Elizabeth, BJU Alumnus
I grew up on the mission field in Cameroon, Africa, and missionary biographies were a staple in my home. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat as I read Rosalind Goforth’s account of escaping China during the Boxer rebellion, shedding tears with Anne Judson as she buried her first child in Burma, cheering Mary Slessor on as she pounded a hippopotamus with her frying pan in Africa, and praising God with Darlene Rose in a prison in Japan. So, I guess it’s no surprise that I’ve wanted to do missions ever since junior high. When I went to Bob Jones University, I chose to major in elementary education, because I knew that would be something I could use on the mission field. While I was there, I was heavily involved in Missions Advance. I loved learning about missions all around the world; I remember hearing missionaries speak from India, Philippines, Yemen, South Africa, and France, to name a few! When we didn’t have a speaker, we would have prayer requests listed for different missionaries and parts of the world. After the presentations were done, we would all scoot our chairs in little groups and pray. Sitting in those plastic chairs, listening to the murmurs of people praying all around me, and lifting my own heart up in prayer gave me a taste of true gospel advance. I knew God was working even as we prayed. Even though there were so many other things I could be doing (and yes, there were times I skipped and did those other things!), I never regretted it when I went.
Fast forward a couple years to about three weeks ago when I took a survey type trip to a restricted access country with my one year old and husband (Yeah, a lot can change in a couple of years… let’s just say Missions Advance is a good place not only to pray, but also get to know your future special someone!). My husband and I are interested in missions to a restricted access country, so we spent about two and a half weeks visiting “workers” in a predominantly Muslim country. We rented a car so we could travel to several different cities and get a feel for the whole country. During one of these trips to a nearby city, as I watched the countryside fly by my window, I started to reflect (as somehow long car rides tend to make you do) on what we had been able to do and see so far. I was struck by how hard it would be to do missions here in this country; the people did not seem open to the gospel. Even after years of service, missionaries there only met with two or three believers. I wondered, “Would it be better to go to a place where people were more open to the gospel, where they wanted to hear about Jesus? The people here just seem so anti-Christian and…. closed. Islam is everything.” These thoughts troubled me and made me wonder if we were right for this country.
The next day, I read Matthew 8-9 for my devotions. As I read, I noticed a theme unfolding:
But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed… When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith…” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. (Matt. 8: 8,10,13)
And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. (Matt. 8:25-26)
And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven. (Matt. 9:2)
And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” (Matt. 9:27-29)
As I read, I thought about my troubled questions from the day before. I pondered, where was my faith? Do I, like the blind men, believe that He is able to do this? How can I do anything but to echo their response of “Yes Lord”? Without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6). Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus was pleased by the faith of people on earth. He is pleased by my faith that He really can draw people to himself and save them in a closed, Muslim country.
Since we have gotten back to States, I’ve continued to reflect on how God uses faith to reach closed countries and how prayer is inseparably linked with that faith. In 1887, the Goforths, missionaries to China, were appointed the task of reaching a new province in China with the gospel. It was one of the most anti-foreign provinces in all of China. When Hudson Taylor heard of their new mission field, he wrote to Mr. Goforth, “Brother, if you would enter that province, you must go forward on your knees" (Rosalind Goforth, How I Know God Answers Prayer).
If I want to go to a restricted access country, or do any type of missions, it must be preceded by and saturated with faith-filled prayer. Now that I’ve graduated from BJU, and missions advance, prayer group, society prayer meetings, etc. are gone, I pray a lot less for missions. I’ve had to ask myself, am I praying for the lost? More than that, am I praying with faith? Not only for missions but what about for unsaved family members? For some reason, it seems like it takes more faith to pray for the salvation of an unsaved family member or friend than for hundreds of Muslims across the world! Am I praying for the lost and acting on that faith?
What about you? Are you praying for the lost? Are you praying with faith? Are you willing to act on that faith and share the gospel—across the world, on an extension, to your unsaved friend or family member? Maybe you, like me, feel inadequate. Maybe you believe that God could save people in some missionary presentation, but not your unsaved grandfather. Maybe you believe God could use Hudson Taylor or some brave missionaries from the past in the dark jungles of Africa, but you wonder, “Can he really use me today? No cannibals, prisons, frying pans, boxer rebellions, but just ordinary me in ordinary Greenville, SC?” When God asked Gideon to save Israel from Midian, Gideon responded:
“How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
The Lord answered, “I will be with you.” (Jud. 6:15-16)
What more could we ask for? The Lord will be with us! With God all things are possible. Where is our faith?
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.
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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.