresh research on how Muslims are coming to Christ and the implications.
Factors that Led Muslims to Christ
In 2019, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation concerning discipling BMBs. Part of my research was surveying missionaries and BMB pastors concerning their experience of how Muslims are coming to faith.
According to my research, the most influential factor that led Muslims to Jesus was exposure to the Bible via reading or listening. The second most influential factors that led Muslims to Jesus were dreams and visions. What is interesting was the least influential factor leading Muslims to Jesus was street evangelism/preaching (this maybe because it is rarely being done in the Muslim world). The second least influential factor that led Muslims to Jesus was visiting a physical church building.
What this tells me is that we need to get God’s word into the hands of Muslims, challenge them to read it, and read it with them. If they cannot read, find audio versions for them to listen to. We should also continue to pray that God would reveal himself in dreams and visions. I personally have seen many Muslims have their first encounter with Christ in this way too. However, it is not the vision or dream of Christ that saves them. The Muslim thereafter finds a church/missionary/Bible, and then upon hearing and believing the gospel is saved, for the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:17).
When it comes to the least influential factor that has led Muslims to Christ, maybe we need more winsome and equipped street preachers and bold evangelists in the Muslim world. However, it is clear that there needs to be an emphasis on getting God’s word into the hands of Muslims. As missionaries give out Bibles/SD cards with the Bible on it, they must teach the Bible’s trustworthiness along with how to read it.
Bible Left on a Park Bench
Mahmut, a deacon of our church in Istanbul, came to faith by discovering a New Testament on a park bench near his home. Mahmut began to read the Bible and thought to himself that its message was not bad, and the teachings of the book were loving and peaceful. This was surprising to him, because he was reared with Muslim indoctrination, which taught that anything Christian was bad. The more he read, the more he learned that what he had been taught was not true. Eventually, he met some Christians and later professed faith in Christ.
Around fifteen years after finding the New Testament on the bench, Mahmut, through a ministry outreach that our church helped organize, met the woman who accidentally left the Bible there. During the outreach, Mahmut recounted how he came to faith, beginning with finding a New Testament on a park bench. This woman immediately came to him and asked, “where did you find this Bible, what year was this, and what time of year?” After their conversation, she had remembered accidentally leaving the New Testament there at that park on that bench on that date. She did not know about Mahmut’s story or the fruit of her forgetfulness until that day!
“Go to the Church and ask for a Bible.”
The first time I ever translated in my life was the testimony of a Turkish pastor. We met at a Bible school in Ephesus, and I was translating so that my mother could understand. This pastor recounted that he grew up in a Muslim family and had never met a Christian or read a Bible. However, it all changed the night Jesus visited him in a dream. In the dream, Jesus said to him, “you have read the Qur’an (pointing to a Qur’an in his room), but you have not yet read my book. Go to ….. city, and you will find a church. Go into the church and ask for a Bible.” The Turkish pastor said he listened to Jesus, went to the city that was told him, and found the church. He was nervous about going in and asking for a Bible. It just so happened that the pastor of the church felt a prompting to put in an extra Bible into his bag that very morning. When this young Turkish Muslim man asked him for a Bible and explained the dream, the pastor then understood. It was at this church and through this pastor that this young Muslim man first heard the gospel and received his first Bible. Jesus did reveal himself to this man, but it was through the ordinary proclamation of the gospel and intentional discipleship that this Muslim came to Christ.
Who is to say that we are not living in the last days as prophesied by Joel? “. . . [A]nd your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. . .” (Joel 2:28). What is clear is that the Muslim world needs Christians that will make themselves available for this great new harvest.
 David Garrison, A Wind in the House of Islam, (Monument CO: WIGTake Resources, 2014),
 Ibid., 226.
 Duane Alexander Miller, and Patrick Johnstone, “Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census,” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 11:10 (2015).
 Samuel Smith, “Over 450,000 Join Iranian House Church Movement, 'Great Number of Muslims Turning to Christ',” The Christian Post, March 3, 2016, Accessed January 2, 2017, http://www.christianpost.com/news/over-450000-join-iranian-house-church-movement-great-number-of-muslims-turning-to-christ-158883/
 Garrison, 5.
Savannah McPhail, BJU Student
Savannah is a senior communication major at Bob Jones University. Having lived in Cambodia most of her life as an MK, she has interacted with many Buddhists.
The first time I had to make a stand for Christ against Buddhism was when I was nine years old. I stood with hundreds of students on a dusty Cambodian school yard as orange-robed Buddhist monks took the stage to begin the dedication ceremony for the school year. As the chanting began, students of all ages around me raised their hands to their noses in a gesture of respect, and heat rushed to my face. It came to me in a flash. I was a Christian. I could not honor the monks. I dropped my hands to my sides and clenched my fists, half turning to one side. Someone gasped and said, “raise your hands!” A boy nearby said, “No, she’s a Christian,” and I was left alone.
Buddhism is a religion that dominates entire countries and cultures and is quickly spreading to the West. It can look different depending on where it is found, but its core beliefs are the same—and they are very attractive to a Western mindset. Realize that a Buddhist will understand life in a fundamentally alien way from a Christian. Definitions of words will not even be the same. If you want to have a conversation about Jesus with a Buddhist, you must understand where they are coming from.
In Buddhism there is no god, no sin, and no forgiveness. The world is redefined as an endless cycle of suffering without beginning or end. The root of suffering is in human desire, and the elimination of desire will result in losing your sense of self—enlightenment—which will result in nirvana, the cessation of existence and escape from the cycle of suffering.
“Sin,” a Buddhist monastic here in Greenville told me, “is not a word.” You cannot break commandments, because there is no one giving commands. There is no responsibility to a higher power or relationship to a creator. There is only good and bad karma, which affects only yourself. How do you know right from wrong? The monastic sat cross-legged on a cushion, wrapped in her orange robes. She bowed her shaved head and told a story about the Buddha. Nobles once asked the Buddha how to tell which religious teachers were right and which were wrong. The Buddha told them to consider whether or not it was right to kill. They said no. This showed that they already knew what was right or wrong in themselves. Though the Buddha did give certain precepts and truths to help guide people, right and wrong are things we know if we search our own hearts.
Can you see why this would be attractive to Westerners?
“Salvation,” or escape from suffering, is attained through self-effort. Good karma will bring good results for you, in this life or the next. If you do exceptionally well, you might make a hiatus in your own personal heaven, but the highest goal is nirvana. Bad karma cannot be forgiven, because there is no one to forgive it. The only way to erase bad karma is by doing a greater amount of good deeds. Hopefully, your good karma will overwhelm your bad. If not, bad things are ahead for you, possibly even a sojourn in a hell. Generally being a good person is the goal, and you are in control of your own karma.
“Tolerance” in Buddhism is a key point of persuasion for many Westerners. “Buddhism is peaceful,” the monastic emphasized. You can be of any religion and be a Buddhist. You can believe anything you desire as long as you follow the precepts of Buddha and try to have good karma. Buddhism is accepting. You can practice it in any nation. Buddhism is just about becoming a beautiful mind. How kind and accepting it sounds!
How do these beliefs affect how you share Jesus with a Buddhist?
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.