God is doing amazing things inside the Muslim world today. There are many DMM mass movements to Christ popping up in Africa, South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. There is a great hunger for Jesus inside the Muslim world. These movements are not like traditional Western churches. They are underground, grow from house to house. They make disciples not converts. They face great dangers, but they keep growing anyway. They are the closest thing to the New Testament church anywhere in the world and they are growing exponentially as the millions of frustrated Muslims find liberation for the first time in their lives.
2. THE HISTORY OF MISSIONS IN THE MUSLIM WORLD
In the lesson below the definition of a mass movement is 1,000 new and discipled believers, or a hundred house churches with at least 4 generations.
1. The dark centuries: 622-1870AD:
In the period from 622 to 1000AD there are no recorded mass movements of Muslims into faith in Jesus, though undoubtedly there were some. In this period the majority of people in Central Asia, The Middle East and North Africa were still Christian but ruled by Muslim governments that restricted the church, though not usually overbearingly. Also during this time the church had lost its New Testament zeal and had settled down in buildings with professional religious leaders, set up monasteries, and instituted many extra-biblical practices that were absorbed from surrounding pagan cultures. The church was weaker than Islam was strong. That was the key problem, not the might of Islam.
In the period from 1000 to 1870 there were also no recorded mass movements of Muslims into faith in Jesus. This was the period in which Islam became increasingly intolerant of its Muslim subjects and demanded conversion on many occasions. The weakness of the church resulted in many easy conversions to Islam. The reason for this is because, as outlined above, true Christianity was rare, even in Europe itself. The church was full of people born into the faith through tradition, not disciples prepared to join Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the winning of the world.
2. The Indonesian and Ethiopian Breakthrough: 1870-1900:
In Indonesia there was a Muslim convert to Christianity by the name of Sadrach Surapranata (1835-1924), who decided he did not want to conform to the cultural practices of the Dutch Reformed Church. He saw them as alien to his culture. So he created a culturally sensitive expression of the Christian faith. It grew rapidly to some 25,000 Muslim background believers (MBB). Because he changed the culture of the church wile going back to the New Testament pattern of winning souls and discipling them he was disdained and ex-communicated by the local Dutch missionaries. His movement was the forerunner of the great awakening to Christianity that is taking place in Indonesia today.
Meanwhile over in Ethiopia there was one Shaikh Zakaryas (1845-1920), whose life story was very similar. He was a MBB who discarded all the European cultural baggage and adapted the culture of his new faith to the local Muslim culture. He led 7,000 Muslims into relationship with Jesus, organising them into simple churches that reached out to others in a culturally sensitive way. The movement petered out after a few decades as the new Christians were absorbed into existing church structures.
3. The 20th Century: Hope Arises
Up till 1980 there were no new recorded mass movements of Muslims into faith in Jesus. The world was under the control of the European colonial powers and Islamic countries resented this control. In fact they even expelled or exterminated large numbers of Christians from the Middle East fearing they would become the controlling force after the Europeans left. In the meantime many Middle Eastern Islamic countries were leaning toward Communism as it was an ideology utterly opposed to the West. In central Asia, a much weaker form of Islam was utterly suppressed by their Communist masters.
In this period there was one mass movement to Jesus and it was in Indonesia. It is still growing today. In the 1960’s the Indonesian government decreed that all citizens must adhere to one of the main religions. Some 2 million former Muslims jumped to Christianity at the stroke of a pen. In the decades after, they worked out what this means and a movement began to grow. Christians are now 15% of the Indonesian population.
After the fall of Communism in Russia everything changed. Some 11 mass movements blossomed around the Muslim world in Algeria, Iran, Albania, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, the Sahel in West Africa and Kazakhstan. Many were not huge, some were. The moat had been breached and new disciples were now coming from many parts of the Islamic world.
4. THE LAST 20 YEARS: AMAZING BREAKTHROUGH
Since the year 2000 there were some 69 such movements recorded or some 5-8 million people coming to faith in Jesus from a Muslim background. This has occurred completely outside Western church structures. It is a culturally indigenous form of Christianity. The change came because of several significant factors. Firstly people all over the world began to pray for the 10/40 window, for God to move inside Islam. Second, the 9/11 attacks repulsed millions of peace loving decent people inside the Muslim world. Many began to search for a better alternative to a doctrine of hate. Third, the arrival of the internet enabled spiritually hungry Muslims to find answers to their spiritual hunger. Many now often use the Qur’an to great effect in bringing others to Christ. One third have had supernatural encounters that shook their faith in Islam. Others are blown away by the love shown to them by Christians. In Iran a strong, disciple-based Christianity is growing by 20% a year, the fastest of any nation on earth. In Algeria the church is growing by 8% a year. In Eritrea the growth rate is 4.6% a year. In Libya it’s up to 5.2%. In Kuwait it’s 7.2%. There are many other countries with the same growth rates.
In the last decade the number of mass movement has accelerated dramatically but the numbers are not in yet. Of the 1,000+ mass discipling movements growing globally, a significant number are inside Islamic countries. In addition many Muslim refugees and immigrants to the West are seeking out churches. For a full list and in-depth analysis of what Jesus is doing in every single majority Muslim country in the world today please go to Jesus Inside The Islamic World on the website called setfreeseminars.com.
5. THE FUTURE
If current trends continue then we will see at least 100 million Muslims may cross over into Christianity by 2050 and several hundred million more by 2100 or 10% of the Muslim world. Pray for this to accelerate because the underground viral model of house church inside Islam is one that can multiply rapidly! Jesus loves these people and now is the time for a great harvest.