By Rony Tomo, Guest Blogger Working With Muslims in the Middle East
Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Few verses in the Bible provide more encouragement to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. As followers of Christ, we know that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Yet, in the meantime, the Church is faced with numerous challenges that stand in the way of its mission. Perhaps at the forefront of those challenges in the global context is the stronghold of Islam.
Islam is a religion that began in the sixth century AD now boasts over 1.5 billion adherents, making it the second largest religion in the world. Numerous publications cite that Islam is also the fastest growing religion in the world, with a growth rate of 2.9% between 1970 and 2000 (due primarily to high birth rates). The significant growth of Islam in places like Europe has been well documented in the past few years. This phenomenon has led one writer to state, “Islam is already the fastest-growing religion in Europe. Driven by immigration and high birthrates, the number of Muslims on the continent has tripled in the last 30 years. Most demographers forecast a similar or even higher rate of growth in the coming decades.” This quote and others like it demonstrate the challenge that Islam presents to the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
In all the talk recently about a Great Commission Resurgence, I have been thinking about what that may look like on a practical level. As an international worker I have prayed for the day when more churches will possess a heart for the nations, more money will be allotted to accomplish God’s task around the world, and more people will focus on making disciples as opposed to just making “converts.” These, among other issues, express what I desire to be accomplished with the GCR. But I want to narrow my focus and look more closely at the impact the GCR will have on confronting Islam around the globe, because a GCR will mean more than restructuring or reallocating funds. It will mean planting churches in cultures dominated by Islam.
When people embrace the vision to follow Christ to the ends of the earth and to shout the announcement of His Kingdom to the Muslim world, one must wrestle practically with what that might look like in our 21st century context. Will they even listen? Will they understand the message we bring? Will they ever believe? No doubt, the task will be difficult. In the coming post I want to give you a glimpse into the life of a devout Muslim. I want to draw your attention to some common barriers that believers face when engaging Muslims in conversation about Christ. At the same time, many of what are initially seen as barriers can later be used as bridges to draw one to a better understanding of Jesus and the Gospel. I will share what I believe to be the three most common barriers and bridges for a devout Muslim who is dialoguing with a follower of Christ about the truth of the Gospel.
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Spending a major part of my summer in northern Ghana, I witnessed a country that has a very democratic and stable government, a kind and gentle culture, and plenty of opportunities for the gospel to be delivered to the lost for those willing to come and share. Driving through the countryside and bush, many mosques appear (80% Muslim in Northern Region) have signs outside of them that give credit for Iran which has provided the funding for the mosque. I find it disturbing that Christianity has the non-dangerous opportunity to win the lost in this region of Ghana, but Islam is growing much faster and has much more resources. The IMB has pulled out there personal from this country (people groups refocus) while eliminating most of their funding. Their buildings have been sold and some are now Muslim Mosque. We must ask what is preventing the truth if the doorway is wide open for sharing…..we must come to the realization of our disobedience, which will have dire consequences with eternal consequences. We must chapion the call to enter the Muslim world at all cost. 250 billion over the last 6 years on domestic min. and the conversions are declining…take the gospel where it would be soaked up and used…..the world is hungry outside of America.
Looking forward to reading this series…
I’m also working with this religious segment and am looking forward to seeing the rest of your posts.
We also need to keep in mind that this focus on the GCR will force our churches in the US to deal with Islam on their turf as well. They won’t be able to bury their heads in the sand and hope it away. They have an incredible opportunity to touch the nations by engaging the nations in their own backyard.
” I find it disturbing that Christianity has the non-dangerous opportunity to win the lost in this region of Ghana, but Islam is growing much faster and has much more resources. The IMB has pulled out there personal from this country (people groups refocus) while eliminating most of their funding. ”
Well, it appears that the only two nations with Christian communities serious about global evangelism are America and South Korea. The reason is that those are basically the only two large expressions of Christianity that are not primarily state churches whose only main avenue of growth is infant baptism. Not only is the paedobaptism culture inherently bad for evangelism, but their insistence on wedding themselves to the state and high priority on retaining their influence over it takes energy and devotion from the Great Commission. It was like that from the very beginning of the Reformation when Calvin decided that running Geneva took priority over the unreached (though he did encourage others who wanted to undertake this endeavor, he himself did not dedicate sufficient time or energy to it). As for America, with the rise of the religious right we have fallen into the same trap as the state church people … redirecting our time, money and most importantly passion from the gospel to trying to use politics to force our beliefs down the throats of the unregenerate. A mere fraction of the money and effort spent by evangelicals to elect John McCain (and to be fair, of the same spent by black evangelicals to elect Barack Obama) would make a ton of difference in Uganda and elsewhere. And yes, it is also true that getting to unreached people groups so that we can fulfill the Great Commission and speed the return of Jesus Christ takes priority over maintaining new churches. We just check “reached” off places like http://www.joshuaproject.net/ and move on, ignoring that if we take the time to build up third world churches into maturity, those churches can then go on to sponsor their own cross cultural evangelism efforts, which actually fulfills the Great Commission faster than trying to run everything from America. Proof of this is how the South Koreans have had success getting into countries that America has had difficulty getting missionaries into. Fortunately, God is sovereign and will ultimately accomplish His plan of fulfilling Matthew 28:19, but many of us Christians have allowed ourselves to become distracted from His work.
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