How often, do we mistakenly believe the church in the west has to send missionaries to the unreached people groups of the world, otherwise they will never hear the gospel and get saved.
Those of you who have read Heavenly Man by Brother Yun, realise that after Mao came to power in China, Christian Missionaries from the west were deported or killed. The Chinese church went underground, now with its total dependence on God. Has God built His church through forty years of persecution under Mao? Yes! emphatically Yes! He has, and much like the early church, they experience all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including the miraculous.
Well the same is true in the middle east, Muslims are coming to Jesus without coming into contact with missionaries from the west. God is not waiting on Western workers to reach the peoples of the world!
God always takes the initiative. He is always seeking ways to reveal Himself in the darkest corners of the earth.
Nik Ripken in his book, The Insanity of Obedience – Walking with Jesus in tough places, reveals that more than 90% of Muslim background believers had come to faith without the help of an outsider or a believer from another culture.
Hence if Muslims are coming to Jesus (and they are), and if these conversions are not currently aided by Western workers (and they are not) then exactly how are these conversions happening? This question is of course crucial.
It was discovered that for Muslim Background Believers (MBB’s), there are three major components in their journey to faith in Jesus.
DREAMS & VISIONS
First most experienced dreams and visions which set them on a spiritual pilgrimage. In talking to hundreds of MBB’s, they heard repeatedly of a period of time lasting three to five years when dreams and visions were present and life-shaping in their pilgrimage to Jesus. It was very common for them to hear a voice without a body speaking to them and they knew it was Jesus or on occasions thought it was the angel Gabriel (Gabriel is significant, because it is believed that he gave the Qur’an to Mohammed). It was common to see a bright white light. A strong desire to get and read a Bible was common (Qur’an refers to Jesus as the “Word of God”).
It is interesting, to many Muslims, dreams and visions are not considered to be miraculous events; they are in fact quite common. What is miraculous, is how God breaks into those dreams and visions and overtime leads the seeker to begin a spiritual pilgrimage. The dreams and visions are not salvific. The dreams allow God to get the recipients attention and eventually lead them to Jesus.
Strangely, when these dreams and visions begin, a Muslim will typically turn to the mosque for answers and explanations. This is of course, the natural place a Muslim would seek answers. Typically, a first question to a spiritual leader in the mosque was “What do these dreams mean? Interestingly, spiritual leaders in the mosque invariably affirmed that the dreams and visions are from God, and they will often tell the seeker that the instructions in the dreams need to be followed. Strangely also, is that when God begins to break into their consciousness through these means, Muslims begin to visit and pray in the mosque like never before. The males may grow a long beard, change the way they dress, become a conservative practitioner of I slam.
The next steps are radical and usually involve the seeker asking questions of their Muslim spiritual leader that he cannot answer to their satisfaction. Questions such as, “How can I know God loves me?” and “How can I be sure I go to paradise when I die?” The answer from the Muslim leader to both questions will be, “Well, you can’t know that.” Often the seeker will be harshly commanded to stop asking such questions and to simply submit to Islam and obey the Qur’an. At some point, unanswerable questions like these will lead to frustration. And often, within three to six months, the seeker will leave the mosque and look for answers elsewhere. In most cases the seeker will never return to the mosque.
ENCOUNTERS WITH THE BIBLE
Always as part of the MBB’s spiritual quest, there were dramatic encounters with the Bible. Often these encounters were miraculous. Bibles are simply not available. In some cases, Muslims simply began to dream about the Bible (God’s Word), but still have no idea where to find one. In Central Asia, one seeker, who had been attempting to find a Bible for months, went to an all male market and there, a stranger simply appeared in the busy marketplace and handed him a Bible. The stranger simply said, ” the Holy Spirit told me to give this to you”. He then disappeared into the crowd. In another case, a seeker having been told in a dream to get a Bible, wandered through a bookstore filled with green Qur’ans. There at the back of the shop was a single blue covered book which he was drawn to, it turned out to be a Bible, which of course he purchased. Another female Muslim seeker shared her dream about a Bible with her family and discovered that her father was also a seeker who shared his bible with her. Nik and his team heard many stories like these and because of the miraculous way these seekers obtained their Bibles they treated them as prize possessions and read the voraciously. Most had read their Bibles through multiple times even up to twenty one times before coming to faith in Christ. What this meant is that most MBB’s have a profound knowledge of Scripture before making their faith decision. Nik concluded that “Where there is no Bible, there is no salvation” .
The centrality of Scripture to this salvation process is so important. The dreams and visions even required that kind of encounter with the Bible. And that kind of encounter is indispensable to the conversion process. This of course poses a big problem for the seeker who cannot read and there are many Muslim women who are illiterate. Fortunately, there are Christian radio stations able to get there signal into Muslim countries and report some success but no doubt God is also using MMB’s to witness to them.
ENCOUNTERS WITH IN-CULTURE OR NEAR CULTURE BELIEVERS
After dreams and visions, miraculous encounters with the Bible then third, there are encounters with in-culture and near-culture believers. These encounters often take the form of “divine appointments” where someone simply appears on the scene to provide guidance, counsel and instruction.
In Scripture, these kinds of encounters happen frequently. Philip’s meeting with the Ethiopian eunuch, Ananias role with Saul to become Paul and many others. How did the Ethiopian eunuch have the Isaiah scroll? Likewise, how do Muslim seekers get a Bible, but miraculously.
Nik also discovered that Western missionaries can be a negative, as they can fear persecution and avoid it at all costs. Also, dreams and visions are not the norm for most missionaries so would they be able to discern what God is doing. Moreover providing a Bible is no problem which would deprive the MMB of God’s miraculous provision. If an outsider provides everything for the seeker what is left for the Holy Spirit to provide?
It is obvious that God is perfectly able to draw people to Himself and our task is not to co-opt this process but to prayerfully discern what He is doing and join Him as insrructed. Much like Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch, God brings him into the story miraculously at exactly the right time and takes him out again just as suddenly and miraculously.
This is obviously not the only way God works but clearly we see that He needs to be directing the work. Our role is supportive, in league with Him. One role in particular, that Nik saw God use MMB’s to initiate, was to start churches particularly of the Book of Acts variety.
Bring on the persecution Lord, if it means we get to experience YOU more, to know You love us, and are providing what we really need to build our relationship with You. Give us a hunger for Your Word like these MMB’s we have read about.
It is great to know, You are constantly reaching out to the lost. Help us Lord to get in step with You.