The story of the cross changed the world. But at the time, who would have guessed it was going to? Spectators probably thought Jesus was admitting his defeat when he exclaimed “It is finished”. In reality, it was a cry of victory. What we see at work here is a pattern in how the Creator deals with his creatures. Paul says in 1Corinthians 1:25 “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”
When the Persian Shah was overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1979 Islamic Revolution and a theocracy was established in Iran, it looked a lot like a victory for Islam and a defeat for Christianity. But God, in his infinite wisdom and sovereignty, used these events as a turning point in history. He chose our generation as the one that is seeing a huge number of Muslims turning to Christ. Never in the history of Islam, have so many Muslims become followers of Jesus. This is especially true for non-Arabic speakers. Iranians, Afghans and some North African people groups are more open to the Gospel than others.
There are several factors that contribute to this new opening. One of them is globalization. Since the 1950s, the world has changed at a mind-blowing speed in every area of our lives. The global population has tripled, the urban population is exploding and soon, the rural population will diminish for the first time in modern history. More than half of the many millions of displaced people in the world are Muslims, and a vast majority of them are moving to urban areas. 50 years ago, most of those people would never have been exposed to different world views. Today, they live in hubs where they learn to deal with a multitude of different life-styles and religions. Even those that don’t move get exposed to a variety of world views through internet and social media. The world has become a village. As I’m writing this, I am confined at home because of the corona virus pandemic in Europe, and neighbors are just as far away as friends in Latin America or Asia, because the only way to communicate is through internet.
This is the time. We are the generation. The church needs to understand this and wake up. To seize the new opportunities and effectively engage Muslim peoples, we need to care more for their eternal life and salvation than for our personal or national safety. Many Christians still believe it is up to professionally trained “full time workers” to share the Good News with Muslims. But this equation does not work. If we leave the job to a handful of people, the critical moment might be over in someone’s life. At this very moment, millions of Muslims are questioning their world view, disillusioned by the solutions Islam is offering for their real-life problems. And open for the Good News.
We moved to our town about five years ago. It is a mirror of today’s society in Europe – a population of 30,000 with almost 100 different nationalities; first, second and third generation immigrants; a mix of secular Europeans, nominal Christians and Muslims, and devout believers of a variety of religions. We desire to build bridges between the church and our Muslim neighbors. It starts with prayer. We engage in friendly conversation and listen to people’s needs. We pray for them and we let them know. And we pray with them – aloud. They need to know that we care for them, and more importantly, that our Heavenly Father cares for them. It’s surprising how well prayer is received. Women now come to my wife and ask for her prayers in crisis. People ask for a blessing over the food when we are invited to their homes. And some of these people are devout Muslims who pray five times a day. Even a few days ago, an Algerian friend asked me to pray for his family in the face of the corona crisis.
In the past, brothers and sisters sacrificed years of energy and time (and sometimes their lives) to share the Gospel with Muslims. Many of them never expected to see any fruit in their lifetime. We have the exciting privilege to live in a great hour of harvest in the Muslim world. This is the time. We are the generation. Why? Are we any better than the ones before us? No, but God, in his sovereignty, chose what seemed to be a defeat as the turning point in the history of engaging Muslim peoples.