I've recently read through a wonderful series of posts over on the Circumpolar blog (one of my absolute favorites). In the series, Warrick Farah, one of the brightest missiological minds hiding out with me in cyberspace*, explores the phenomenon of Muslims coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. His series is super insightful and a true must-read for those involved in missions among Muslim peoples. Rest-assured, I will be passing it around to my teammates.
Here are few of my favorite insights from the Circumpolar Series:
1. "Conversion" to Christ tends to be a gradual and incremental process for Muslims. Here's a quote from part 1 of the series:
The overall experience of Muslims, however, is that conversion is a gradual process that takes place over many years (Haney 2010, 68; Larson 1996a;Teeter 1990, 307-308). Gordon Smith notes that Muslim conversions to Christ “do not tend to rest or pivot on a decision or a particular act of acceptance. Rather, it has been well documented that these conversions are slow and incremental” (2010, 84). Qaasid cannot point to the moment of his conversion, but he knows he is a disciple of the Messiah. Thus, conversion is a process that transpires over months or years. The sometimes apparently sudden decision to “follow Christ” is only one essential step in this process.
I hope that this insight will be an encouragement to those who have become discouraged because they haven't seen "fruit" in their ministry among Muslims.
2. Farah points out in part 5 of the series that identity is a much more complicated issue that the typical debate surrounding "insider movements" and contextualization. I think there is a lot of room to develop this idea further, but the fact that the series at least raises the issue is very helpful. Here's a potent quote:
Identity is far more complex and dynamic than is unfortunately portrayed by many evangelicals on all sides of the issues. Layers of identity abound for people in every culture, and belonging to multiple traditions is a reality in today’s globalized world.
I would hesitate more than Farah does in quoting Rebecca Lewis and Georges Houssney in a way that makes them appear to be equal opposites in the debate on insider movements. Positions aside, the level of argumentation and research simply isn't the same between these two. I'll leave it at that.
3. I love the insights related to Muslim women coming to Christ. Farah guesses that 80% of Muslims who come to know Christ are men and calls for much more research and evangelistic emphasis to be directed towards Muslim women. Wow! That should deeply encourage all kinds of women who have been considering missions. You are needed! I should also point out that the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today is the Syrian refugee crisis (expected to total 4 million externally displaced refugees by the end of 2014) and that this has heavily resulted in the displacement of Muslim women. There is a heavily female human tidal wave of Syrian refugees now flooding the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere.
Farah's most compelling insight in part 7 of his series is that Muslim women who come to Christ are greatly influenced by stories of Jesus's affirmation and positive treatment of women. This clearly calls for missionaries to emphasize such stories in their evangelism of Muslim women.
[*By the way, if you haven't noticed, there is a tremendous amount of really great missiology that is being done in the non-traditional realms of blogs and other social media outlets. As traditional missiology publishers struggle to transition from print to digital/online formats to keep up with the times, a solid cadre of excellent missiologists have produced and are producing truly top-notch resources that are being heavily consumed by all manner of missionary practitioners. Besides ... ah hem ... myself ;-) ... I love reading Circumpolar, Indigenous Jesus, TallSkinnyKiwi, The Long View, The World is Our Neighborhood, Acrossculture, Faithful Witness and Missiologically Thinking. You have any favorites that I've missed?]
[Photo by Rifqi Dalgren]