What God is Saying

Sing to the LORD; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. — Psalm 96:2-3

Friday, September 23, 2011

Riding the Camel

The Middle East, Muslims, persecution, Sharia Law -- fear, violence, opposition. Where is the hope for the Muslims? Is God working amongst them? Well, consider two other regions many looked on as "hopeless" at one time. 

Africa, the year 1900, 3% Christian -- "closed to the Gospel and hopeless," many people thought. But God didn't! Today, Africa is more than 50% Christian! 

China, the year 1950, all foreign Christians had been kicked out and the country would soon undergo Mao's reign of terror, only 1 million believers. "Christianity will die in China" many people thought. But God had other plans! Today in China - more than 80 million Christians with an average of 10,000 - 23,000 new Christians daily!

Africa and China are just two examples of areas in the world where God worked behind the scenes, drawing people to Himself. Today He is doing the same in the Muslim World.

In his book, The Camel  How Muslims Are Coming to Faith in Christ!, Kevin Greeson shares just part of the amazing and encouraging story of how God is drawing Muslims to Himself. 

The Muslim World of the past 1,000 years has seemed a very difficult mission field. There are countless stories of Muslims being persecuted when they accept Christ, even by their own families. The 10/40 Window, which lies across Africa and Asia from 10 degrees latitude north of the equator to 40 degrees latitude north of the equator, has 865 million unreached Muslims alone. Many may wonder about God's plan for the Muslim people when it seems so few are following Him.

Yet, things are changing. In Afghanistan, before Sept. 11, 2001, there were only 17 known Muslim-background followers of Christ. Today there are more than 10,000. Iran, the country in the Middle East with the fastest Christian growth, estimates the number of Christians could be as high as 1 million. 

One big change is what Greeson talks about in his book. It's not a change in Muslims but a change in Christians. "After centuries of witness to Muslims using methods that seemed right to Christians, we are now taking a different approach. We are learning how Muslim-background believers (MBBs) witness to and win their own people. We see them answering questions that Muslims have and addressing concerns that are important to them."

That's where CAMEL comes in. CAMEL is an acronym which stands for: Chosen, Announced by angels, Miracles, Eternal Life. All of these truths about Jesus can be found in the Koran - the Muslim holy book. MBBs, also known as Isahi (Jesus) Muslims, are using the Koran as a bridge to share the message of Jesus...and it's working! 

"God has filled the world with redemptive bridges, analogies and metaphors that point both to our need for salvation and to the hope of salvation. If we use the bridges well, they can also point us to the Bible as God's revealed truth about our fallen condition and His plan of salvation." These redemptive bridges, which I spoke about in A Witness in Every Culture, help translate the Gospel into each culture. 

Christianity is often seen as a "Western religion" by many Muslims. "In their eyes Western Christianity is associated with the same American culture they view on television, leading many of them to reject the Gospel as an extension of American culture." But through the CAMEL method, Muslims are being shown that Jesus came for them as well. They are understanding that to become a Christian, they must undergo a spiritual conversion, but not a cultural conversion. They are being shown that the Koran talks about Jesus as being the only one who has ever come from Heaven and returned to Heaven, thus being the only one who really knows the way to get to Heaven. Using the Koran as the initial way to speak to Muslims about Jesus places the MBBs and other Christian missionaries "on common ground with the Muslims to whom they are witnessing."

As Muslims, whom God is already preparing to hear His Gospel message, hear this approach, they are showing great interest. "Consider the evidence: 'More Muslims have come to Christ in the past two decades that at any other time in history.' In North Africa, 50-60,000 Berber Muslims are now followers of Jesus Christ. A Turkic republic saw 4,000 Muslims come to know Jesus as Savior in one year. A mission group in India reported that they have seen an increase from three Muslim-background believers to 1,200 in only eight months. Another mission effort working in north India is reporting 9,500 baptisms among Muslims in only four years. Over the past decade and a half, 13,000 Muslim Kazakhs have come to faith in Christ." 

Greeson's book gives step-by-step guidance in how to share Jesus Christ with a Muslim by pointing that person to the Koran as a bridge to the Bible. He also talks about an important Muslim holy day, know as Korbani-Eid, which centers around a Muslim sacrificial ceremony. This ceremony, in a few very powerful ways, points to the sacrifice that Jesus made for each of us and helps Muslims see His love for them.

Greeson points out another encouraging truth: new believers, who have come to know Christ through the CAMEL method, are experiencing much less severe persecution from other Muslims than anticipated. "The relatively low number of martyrs and relatively mild persecution was probably due to the way these Isahi Muslims used the Qur'an as a bridge, conducted family-based evangelism and rejected association with Western culture." 

In many Muslim countries there are less than three missionaries per one million people. The need for missionaries to the Muslims, both MMBs and Christians from other nations, is great! And “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind,” 2 Timothy 1:7.  

Kevin Greeson's book introduces a very powerful way to share the Gospel with Muslims, to bridge into their culture with the good news of Jesus Christ, using their holy book and their holy day as that bridge.  They need to hear of the love of Jesus. They need someone who is willing to cast aside fear, which so easily entangles, and follow the call of Christ into the Muslim world. Jesus is waiting, but He needs obedient servants.

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