NORTHERN AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST – Omar Aziz walked all the way from one country to the other — across minefields and mountains and deserts — for the funeral of a friend’s teenage son.
At the funeral he sat between the parents, Nik and Ruth Ripken.
And what he saw was shocking.
“People were singing. People were crying. But everyone there seemed to know that Tim was in paradise,” said Aziz, a devout Muslim. “Why can’t we Muslims know that our loved ones are in paradise when they die? Why is it that only these followers of Jesus know exactly where they are going after death?”
It’s thoughts like these that are getting Muslims to ask the right questions, said Nik Ripken, the world’s leading expert on the persecuted church in Muslim contexts.
And David Garrison said those questions are leading to a revival in the Muslim world like never seen before.
“Movements to Christ are occurring in virtually every corner of the Muslim world,” said Garrison, the International Mission Board’s global strategist for evangelical advance.
This is coming from the work of the Holy Spirit and the spread of the gospel alongside the dissatisfaction Muslims say they have from their own religion, Garrison said.
“They speak of feeling lost, empty inside, without assurance of salvation. Many are weary of terrorism, fundamentalism and discrimination against women and non-Muslims,” he said. “It is also striking how many cultural Muslims, those whose faith was nothing more than a nominal identity, are finding in Christ a living Lord who hears and answers their prayers.”
It’s remarkable, said Garrison, who is currently writing a book called A Wind in the House of Islam set to be published later this year. “We have researched this and can say with confidence that no generation in history has ever seen so many Muslim movements to Christ.”
It’s a unique event across 1,400 years of Christians and Muslims interacting, Garrison said.
“The sad truth is that over the past 14 centuries, Christianity has lost tens of millions to Islamic advance.”
But during that time, the Christian response was often avoidance or conflict, Garrison said. In the past couple of decades, the strategy has moved to prayerful, intentional witnessing, he explained.
“The results should not surprise us. After 13 centuries without a single uncoerced Muslim movement to Christ, we are now witnessing scores of movements with thousands of born-again, baptized, Bible-believing, Muslim-background followers of Christ to show for it,” Garrison said.
Exactly how many there are, no one knows, he said. Security issues don’t allow for thorough counts.
“Certainly there are hundreds of thousands, perhaps even a few million,” Garrison said.
In his research, Garrison has limited his surveys to movements of at least 1,000 baptisms or 100 new church starts over the past decade or two. At present, he said he is tracking 73 movements that fit this description.
“Several of these movements have tens of thousands of baptized believers from Muslim backgrounds,” he said.
What is causing these Muslims to turn to Christ?
“God is using many things,” Garrison said. “Answered prayers, dreams, massive seed sowing through New Testament distribution, one-on-one evangelism, gospel satellite TV and the Jesus Film have all been reported in Muslim encounters with Christ.”
Garrison asked Christians to pray that believers in Jesus “will take advantage of this great turning of Muslims to Christ” by praying for Muslims, sharing with them more frequently and “resisting the temptation to repay evil for evil when we are mistreated by them.”
He asked for prayers for Muslims who turn to Jesus, that they would be protected from the persecution “that inevitably follows” and that they will be bold in sharing their faith despite that persecution.
“Pray for an increased harvest of Muslims into the kingdom of God,” Garrison said. “This is truly their day of salvation.”
For more information about how you can pray for and reach Muslims for Christ, including a group study guide, visit lovingmuslims.com. To read more of Nik Ripken’s stories of the persecuted church in Muslim contexts, visit nikripken.com.